The AdPulp Interview: George Parker

George Parker is a much decorated copywriter, emerging author and one of the more colorful bloggers in western culture. He resides in Boise, Idaho but his mind and body are often elsewhere.
Parker’s new book, The Ubiquitous Persuaders is billed as a “fifty year update of Vance Packard’s book The Hidden Persuaders. According to Wikipedia, the book first published in 1957, explores the use of consumer motivational research and other psychological techniques, including depth psychology and subliminal tactics, by advertisers to manipulate expectations and induce desire for products, particularly in the American postwar era. The book questions the morality of using these techniques.
Parker’s title inverts Packard’s meaning, for marketers may be manipulative, but they’re far from hidden today. Marketing communications are omnipresent in modern culture. The fact that 99% of the materials we see are total shite upsets the more sensitive among us. Parker, like any dedicated craftsman, is sensitive. And like me, he wants to be proud of his chosen profession. Yet, before anyone can feel good about advertising, everyone who is responsible for creating it needs to face some tough facts about themselves and the state of our industry.
Speaking of questions, Parker was kind enough to answer some of mine.
Q. Is there copious cursing in this volume? Or is that reserved for the blog?
A. As I am publishing this through Amazon, rather than the usual wanky publisher, I can say what the fuck I want… And I fucking do. Fucking often. So fuck!
Q. Are there really more Mormons in Idaho than Utah?
A. Yes, there are and they’re all wankers. But, as far as I know, there are very few in Advertising. Well, just one, with the initials (GB) who is the principal of a major New York agency, and as anyone who knows him can tell you…He is extremly weird and fucked up. Maybe the Angel Moroni will forgive me. Particularly as I know where the Golden Tablets are buried.
Q. Vance Packard’s book sold over one million copies. He obviously struck a nerve among consumers. Are you writing to inform the consumer or instruct the agency man?
A. I’m writing for anyone dumb enough to buy it… Just kidding. This book is a veritable treasure trove of advertising advice, wisdom and dirt. Clients should hire me for mega-bucks to pull the wool from their scaly eyes. Agencies should hire me for mega-bucks not to pull the wool from their client’s scaly eyes.
Q. How long have you known Jeff Goodby? What’s he like to work with?
A. I’ve known Jeff since he was a whipper snapper at Hal Riney’s… He used to wash Hal’s whiskey glass. I used to dry it. After Hal, I taught him everything he knows… Just taking the piss, Jeff. In my Opinion, he and Rich have created the best, long lived, non-douchenozzle agency that has produced great work for more than twenty years. And will probably continue doing it for the next twenty. If you read this Jeff… Send the check to my numbered Zurich account.
Q. Do you have a favorite cocktail? How about a favorite bar in the world?
A. Ha, the perfect segway to my next book… “The Balls out Book of Advertising.” A lethal combination of ad advice, reviews of bars I have been thrown out of all over the world, and my favorite cocktail recipes. As a taster, check out the Sip n’ Dip in Great Falls, Montana… Yeah, I fucking said, Great Falls, Montana… It’s a ‘Tiki” bar in a motel and behind the bar is a giant fish tank with live fucking mermaids swimming about. And once again… It’s in Great Falls, fucking, Montana, so the drinks are cheap. Next time you’re in Great Falls, on a BBDO multi-million dollar shoot, check it out. It kicks the shit out of Pastis. Oh, nearly forgot, my favorite cocktail? Alcohol!
Q. Why are ad people such pansies?
A. Because if you live in a 5,000 square foot SoHo loft, get driven to work in a limo, work out with two personal trainers at Equinox, eat buckets of Bellons at Balthazar, and weekend at your mansion in the Hamptons, and still believe you know better than anyone how to sell cornflakes to an unmarried mother of three, living in a trailer in Missisipi… You’re not just a pansy, you’re a fucktard!



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.