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George Parker: all the ad news that’s unfit to print

Obviously, as I’ve repeatedly told you, I’ve been in the ad biz since Genghis Khan invented the USP, so I’ve seen a lot of changes. Some good, most bad, with the creation of Holding Companies topping the ugly list.

However, the continuing destruction of the English language by the ad biz and ad trades is well up there. Just read this in a recent ad mag…The headline states… “IPG’s Acxiom unveils latest integration offering, ConnecCXions.” The body copy starts… “Interpublic data company Acxiom today announced a portfolio of digital transformation solutions under a new brand called ConneCXions. The main idea is to combine Martech tools like customer data platforms with multichannel ad-tech applications and media networks in a seamless integrated fashion. The new offering packages audience insights & strategy, media analytics, addressable advertising, digital platform services such as DMPs, as well as consulting and advisory services. And it also syncs up with Acxiom’s Kinesso and Matterkind offerings.”

I’m sorry guys, I have no idea what any of that means. Do you?

For years we’ve been told by agencies that they are about to transform themselves by blowing up the silos and breaking down walls. Unfortunately, along with the structural damage, most of these agencies of the future are now agencies of the past. A cheaper solution is to merely change your name to something exotic so that no-one, particularly prospective clients, have an idea of what it means.

My favorite agency name is… “Wexley School for Girls.” Yes, that actually exists. Well, it did for a while, then it closed in 2018. Or, you can always change your name, or come up with some fanciful description of what you do, carefully avoiding the word advertising… Remember Jacques Seguela’s book… “Don’t tell my mother I work in advertising – She thinks I play the piano in a brothel.” Obviously, that was on JWT’s mind when in 2014 they announced to the world that they were no longer an Ad Agency but were now “Cultural Anthropologists.”

They even hired someone to head up a department of neuroscience, consumer psychology and cultural anthropology. That lasted less than a couple of years, then they went back to being an ad agency.

However, to prove that no one in advertising knows fuck all about advertising, they then changed their name from J. Walter Thompson to JWT, then changed back to J. Walter Thompson a couple of years later. Now they are Wunderman-Thompson and my money is on the Thompson bit disappearing after a couple of years.

Now Ogilvy has jumped on the same dumb bandwagon… They have renamed themselves from Ogilvy & Mather to… Wait for it… Ogilvy… Announcing its “re-founding” as a creative network that “Makes Brands Matter,” according to a new tagline. Over at once highly respected Crispin Porter + Bogusky, with the announcement a couple of years ago that Alex was returning to the shop, up popped this on MediaPost… “CP+B is now CPB+” Yes, even once great agencies cannot help themselves from talking absolute shit. However, Alex didn’t hang around for long and left in less than two years to continue having tea with the Dalai Lama in the “Shed” at the bottom of his garden. The agency promptly renamed itself…CPB4.

However, the Dylithium Lion for perseverance must go to The Poisoned Dwarf (Sir Martin) for refusing to retire to his “Shed” to count his millions. Just a couple of weeks ago, he declared that WPP should be broken up ‘cos it had got too big. This from the guy who made it so fucking big with over 650 acquisitions over 35 years. So, you have to laugh when you read that His Gnomeship’s S4 Capital has completed a special share offering valued at £116 million ($145 million). S4 said in a filing the proceeds would be used for M&A activity.

The firm also noted it has several deals in the works including one that is “imminent” and described as being “in eCommerce around a major platform in the United States.” As dear old Yogi would say… “It’s Dejavue all over again.” Sorrell is older than Der Trumpf. They should both call it a day and pack it in.

On a final note… Many years ago, when I was freelancing at Ogilvy, New York, a young AD/Writer team asked my opinion on a campaign they were working on. I said it was nice but was even nicer when Mary Wells did the exact same thing back in the sixties. “Who is Mary Wells?” they asked. “Apart from doing sterling work at DDB and Jack Tinker, she went on to found Wells, Rich, Greene,” I replied. They had no idea what the fuck I was talking about. I was tempted to ask if they had ever heard of David Ogilvy, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

So, once again I choked on my breakfast beer when I read in AdWeek that the new Nissan “Ariya” is named after the niece of Allyson Witherspoon, Nissan’s VP of Marketing. When reminded that the last car to be named after a relative..Ford’s “Edsel,” was an embarrassing flop, Ms Witherspoon replied that she had never heard of the Edsel. Time for another beer.


  1. God what a miserable bloke you sound like. That Sorrell quote is taken out of context and doesn’t relay the point he was actually trying to make.

  2. Dear George,
    Your concept of the English language is so quaint — requiring that it communicate rather than buzz, have spaces between words, and create stories that engage. Where’s the fun in that?
    Surely, you must be overwhelmed by the terrific advancements we’ve made in advertising.
    In your day, I imagine, creatives had time to think, draw and write, and then have their work reviewed by experienced creative directors. And then they reworked it to make it better. How inefficient!
    A young creative today can crank out one deliverable per day and require no supervision at all!
    Mary Wells promoted 100 mm cigarette smoking in elevators.
    That was shameful, and that’s why she is not remembered by today’s woke agency Millennials.

    Yours for a future of obfuscation,
    Michael Farmer

  3. Michael…
    We also had time to smoke, drink and shag our brains out. It required dedication and non-stop effort. Somehow we managed to rise to the challenge.

  4. Michael and George, I pondered these questions when presenting skills and careers in advertising to a Masters class. Help.

    My first agency was Ogilvy (pre WPP era) and last Wunderman (Sorrell era WPP).

    George, you’re right: back then I also behaved according to typecasting in 1980’s London agencies. I did have the chance to meet David O and Lester W, and learn about great advertising and selling. A lot of that happened in London then. Sorrell won DO’s respect. Then after the fall WPP went downhill fast.

    Michael, you’re right: you have demonstrated how agencies are reduced to churning out digital ‘assets’ rather than creating insights and ideas. But I would not besmirch Mary Wells to millennials because of tobacco: I did, as did everyone including Ogilvy

    I take refuge with two truths courtesy of D.O. The only role of advertising is to build “Brands with Personalities”. The only slogan for an agency is “We Sell or Else”.

    Is that the point you both make? Advertising is creative, rewarding and fun when it builds brands. Agencies succeed when they build brands and sell a lot of product. There are still brands to be built, even if the ones that matter change (i.e. cannabis and electric rather than tobacco and diesel). There are still hugely rewarding careers, even if fewer places to find them (i.e. London, Paris, NY, and Portland).

  5. Oh John… Tsk… Tsk…
    Sorry if my miserableness upsets your delicate sensibilities. It is my early morning nature. I am much better after a three martini lunch. I would suggest a late evening constitutional around Shepard’s Market. Does wonders for the digestion. Keep smiling. Cheers/George

  6. Stewart… Yes indeed, I think that is the point both Michael and I are trying to make. Irrespective of all the current bullshit, as David Ogilvy once said to me… “Advertising is about selling.” We have strayed far from that as clients are realizing that many of the peripheral things agencies promise under deliver and are overly expensive. When (if) things ever return to normal agencies will realize that many clients have taken a large number of adverting functions in house and the good old days which allowed the holding companies to suck off twenty percent of agency revenues have come to an end. And about time too. Cheers/George

  7. Stewart,
    I was being ironic about Mary Wells, who was a creative genius who is not remembered by today’s Millennials. Sorry for being overly subtle!
    George is right that “advertising is about selling,” but that is no longer the case if you look at today’s Scopes of Work and listen to the mission statements of today’s agencies. Or look at advertiser’s RFPs.
    Few agencies are being asked to participate as partners in the quest to improve brand performance, either because they are not capable of this (due to downsizing and juniorizing) or because Procurement is not sophisticated enough to think about the top line instead of low costs.


  8. Right there with you George. Sell. Smoke. Drink. Shag. Repeat. When I won the DO Award it included breakfast with David (along with a pile o cash) He asked what I would do with the money and then convinced me to follow my dream of going to Paris to cooking school. So I did. Gave me great perspective on what really matters. Good food.

  9. Jane… You lucky bugger. When I won the DO award, I was told that as a freelancer, I wasn’t eligible for the cash part. Instead, they gave me five lousy shares of WPP stock. So I double billed them for a few months. As my old boss at B&B once said… “You have to make the bastards pay.”

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