It began as a thought experiment. It became an art project. Then it became a way to make a few extra bucks on the side while working through college. Using the Internet to sell ad space.
Now, a college student just starting out, 18 years old, and just using the Internet, might have a hard time selling ad space. What company would shell out to some guy nobody’s ever heard of? What’s the visibility of the ad? What demographic would be most likely to see the ad? The whole operation just felt amateurish. Bob (as our young college student was so named) knew all this and priced accordingly. He also placed no restrictions on the size or contents of the ads. His other college friends, mostly the other kids on his dorm floor, thought the whole thing was a joke. Bob had to admit it sort of was. Shelly down the hall, that cute chick with the hipster glasses, was the first take Bob up on his offer. Her ad was simple: “Pimple cream!” She didn’t really have a pimple cream to sell; she just wanted to see what Bob would do, if he’d take the money and keep his word. Bob took her money and kept his word, and the joke spread, and then another guy who did have something to sell bought an ad from Bob: an ad for an online web design company. Bob took the money and created the ad as specified.
Bob’s right butt cheek was all full by the end of his first year of college.
Tattooed on his ass was “Pimple cream!” and “Web designs by Fred!” and the like. And as promised, Bob took pictures and posted them on his blog, called “Ad Man.”
“It’s art,” said Bob.
“It’s disgusting,” said Quinn. Then she thought for a moment and added: “Yet I am intrigued.”
“It’s capitalistic, corporatist,” said Crispin.
“It’s just tattoos of advertisements on some guy,” said George. “That’s all it is. It’s not even controversial.”
“Oh but it is, that’s the beauty of it,” said Quinn. “It’s not capitalistic or pro-corporation. It’s anti-capitalism, anti-consumerist, anti-corporate. Don’t you get it? The irony! Bob has chosen to personify how money, materialism, advertisement, and corporate manipulation have consumed our bodies and souls.”
“By selling his body in the most literal way possible. It’s sick and degrading,” said Crispin.
“It makes me money!” said Bob.
Bob started the project below cost; it was the only way to get this project off the ground. He thought of it as an investment in his startup. Luckily the initial designs were small, simple. And his best friend worked at the tattoo parlor down the street and got him a discount.
But by the end of the first year, and by the time his right butt cheek was all full of bullshitty joke ads (plus one more or less real one), it had become a sensation. At least, on a local and campus level. Bob and his project were written up in the student newspaper. Then the local city newspaper. And local eateries, haberdashers, and fashion suppliers began to see this as a way to connect their brand to their customers, getting their names out there, being part of the community. If the community was embracing this art project, this Ad Man, then local small businesses wanted in. “Honey Burgers! Mention this ad and get 10% off your next meal!” was the first tattoo on Bob’s left butt cheek. The project mushroomed from there. Even the local Urban Outfitters had an ad tattooed on Bob now: a tattoo of a hipster guy wearing a beanie was tattooed on Bob’s right thigh. The ad was for a new line of beanies. And up on the Ad Man blog pictures of the tattoos went. Bob could charge now, say, $200 bucks for a small, simple ad, and spend $150 getting the tattoo. Not a bad profit margin. Even Bob’s economics professor was impressed. Impressed enough to let Bob write a thesis on the project. Bob got an A+ and a commendation from the Dean himself. This type of entrepreneurial creativity was exactly the spirit the campus administration wished to cultivate in the student body. Bravo to Bob for showing initiative. Local art collectives also sought out Bob and applauded his artistic vision and creativity. Bob was considered the living embodiment of post-modernism.
The project depended on reputation. Hence the exhibitionism on the blog. Advertisers had to know that their work would not only be done, but be seen as well. The strategy worked.
By Bob’s senior year the local McDonald’s had the Golden Arches tattooed on Bob’s lower back, over his ass, with the center of the two arches just over his ass crack. Not to be outdone, Burger King got a tattoo of a Whopper over Bob’s heart. That placement brought Bob a lot of money. For placement over the heart, and for the intricacy of the burger design, Bob pulled in $2,000. Chump change to a multi-national corporation, but a month’s rent for Bob. He spent $500 on the Whopper tattoo.
The blog had also become a viral sensation. His blog received thousands of hits a day. In fact, he could even sell ad space on his blog now, too. That brought in some extra cash as well. Bob did not wonder what job or career to get after graduation; Bob wondered if he should even look for one. His Ad Man project pulled in quite a bit of dough.
Alas, it could not last forever, and eventually his whole body was covered in ads. The human body was finite after all, a finite resource now all fully developed. His face advertised for Exxon-Mobile and Greenpeace. He even kept his head shaved and tattooed all along his head. But there was one last place, the most prime piece of body real estate left to auction off for advertisements.
Who was going to get Bob’s coveted cock? Bob opened the bidding on his blog. Whoever offered the most cash would win. Bob would take their money, get their tattoo on his dick, take a picture, and post it online.
Both Crispin and Quinn applauded Bob’s masterpiece as it slid towards its terminal stage.
“It subverts tattoos. Tattoos are supposed to be about art and individualism and opting out of ‘the system’ and now it’s being used to advertise stuff for mainstream corporations,” said Crispin.
“Tattoos can be about anything,” said George.
Bob nodded triumphantly.
Who would win that precious, that last part of Bob’s body? And how much cash would Bob pull in? Enough cash to invest, live on, and retire with? It was entirely possible.
The auction for Bob’s dick began online with the blog entry beginning: “It turns out if you just act like you’re worth a damn long enough you’ll start to believe it too!”
It was meant to be inspiring.
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