Piss and vinegar: AdScam's George Parker on advertising, booze and other bullshit
Originally published by (and filched with great care from) the Portland Egotist.
George Parker has over 30 years as a writer in the advertising game. Copywriter, check. Creative Director, yep. Book author, affirmative. Partner in an ad agency, done that. The author of AdScam has pretty much seen it all when it comes to advertising. Bonus point. He’s also a wise guy trapped in a cantankerous old man and he’s got a bone to pick when it comes to terrible advertising.
Tell me a little about yourself and how did you choose this gig? How long have you been in this profession?
I was at the University of London doing a degree in Chemistry. A bad accident put me in the hospital for three weeks. My window looked out on the entrance to an art school. Most of the students seemed to be great looking women… I became an art student. At the Royal College of Art in London I won a bursary that I used to come to the US for six months. I came on the Queen Mary… the first one, that is now in Long Beach, CA. That’s how long I’ve been in the business. Work it out!
What other types of jobs have you done, related or not to your current profession? High school and jobs as a child are fair game.
No other job pays as much for doing something of such little consequence or import. Perhaps pimping and dealing. But I have no experience of either… Yet.
What is it that you like/love most about your work? What do you hate about it?
My current work—writing books, blogs, columns, speaking at conferences and seminars—I love and enjoy. I still do freelance ad work, but I feel indifferent towards that. It’s like making sausages.
How are you getting paid right now?
Infrequently and poorly. Then occasionally I get a gig that pays a fortune. And it’s for the same shit as the rest. However, I must stress my shit is better than most people’s gold.
So advertising, eh? What do you think about the state of advertising? And what's with the hatin' on BDA's. For those who don't know, what does that stand for?
Oh dear, we don’t have a week to get into this. Suffice to say that the downfall of the ad biz began when the BDA’s (Big Dumb Agencies) were all scooped up by the BDC’s (Big Dumb Conglomerates) i.e. IPG, WPP, Omnicom, Publicis. Because these are all public companies run by bean counters, it’s not about the work, it’s all about the fucking money.
What makes you an expert on what you do? How come you think you're an authority?
Because, I’ve been doing it longer and better than anyone, with the exception of George Lois. Seriously, check out my Web site.
What's with all the 3 blogs and books that you write?
I have no fucking idea. I must be crazy. Check out my book, The Ubiquitous Persuaders, a fifty year update on the Vance Packard classic, The Hidden Persuaders. Its a fucking blockbuster and makes grown men weep. In the meantime buy MadScam on Amazon, or I will fucking kill you.
How do you stay relevant in your professional work?
Booze and loose women.
What is the secret to your success? In other words, if you could boil it all down to one or two things, what would it be?
Booze and loose women. Nah, just kidding. Well, kinda… No, seriously, you have to re-invent yourself and keep up to speed with all the shit that’s going on. Do the opposite of what the BDA’s do. They are fucking dinosaurs who think the meteors are going to miss them.
Are you a writer or are you more that that?
I’m a fucking Renaissance Man Genius. With one fault… I am too modest.
What separates the copy writer at an agency from the dude who is locked up in his attic trying to write his or her novel? And where do you fit in?
The dude in the attic turns into a Portrait of Dorian Grey. If you don’t get that literary reference, go up to the attic and fucking shoot yourself. Several great writers started off in advertising. Salman Rushdie worked at Ogilvy, London before he turned into a douchenozzle.
What other ways do you stay creative?
Booze and loose women.
What books have been most influential in your professional development? What other works (ex. art, film, etc.) have been most influential in your professional development? Who inspired you?
Fellini. “Putney Swope” the best fucking film on advertising ever, directed by Robert Downey. No, not Iron Man Junior, his Dad.
Have personal relationships played a significant role in your professional development? If so, what personal relationships (parents, friends, spouses, designers.) have most influenced your growth professionally?
Loose women. Just kidding… kinda, seriously… My wife, ‘cos she’s put up with me for so long. Then again, I’ve put up with her. So, it’s, as the French would say, egale.
How do you see your field in the context of current society? I.e., How does your field affect society, both positively and negatively?
Mostly negatively in its current form. It will hopefully change. But the biggest single problem this biz faces is the fact that as I say in my book, it is ubiquitous, it’s every-fucking-where and is becoming increasingly impossible to avoid.
Is there anyone (or more) that has played a significant mentor-type role to you? If so, what was it they did that was significantly helpful, etc. to you?
Armando Cruznozzle. He taught me how to do lines.
What is the most common thing you see creatives struggle with that they don't need to worry about? What should they focus on instead?
Stop trying to be into “the latest thing.” By the time you get into it, it will be the last thing. Do whatever the fuck you think is original. Avoid doing “Homages,” which is French for Rip-Offs.
What inspires you and why?
My next drink. Do I need to explain… oh, and Scarlet Johansson… with a drink afterwards.
What does a creative consultant do?
How the fuck do I know? But I do know it pays well.
Have you had any funny or humorous experiences while working in your profession?
They are all in my books. Ya think I’m going to give that shit away for free?
Do you ever think about doing something different? If so, what, and why?
Only when I’m sober. So, not very often.
Five things you can't live without and why?
And if I have to explain, you are a douchenozzle. And as you should know from reading AdScam, that is not a place you want to be.
Has your profession impacted your personal growth? In what way(s)? Has your personal growth impacted your professional work? In what way(s)?
What the fuck is this, Oprah?
Many people say that advertising is for the young and foolish. What do you think about that?
Well, being old and really fucking smart, I’m proof that’s a crock.
Ad agencies are notorious for laying people off. What's your stance on that and why do you care?
It’s always been that way, but now—because of what I explained earlier about with the BDC’s—it’s about making the numbers. It’s getting worse.
Has your nationality influenced or affected your professional work? What have been the main challenges? What have been the main advantages?
The Queen is very proud of me. I expect a Knighthood any day. Then I can have your head chopped off if you post nasty comments on AdScam.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting to get into advertising or building brands, what would it be? What problem does this advice solve or alleviate?
Read MadScam and The Ubiquitous Persuaders, my last books. No seriously, it’s all about applying logic to the business of communications, rather than the smoke and mirrors and general bullshit so many BDA’s bring to the table. This is not brain surgery. And neither is it snake oil. Or, it shouldn't be.
Yes, I know that, but I didn’t want to say it.
Check out what George had to say at the 4As last year.