AdScammer and author George Parker picks his Desert Island Ads

I was flattered when Stephen asked me to sully the pages of MAA with my choice of “Desert Island Ads.” After all, the previous writers have indeed been the crème of London’s adverati whose opinions are valued in the best West End bars and worst East End boozers. I shall endeavor to live up to the challenge by mixing up what I consider to be the best from the UK and the US. I briefly considered some Australian TV work, but couldn’t understand a bloody word anyone said and everything seemed to be a beer ad.

If I start to get boring and begin rambling – Hic… Here’s a hint… Take anything from DDB in the sixties, Colletts in the 70’s, Chiat in the 80’s, Goodby in the 90’s, and Wieden+Kennedy – LONDON – today. And you’ve cracked it. Otherwise, read on.

Let’s get one thing established immediately. The best TV commercial EVER made was DDB’s “Snow Plow” spot for VW in the early 60’s. If you have to ask why… You’re a fucktard.

And yes, we know that Apple’s 1984 is the most famous TV spot ever made, and even though it was written by my good mate, Steve Hayden, “Snow Plow” still gets my vote. Incidentally, Steve was a hell of a writer. Check out this wonderful early ad for the Apple-ll (left and below). The copy could have been written last week…

(Best we can do, unfortunately).

Moving on to Collets, you are truly spoilt for choice. Hovis, Fiat, Pretty Polly, B&H, my Dad’s pen company! But Cinzano with Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins are brilliant.

Hamlet cigars with “Photobooth,” shot by another mate, Graham Rose, is my favorite.

I was trying to find any of the old Barclaycard spots with Dudley Moore, particularly the skinhead shopper. Can’t even remember the agency… Anyone got a clue? (Collets again George – and we’ve found the ad, courtesy of the estimable History of Advertising Trust, many thanks to them). On the subject of lost campaigns, I was also trying to dig up Kirkwood’s Vladivar Vodka campaign… “Wodka from Varrington.” Nothing out there. I remember Ronnie (left) with his Russian cigarettes and gold Dunhill. Always immaculate, he had the pockets of his suits sewn up so he wouldn’t spoil the line. What a guy!

Chiat in the eighties was unstoppable. I was perma-lancing at the San Francisco office and obviously, Apple, including 1984, mentioned above was a big fucking deal. I always loved the incredibly cheeky ad Steve ran when IBM launched the PC. Then Sculley took over and moved the account to his old “star fucking” agency, BBDO. But when Steve came back, BBDO quickly got the elbow, and Chiat was back in the saddle.

Speaking of IBM, when Lou Gerstner came in as CEO of what appeared to be the rapidly sinking Titanic of technology companies, it was using over 80 agencies worldwide. He fired the lot and gave the entire account to Ogilvy without a review, ‘cos they were his agency at AmEx and he trusted them… Something you don’t hear too often these days. The problem was “Big Blue” was seen as corporate and threatening. Ogilvy completely turned around this monolithic image with the brilliant “Solutions for a Small Planet.” Campaign using subtitles and humour from IBM for God’s sake!

Then they did the “Blue Letterbox” campaign dealing with specific business problems. If you’ve ever worked with a Tech-Nozzle, you will understand this spot perfectly. Not that IBM would change its habits completely. When I was perma-lancing at Ogilvy, I did an ad launching their voice recognition software. The headline was… “For years mad scientists have talked to their computers. Now you can too!” The IBM lawyers killed it; because they said it was offensive to mad scientists. Honestly, you can’t make this shit up.

OK… Goodby Silverstein + Partners… Why not? Jeff and Rich are mates. (Send the check to the Zurich account guys!) They have been in business for 30 years… And yes, they’ve done a few clunkers, who hasn’t? But the overall quality of their product for such a sustained period of time is, in my opinion, unmatched. Everything from “Got Milk” to the Budweiser frogs, and a thousand others. Here’s a recent favorite of mine for Adobe. You know you’ve lived through this bullshit before.

And here we are in 2013. First a hint for next year concerning Droga 5. Definitely a “comer.” I didn’t look at any of the “Oz” work, ‘cos. As I say, I can’t understand a word they say. But here’s New York’s work for Newcastle Brown. Yes… It’s a fucking beer ad. No bollocks!

Finally, Weiden+Kennedy, London. Not Portland. London. Anyone can do ads for Nike, especially when they’re at the bottom of your street. The London lads, under the stern eye of Neil, last week’s DIA contributor, consistently turn out great work. What’s not to like about cats that kidnap milkmen? And the second best commercial ever made has to be “COG” for Honda. Not just because you have to be warped to have the patience to produce it, you also have to have some kind of magic or pictures of the client doing naughties with his secretary to sell it.

Another long single take spot I love is the one with Robert Carlyle doing his six minute walk for Johnnie Walker. That was BBH, then they cocked it up with all that rubbish from South America.

Still, not as bad as Guinness doing their long take effort with hundreds of toothless serfs in a hill top village making wardrobes knock each other over to make a giant Guinness glass. But it’s got about ten thousand cuts in it. What’s wrong with these people?

There’s a lot more that has passed before my rheumy eyes over the last forty odd years, but I can’t go on forever. Well I could if you propped me against the bar and bought me lots of drinks. Speaking of which, here’s one of the all time great booze ads. Can’t remember who did that either. (Y&R London I think George). That’s it. I’m done. If I missed a particular agency out, never forget, I can be bought. I am in advertising, remember!


  1. George,
    A masterclass. And I agree with every word. Apart from being educational, your review is also highly entertaining. I think your identification of agencies’ quality of output decade by decade is spot-on and a very original observation. What a half hour ‘introduction to the business’ this would be for aspiring media-studies ‘Junglings’ – it would blow them right off their arses!

  2. Mark… Much appreciated… The check is in the mail.
    Stephen… That’s a picture of me outside a boozer on Tottenham Court road. It’s about three years old. The last time the sun shone in London.

  3. Next time you’re in town we must go somewhere more salubrious George – I suggest Shampers in Kingly Street.

    It’s where admen and media types go between jobs. Once they’ve got another one it’s off to Scott’s or Shoreditch House.

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