I first saw the bunnies on the New York subway a couple of weeks ago on my way to work. Impossibly long-eared, they stared down at me, the text around them direct and commanding: “Look into my eyes! Bunnies never lie!” The rest of the anti-smoking ad resembled a third-grader’s conception of cuteness: multi-coloured hearts everywhere, vines crawling up the sides, and birds emitting music notes and tweets inside yet more hearts. Most subway ads have a single strong image and a focus-grouped slogan, but the bunny ad, with its mismatched fonts, paeans to the power of love, and dedication to “NYC MAYOR m.b…. mensch,” looked more like a piece of outsider art than a commercial.
There are lots of posters in New York City ordering people not to smoke, but most of them feature grim images of decayed teeth, open-heart surgery, and women with holes in their throats. “If you smoke, this will happen to you, asshole,” they say, adopting the paternalistic tone that Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been using throughout his reign. The bunny ad was much nicer, and what’s more, it didn’t seem to be connected to the city government or any official anti-smoking organisation. After seeing it on a few different trains, I sent an email to the address listed on the ad. The advertiser and designer turned out to be G Mailit Creations, a one-man company run by Alfred Brotter, an 82-year-old Bronx native who made a bunch of money in real estate and is now living in Florida.
VICE: Was that subway ad your idea, or were you just the agent for someone who wanted to put it up?
Alfred Brotter: I had been studying various philosophies, mostly Richard Wetherill and his humanetics, and he claims that the human mind cannot be penetrated from the front of the brain, it’s clogged up with too much stuff. Most anti-smoking campaigns connect to the front of the brain and the important message never penetrates to the brain's centre receptors – and a receptor message must also connect to the back of the brain. The G Mailit creation does just that. Love, honour, mortality, happiness – when all four are targeted to a habitual smoker, can it be easily dismissed?
It’s very difficult because a person who smokes is a smoking person. In order for that person to stop smoking you have to murder the smoking person. I was a smoker and I didn’t want my kids to smoke so I stopped. I knew if I smoked my kids would smoke. Usually if two parents don’t smoke it's very unlikely that the children will smoke.
About eight million lives are lost worldwide by smokers. Translated into languages everywhere, I believe the message and focus on this anti-smoking creation could prove responsible for saving at least one million persons’ lives, or for having five million persons retain their much-needed loved ones.
The question is, will Michael Bloomberg want to buy this thing? He could distribute it worldwide in many languages – the question is how to approach him about it. I wrote a letter to him hoping his office would give me a call and I could fly to New York and talk to him.
What subway lines is your ad running on?
All the lines. For every train there are two cars in the train that have this poster. So if you get into the subway and it’s not in the car you’re in, go back and work to the front or vice versa and you’ll find the ad. It’s a big ad – 46 inches – you can’t miss it. I’ve spent about half a million dollars from my free cash flow on this enterprise. It didn’t dent me, but it was a big amount of money.
When you’re talking about those ads that hit the front of the brain you mean those smoking ads that…
When you go into a place like Wal-Mart you’re immediately inundated with all kinds of propositions you’re not interested in, so you just reflect it, because there’s too much shit flying around. You really can’t absorb anything, but when something hits the back of the brain at the same time it hits the front of the brain… The purpose of this ad, believe it or not, is not smoking in particular.
Let me tell you where I am with this thing. Wal-Mart loses 1.6 billion dollars a year due to shrinkage, thievery. Now, if you go into Wal-Mart you’ll see cameras overhead, checkers at the door, in-store detectives, and then they have meetings almost every day talking about nothing but shrinkage.
There’s a genetic flaw in the human race, and if it wasn’t for this genetic flaw we’d probably live to be 200 years old and wouldn’t need policemen, or prisons, or lawyers. This genetic flaw is dishonesty. Anybody talks long enough, no matter who they are, they’ll be lying.
Wal-Mart didn’t have much of a shrinkage problem when Sam Walton was alive because the employees loved him and he made a few people feel good about themselves. When a person feels good about himself, he won’t steal. Most people are walking around, they’re five or ten feet underwater – some are 50 feet underwater. A person on my floor was like that, 50 feet underwater. He lived next to two fagels, you know what a fagel is? They’re gay guys, my father used to say they’re birds – a fagel is a bird in Yiddish. Are you Jewish?
Just as well, what difference does it make? You don’t have to be circumcised to go to heaven [laughs]. So anyway, these two fagels, they lived across from this guy, and he was already underwater, and they pushed him too far underwater. He went back to his apartment, loaded up a gun, came next door, knocked on the door, murdered these two guys and then went into his own apartment and put the gun in his mouth and blew the top of his head off. That’s what happens when people don’t feel good about themselves.
I’ll tell you another thing you don’t know. Ninety percent of your brain is in your penis. As you get older, it gradually leaves your penis and goes back to your brain. It usually happens past 65 or 70, and then you become very powerful, you become pussy-proof.