George Parker: playing by the bizarre rules of the world’s biggest advertiser

So, Procter & Gamble has regained the lead over Amazon as the world’s biggest advertiser, spending $11.5 billion on global marketing in the fiscal year ending June 2021. No surprise when you consider they’ve been number one with the big bucks longer than most of us have been around.

I was unfortunate enough to work on P&G in my early Mad Man days back in the sixties at B&B in New York. I inherited the Charmin “Bathroom Tissues,” account. Never, God forgive being referred to as “Toilet Rolls.” This means I also inherited Mr. Whipple, who was played by Dick Wilson, a Canadian actor, who surprise, surprise, as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force was one of the most highly decorated fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain. Whodathunk it? “Hey Nazis, don’t squeeze my Spitfire.”

Working on the account involved regular trips to the P&G Marble Mausoleum in Cincinnati. At first, they insisted that I should shave my beard off, as the only other people in America at that time with beards were spies for Fidel Castro. I convinced them, that being British, the vast majority of beard wearers in Britain were members of the royal family, so, they gave me a pass.

Back in those days, P&G was the archetypal corporate nightmare. Executives had their own office, their secretaries had to sit outside typing memos in the corridor with breaks for bringing the boss coffee. Depending on your status, you could have one, two, or three pictures on the wall of your office. These had to be drawn from the company picture library. All were reproductions of Hallmark greeting cards. If you needed to go for a pee or a crap, you went to one of the communal men only toilets. Unfortunately, half the stalls were roped off. This was because a time a motion geezer had done a study showing that way too many people went to the far cubicles and waisted micro-seconds of time whilst relieving themselves.

I was also taken for lunch in the P&G executive cafeteria. This was the part behind plastic palms to separate it from the hoi polloi. The waitress, in a starched uniform, handed everyone a plastic-coated menu. Every item on the menu was followed by a code number. In the middle of the table was a box with IBM code cards. Whatever you wanted, you ticked of the requisite number and handed it to the starched waitress. Within minutes you were delivered a compartmented tray with all your gourmet treats. At the end of the meal, the starched waitress delivered everyone a coffee… Except me.

I summoned her and requested a coffee. “Ah” she said. “You did not check off box number 45.” I turned to the P&G Executive Vice President sitting next to me… “Could you ask her to bring me a coffee?” He replied… “You didn’t check off box number 45.” I’ll bet it hasn’t changed that much since!


  1. Jacques.
    I am not familiar with KOBO. It is available on Amazon as an eBook. For less than the price of a pint. Please check it out. If you have problems. email me and I’ll send you a copy… ‘Cos, I am a fucking prince.

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