George Parker: Paul Simons was right about some clients

I must say, I was pleased to see that Stephen Foster, in his great wisdom, has promised to re-publish many of Paul Simons past pieces. All are highly recommended. As I commented last week… “Truly sorry to hear the news. I never actually met Paul, but we corresponded with each other via email and he said nice things about my efforts for MAA. Coincidentally, we were both alumni of Cogent Elliott, though at different times. I am sure he will play a major role at the “Agency in the Sky.”

Then I read Paul’s piece… “Is resigning a client ever the right thing to do?” And it really struck a chord. It talked about Simons Palmer’s relationship with Wrangler, when at a meeting a senior member of the client suit brigade asked… “Why have you got black people in the advertising? It reminded me off a similar situation I faced many years ago when I worked on the Xerox account at Y&R, New York. I had come up with a campaign “Rick and Richard,” based on all the wonderful technology breakthroughs Xerox had come up with at PARC, their Palo Alto Research Center, where everything from LAN, GUI, the Mouse, Kryptonite and Dylithium crystals had been invented, until in their naivity, they had given Steve Jobs a tour, and he ripped everything off.

Anyway, “Rick and Richard” was based on the TV campaign Xerox did back in the early sixties when they invented the first dry copier. Papert Koeinig & Louis did a spot showing the Xerox 914 copier, so simple to use, evan a chimpanzee could do it. It didn’t run for long, as the secretaries of America said it demeaned their skills.

Anyway, thirty years later, in my campaign, Rick was a PARC scientist who invented wonderful things, and Richard was a chimpanzee (that I claimed happened to be the grandson of the original chimp) who tested everything and made sure they worked. Everyone at Y&R and Xerox thought it was a good idea. As a courtesy, they asked me to show it to the Xerox Board. They all liked it, except for one guy who said… “We can’t run that.” I asked why. “Well” he replied. “Many of our workers are black.”

I told him I didn’t understand what he was getting at (even though I did.) “Well” he replied… “You know… Black… Monkeys.” I looked him in the eye… “My wife is black,” I said (She isn’t.) Then I left the room.

The campaign never ran, ‘cos obviously, some things never change. Paul was right. R.I.P. Paul.

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About George Parker

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George Parker has spent 40 years on Madison Avenue. He’s won Lions, CLIOs, EFFIES, and the David Ogilvy Award. His blog is adscam.typepad.com, 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.