New York City Dermatologist Who Pioneered Subway Advertising Has Shuttered His Practice

Garish ads starring Dr. Jonathan Zizmor offering acne anecdotes, laser peels and tattoo removal procedures will be no more.

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By Geoff Weiss

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Dr. Zizmor

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A New York dermatologist who became a local celebrity after he pioneered the use of print advertising throughout the city's subway system has retired and closed his office after practicing for more than 40 years.

Dr. Jonathan Zizmor, who is now 70 -- but looks peculiarly ageless in ads that have dotted train cars since the early 80s -- will spend his retirement studying the Talmud at his $3 million Bronx mansion, according to the New York Daily News.

Though the design scheme of Zizmor's campy ads -- complete with garish before-and-after photos and technicolor rainbows crudely photoshopped across the New York City skyline (reportedly helmed by Zizmor himself) -- may be questionable, their forward-thinking shrewdness endures.

The ads even spawned a parody campaign from famed candy brand Snickers.

When he first started out, "there were no doctor ads," Zizmor told Gothamist in 2009. "I was the only one on the subway for about 25 years."

Related: After a Decade of Headline-Grabbing Ads, GoDaddy Is Quitting the Super Bowl

The concept of a doctor advertising in such a brazen way was controversial within the medical community, he adds, but the ads were effective almost immediately in democratizing the relatively "chic" field of dermatology to patients of every stripe.

A few years after the subway ads debuted, Zizmor branched out into television commercials, which he also initially shot by hand. His most recent ad, featuring the now-famous refrain, "Thank you, Dr. Zizmor," is somewhat more knowing in that it was created by a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based performance artist who sought to celebrate Zizmor's signature cringeworthy camp.

Though Zizmor has become something of an urban legend to Manhattanites, he chalks up his odd ubiquity to chance. "I never wanted to be famous," he told Business Insider in 2009. "It was an accident of life. Many people think I'm dead. Many people think I don't exist."

Zizmor's realtor, Sandra Waibel, told the Daily News that Zizmor and his wife would also be dedicating the remainder of their lives to charity. "The Zizmors love to travel and have many social interests, hobbies, and friends," she said. "At the end of the day, they are just like the rest of us."

Geoff Weiss

Former Staff Writer

Geoff Weiss is a former staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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