It seems like every time I turn around, I see “zenni.com” or “Zenni Optical” selling glasses in an ad either on a Google search for “Zennie62” or me “Zennie Abraham” – or on my own blogs and YouTube channel.
Tibor Laczay and Julia Chen of Piedmont, Ca, which is a part of Oakland, Ca, started the firm 19dollareyeglasses.com in 2003 – then, in 2006, they changed the name to, of all things “Zenni.com” or Zenni Optical – my name without the “e”. They changed the name to that in 2006, and that was the same year i went into video-blogging. That was prior to starting Oakland’s first blog, Oakland Focus, in 2004.
Now this may seem like a coincidence, but it’s not – we live in the same city, basically and I have been an internet and local media presence since 1993.
From 1993 to 1996, I was a lead columnist for The Montclarion, which serves the Oakland hills, and, you guessed it, Piedmont, too (Hills Newspaper Group, which published The Montclarion, had another publication called “The Piedmonter” that contained my work, as well.).
Then, as Economic Advisor to Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, my name has regularly appeared in print and online. And when I headed the effort to bring the 2005 Super Bowl to Oakland, from 1999 to 2000, my name received even more media coverage.
In 1999, I tried to bring the Super Bowl to Oakland. I started Sports Business Simulations in 2003, when their eyeglasses firm wasn’t even called Zenni.com.
I have contacted them about this repeatedly and they never have responded to my calls and emails. In fact, I did have one conversation with a representative of the firm, that was Ms. Chen, and four years ago – she said “We will get back to you” with respect to my idea of a partnership. It was a reasonable request; she never called back.
Look, I produce a lot of online content. It’s purely unethical to, again, piggyback on my name, knowing that my content production efforts will only produce more exposure for their glasses brand, without having to pay for it. Consider that I have 13,600 YouTube videos at Zennie62 on YouTube. My Twitter account @Zennie62 has over 160,000 followers.
I have a number of blogs representing cities from Atlanta to San Francisco, and subjects like Comic Con San Diego. I have almost 5,000 Facebook Friends, and several Facebook Pages. And while my Instagram version of Zennie62 only has about 1,800 followers, it provides another gateway to my other platforms. That represents a ton of page views and content.
Tibor and Julia have gotten rich off my name to a great degree. I’m glad that they help charities in the Bay Area, but that does not excuse the effort to use my content production activity as a trojan horse for their marketing efforts without paying me.
While I whine about this, they have sold over 20 million pairs of glasses, and are careful in their press releases to avoid any mention of the fact that they live in Piedmont or anything that would show a direct geographic connection to me living in and being a public figure in Oakland. Additionally, they say Zenni Optical was established in 2003, but that’s not true – they started 19dollareyeglasses.com. Then they changed the name years later and to “Zenni”.
Before you remark that someone has to click on the ad to buy, hold on. Tibor Laczay and Julia Chen gain from a person just seeing the name “Zenni”, without clicking on their ad or anything. That’s So, the next time a person happens to think about glasses, they are more likely to think of Zenni, rather than some brand using an owl. You know?
Why can’t I be the owl? I need new glasses, anyway.