Fictional places make real difference for children

December 19, 2011 10:31:06 AM PST
What started as a quirky marketing idea to call attention to a series of books has grown into a steady stream of funding for a non-profit that works to protect children.

Lou Bank is the pitch man behind the idea. "Championship Vinyl" is a fake record store that was located at the corner of North Milwaukee and Honore in the 2000 film "High Fidelity" based on the same-titled book by Nick Hornby. Its brand is a top seller.

"We thought we'd just have a whole line of t-shirts that feature fictional businesses from popular novels," Bank said.

The idea started when ad man Bank created t-shirts promoting the fictional Mama's Restaurant to help sell books by author Andrew Vachss. In the books, Mama's is a crime family's New York hangout.

"Since it was just something we were doing for fun and to market the book. I thought we don't need the money. Let's give the money to Protect. It sold like gangbusters and so we thought who else can we do?" Bank said.

Protect is short for the National Association to Protect Children, http://www.protect.org, a group that lobbies for laws against physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The group is currently rallying to get funding for the FBI to investigate those trading child pornography online.

"Somewhere around 40% of people who are trading in child pornography are also harming at least one child. So if you do the math, that's 200,000 children that are being abused," Bank said.

Bank said the group accepts no government money and funds its efforts through donations. His contributions come from t-shirts sales.

"We've raised $48,000 out of my basement," Bank said.

He recruited an old colleague to volunteer and design the logos. Mark Cox was once the art director at Marvel Comics.

"I signed on really because I think it's a great cause firstly and it's the kind of thing that I enjoy working on," Cox said.

Paying homage to a pair of Bruce Springsteen hits, the duo also pitches designs inviting you to travel down "Thunder Road" or to visit "Greasy Lake." But fake book businesses are still their primary focus.

"You go to a concert and you get the concert t-shirt and it's got the name of the band and it's big, and it's not subtle and book geeks are subtle, interesting people. So we thought, this is a way that we can outfit the average book geek," Bank said.

The men are looking to advertise some Shakespearean businesses next. They're working on logos for the Capulet Orchards, which Juliet would have stood above when she gave her famous balcony speech in "Romeo and Juliet." and for Mantua Apothecary, where Romeo purchased the poison he consumed.

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