George Parker: that was the Halloween that was – bet there are no Guy Fawkes ads

When I was a kid I grew up on Factory Lane, Manchester, yes, Factory fucking Lane, ‘cos at the bottom of the road was the ICI Dyestuffs Division sitting on the banks of the River Irk, which was a different colour every day when they dumped all their waste in it. Didn’t stop the fishermen though, and as the war was still going on, a purple perch and chips was not to be sniffed at.

Anyway, in those days we celebrated Guy Fawkes on the 5th. We couldn’t have bonfires and fireworks ‘til after the war, Germany supplied those for us. But when it was over and you could start smoking Woodbines again, we would spend October stealing and collecting anything that would burn to build the world’s biggest, smelliest bonfire. We would also be wheeling around a pathetic attempt at a “Guy” in a broken down pram, knocking on doors and demanding money… None of that candy shit for us!
Bonfire night fire

Here in America Halloween is a $7 billion event, with douchenozzles buying costumes for themselves, their children and their pets. When I worked at Y&R on Madison, there was a shop down the street that sold pet costumes and “wardrobe accessories” for animals. At Halloween the queue to get in went round the block. Even earlier, when I first arrived in New York as a snot nosed student fresh off the Queen Mary, I went into a bank on October 31 and was somewhat stunned to be faced by everyone dressed as wizards, witches and giant pieces of fruit. “What’s going on?” I asked a giant banana. “Oh,” it replied, “It’s Halloween, it’s a holiday.” “Then why is everyone still at work,” I asked. Stupid me.

Now the British have jumped on the bandwagon (would tumbrel perhaps be more apt?) with The Guardian reporting three years ago that you are spending 300 million quid on stupid shit, so I’m sure it’s more now. Just last week, Britain’s best ad site – Yes – MoreAboutAdvertising, was reviewing Halloween themed ads, I’ll bet there are no Guy Fawkes themed ads appearing in the next week. Bloody shame.

On a final note, it’s worth remembering that Halloween was not an American invention and that it actually originated in Scotland and Ireland. But you can be assured that nobody was walking around dressed up as a giant condom in 12th-century Scotland.

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About George Parker

George Parker has spent 40 years on Madison Avenue. He’s won Lions, CLIOs, EFFIES, and the David Ogilvy Award. His blog is, which is required reading for those looking for a gnarly view of the world’s second oldest profession.” His latest book, Confessions of a Mad Man, makes the TV show Mad Men look like Sesame Street.