There is a commercial for something called Super Model, Inc.—a luxury "VIP membership service"—that has been running during CNBC's primetime block that's so weirdly vague and cheaply made that it has to be advertising an escort service. Right?
The 30-second spot, which began running on CNBC last week, features an attractive young woman in a cafe, presumably bored with her life—that is, until she joins Super Model, Inc. Suddenly, she is given preferential treatment at spas, driving a sports car around Manhattan, lounging on a large boat with a man, and on the arm of a different (much shorter, much older) man in a wood-paneled private social club where she takes a seat at a table with still more men in loose-collared business suits who raise their drinks to her.
A voiceover by a woman with a fake British accent explains that Super Model, "the luxury unleashed membership," provides members with access to:
- Live, 24/7 concierge service
- Sold-out shows
- VIP events like the Superbowl
- A subscription to Super Model magazine
- The "super model lifestyle"
But what is it? A credit card? A modeling agency? A sororal order? That ambiguity—along with the low-budget promises of luxury and the hot, young "models"—suggest a certain kind of dubiousness. The paying-for-sex kind.
A call placed to the 800 number at the end of the commercial resulted in the following conversation with a woman at a noisy call center:
Hi, I didn't really understand the commercial or what the product is or what your service is.
OK, are you inquiring about being a model?
Is that something you can do? Because it's a service for girls, right?
It's actually a membership and it's what they call a "lifestyle membership" and it gets you…hold on one second [typing]…OK, like what it is, is like, um, it's a VIP card. It grants you access to like, exclusive luxury travel cruise packages, fine dining establishments with like, a four-star minimum rating, bars, salons, dance, fitness centers, luxury rentals such as exotic cars, character jets, yachts.
But it's called Super Model because…?
It's like a membership.
Perusing the Super Model, Inc. website doesn't provide much more insight. On the homepage is a slideshow of stock photos featuring sexy babes, luxury vehicles, The Academy Awards logo, a party full of the kind of people who involuntarily bite their lower lip while dancing, a chick handing off a $20 bag to her friend, and an image of a Super Model credit card that expired two years ago. The site also runs banner ads for what appear to be fake companies.
The About Us page is even more perplexing. A Super Model membership can be purchased for $35 per month or $295 per year. With that, you get a concierge service that apparently makes restaurant reservations for you, if you're too busy. You also get "VIP membership access to next years Super Bowl, Victoria's Secret Fashion Shows, MTV Music Awards and much more."
Additionally, the aforementioned Super Model credit card can be used as entry to NYC's "hottest nightclubs."
But wait. There's more. Members get a subscription to Super Model magazine. Publisher Michael Jacobson—who is also the CEO and founder of Super Model, Inc.—described it as "a sexy Robb Report…the whole lifestyle surrounding supermodels."
Jacobson (who can be seen in the Super Model magazine launch party video) is the man behind the Super Model, Inc. curtain. He's a veteran in the niche magazine business. Or at least, he's tried it before. He was in ad sales at Bob Guccione, Jr.'s now defunct lad mag Gear before licensing Donald Trump's name to launch Trump World magazine in 2004.
The magazine was published bimonthly by Jacobson's company Sobe Life, LLC until 2007, when creditors filed for involuntary bankruptcy liquidation of the company. (Court records indicate there were many bills directly related to the production of the magazine that went unpaid, including $636,000 owed to its printer RR Donnelly & Co.) Oddly enough, just a few months before that, Jacobson had put out a press release about how great things were for the company, financially. Trump terminated the licensing deal with Jacobson in August 2007 and handed the publication over to a different publisher. (Trump World shuttered anyway in 2009.)
But it would seem Jacobson had an exit plan. In July 2007 he filed to incorporate a company called NYC Mags, Inc. Despite its name, the company wasn't involved in magazine publication. Instead, NYC Mags, Inc. was the parent company of something called MadisonAvenueMatch.com, an "upscale" online dating service aimed at New York professionals that promised to host private events for its members.
Jacobson sold NYC Mags to IB3 Networks—a publicly traded company—in 2008 in a merger while MadisonAvenueMatch.com was still in its development stage for $75,000. As part of the deal, he was named director of IB3 Networks, and eventually was appointed president and chairman of the board. But it doesn't seem like MadisonAvenueMatch.com ever really got off the ground. By 2009, the company was operating at a loss of over $1.68 million.
IB3 Networks failed to comply with federal securities laws and the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked its registration in January 2013.
And that's the same month that Jacobson launched Super Model, Inc. Like its commercial, the business model for the company is confusing. If the clip art on the site's "affiliate program" page is any indication, Super Model, Inc. is a pyramid scheme, with sellers earning commission for membership referrals in a tiered system.
But it also still purports to be a magazine that earns money through advertisements. A call placed to the ad sales department number in the magazine's media kit produced the following conversation:
Is this an escort service?
It's not. Does it look like it implies an escort service? That's like the second time people have asked that. [Laughs] It's not an escort service.
It's a concierge service—kind of like a high-end Living Social or Groupon, but it's a membership company. So pretty much, you pay a fee and you get exclusive deals with high-end restaurants and events that we throw. We throw events at Trump Tower, at high-end art galleries, cigar lounges, and everything. We have models present at our events. That's why we're called Super Model. We also offer deals at restaurants and travel, shopping. It's like living a luxury lifestyle, just, you know, cheaper.
OK, the commercial did kind of seem like an escort service.
Does it really? OK, I'm gonna mention that. It's weird, it's the second time someone told me that.
You mentioned that there were models at your events. I noticed that there was a picture of the cast of America's Next Top Model Cycle 12 on your site. Are they the models who go to the events?
It varies. There's different ones. We use different ones for every event. But we do use some from there as well. We also use local models. We don't just use high-end models. We try to incorporate everyone. But it always varies.
(It should be noted that I only identified myself by my first name and said that I got the phone number from the site's media kit. However, the woman did not try to sell me ad space. She didn't even mention the magazine.)
So there you have it: Super Model, Inc. is a membership company that allows you access to parties in which you might get to maybe hang out with some of the girls from America's Next Top Model Cycle 12. But it is not an escort service.