Brain Tap Series – Interview 14: George Parker

OK, so I must say I’ve completely enjoyed interacting with George Parker, this week’s interviewee, on this. He’s a laugh if there ever was one, and yet there are some pretty deep messages cloaked somewhere in his barbs. I don’t really think he needs an introduction – most people who read this site probably know him in person already. If you don’t, I hope it suffices to say that he’s a US-based advertising consultant, a very colourful, interesting character, and you can read the achievements of his long career here. You’ll also need to know in advance that the acronym BDA in Parker-speak refers to Big, Dumb Agencies!

The interview:

1. When you stare harder and harder at a painting, sometimes you figure something out that you would have missed the first five times. Given that you’ve spent over 30 years in ad land, do you think the BDA’s have any hidden nuggets of gold up their sleeves at all? In other words, are there any lessons to be learnt from them?

The number one lesson is don’t sell yourself to a conglomerate. Eventually you will be fucked, and turn into a BDA. That’s why Wieden continues to prosper and do good work. The only one who has got away with it so far is Goodby. ‘Cos Jeff and Rich have got Omnicom to trust them enough to leave them alone. The number two lesson can be summed up in the words of Jay Chiat… “I can’t wait to see how big we get, before we turn to shit.” It ALWAYS happens. And now the business is being run by bean counters, it happens even faster.

2. Everyone knows how reserved you are. If they don’t, they haven’t had the golden opportunity to meet you or hear you speak yet. Have you ever met anyone MORE – ahem, ‘reserved’ than you? If so, who?

Dozens… But most of them are dead now. Of the survivors, I’ll mention Bill Hamilton, the best Creative Director ever, Hubert Graf, the best Art Director ever, and Ivan “The Count” Horvath, the best drinker ever. (After me!)

3. What has the best gig of your life been and why?

“Agency Fireman” at Dorland’s. Conned my way into a unique job that paid shitloads of money, allowed me to go around the world shooting very expensive TV spots while staying in five star hotels, eating at Michelin four rosette restaurants, drinking fine wine and ravishing beautiful women. On top of all that, I answered to no one. Fucking brilliant!

4. Do you enjoy writing AdScam or AdHurl better? Tell us the difference between the two.

AdHurl, part of Know More Media, has gone tits up. Therefore, as they have stopped paying me, there’s no point in writing for them… Is there? Anyway, AdScam is all mine, therefore I can use extremely foul language and really get up everyone’s noses. Wonderful! I also do one for BrandRepublic in the UK, called MadScam. They don’t allow me to swear either. But I do. I just put asterisks between letters, like this… F*U*C*K. That way my posts go through the “Swear” filter … They haven’t cottoned on to it yet… Douchenozzles. When they do it will drive poor old Gordon Macmillan (the editor) nuts. That’s the kind of shit I like to stir up.

5. Who’d be the best person to play you in a movie about your life?

When we were both young, Orson Welles (the slim version). When I got older, Oliver Read. Who I used to drink with when I lived in Wimbledon. As you can guess, it usually ended up in a contest to see who could get more fucked up and thrown out of the pub first. More often than not, it ended in a tie.

6. What’s the most influential communications campaign you’ve ever seen? By ‘influential’, I mean a campaign that’s had an effect on the most number of people, according to you.

Apple’s 1984 commercial…

Which wasn’t a campaign; it wasn’t even a commercial… It was an EVENT… No one had ever done something like that before… And no one has since. Can you imagine asking a client to shoot the most expensive commercial ever made, testing it in focus groups and having it bomb, trying to sell the time and not being able to, so you are forced to run it… Then when it becomes the biggest thing since sliced bread… YOU ONLY RUN IT ONCE!!! Today, the client, and the agency would run the shit out of it. Therefore devaluing its impact. But, having said that… The BEST commercial ever made was the VW “Snow plough” spot…

Fucking brilliant. Then there’s all my shit, but modesty forbids.

7. Which country or region has the best body of advertising work you’ve come across so far? Name some of these campaigns, and tell us what other countries/regions can learn from them.

Some of the best work that’s ever run has come out of Sweden… Also Stockholm has the ultimate Ad Wankers hang out. The Café Opera Bar… Which is chock full of seven foot tall, blonde women, who if they like you, will buy you a drink. What the fuck is wrong with that? For the best work that’s never run… Brazil. You can see it every year at Cannes… Fucking douchenozzles!


Thanks would be too small a word to say, George, for this. I absolutely enjoyed it, hope you did too.

To the readers, I have to say that if any of you have questions about what happened to Dorland’s, this is what George said when I asked him myself:

Dorland’s was swallowed up in the early eighties by Saatchi who then rolled it into Cordiant, which then died an ugly death in 2003. As usual, you can blame the fucking Saatchi criminals.

Ha – ha – HA!!!!!

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