“Polarization,” he proclaimed triumphantly. “It’s a new mint gum that makes your mouth feel like absolute zero!”
Martinsen had a gift for naming things. He was a one-person advertising maven who proudly outdid his colleagues at Venson and Sturges by his one stunning ability. When Pizza Hut came with a design for a deep-fried ball of dough and sauce they had to name, Martinsen stared at the sample for about 3.4 seconds, inhaling through his teeth and staring at it intently, before intoning, “Stromballi.” Thus a fast food legend was born.
Yet Martinsen’s talent was his undoing. In Madison Avenue, it only takes one slip-up to doom the mightiest career. A slight lapse of concentration on Martinsen’s part, combined with Fisher-Price’s automatic trust that Martinsen was a master among men, led to the Christmas release of something called the “Kiddie Fun Stick.” Concerned parents intervened. Dateline ran an expose on the product. The Kiddie Fun Stick was pulled off the shelves three days after it was released. Martinsen was let go.
Martinsen never recovered. Five years after his downfall, Donalds, a colleague at Venson and Sturges happened upon a 45-year-old balding white man, in a shabby, beat-up Adidas jacket, an LA Dodgers hat, and a necktie with the Tasmanian Devil on it - this man was selling hip-hop CDs on Times Square. Donalds stared at him - could this be Martinsen? They exchanged looks - the man stood quiet, as if Donalds wasn’t allowed to see him this way. Out of sheer pity, Donalds bought three of these CD-Rs; he handed his old colleague five twenties and told him, “Keep it, Scout.” The man stood silent. Then Donalds walked away.
Donalds later listened to these three hand-burned, hand-labeled CD-Rs. The artists were billed as different musicians, but they all sounded the same - the voice of a very un-street ex-ad man shouting over the drum machine from a Casio keyboard. Donalds looked at the names of the “artists:” Absoloot. Street Smartz. 3EOh. Could this be Martinsen material? He could only guess...