George Parker: David Ogilvy and me. (Memo to Ogilvy – where’s George’s prize money?)

I met David Ogilvy twice.

The first time was in 1962. I had just stepped off the Queen Mary at pier 11 in New York City. I had been lucky enough to win a Royal Society of Arts bursary whilst at art school in Britain. You where supposed to go abroad for six months and gaze at the Mona Lisa, or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I chose to go to America and try to break into the ad biz. For some weird reason, the jury of geriatric painters and sculptors let me go.

I had had the balls to write to David and express a wish to meet with him and discuss my future, for yet another weird reason, he agreed to meet me. I was ushered into his office which was furnished in the style of Downton Abbey (many years before its TV debut.) David wore a tweed suit with a waistcoat sporting lapels. In the corner was a suit of armor. In the fireplace was a roaring fire. Fortunately, the air conditioning was at full blast, as it was July and 90 degrees outside.

He was very nice and put up with my inane questions whilst blowing clouds of smoke at me from his giant briar pipe. At the end of the allotted thirty minutes interview, I asked him one final question… “If I do get offered a job, what kind of salary should I ask for?” He looked at me, took another puff on his gnarly briar, and said… “Dear boy, I never discuss money, I employ people who deal with money matters. You will have to talk to them.” As I was leaving, he said to me… “Never forget. The business of advertising is selling.”

The second time I met him was thirty years later, when I was perma-lancing at Ogilvy, New York, as part of a vain attempt to save the Compaq computer account. The attempt failed. (Made a shitload of money though!) The gory details are in Confessions of a Mad Man. Worth it for less than the price of a pint. So, late one night the “Creative Team” was in a conference room eating cold pizza and drinking warm beer. Not to mention snorting copious helpings of blow, when the door burst open and David strode in.

Actually, he was helped in by a couple of minders, as he was in his eighties by then. He was also deaf, so he shouted, “what are you people doing?” Leaping to my feet and brushing off the snow from the table, I explained what we were working on. Then reminded him we had met thirty years previously. He looked at me as if I was mad, which, obviously, I was for bringing it up. He then turned to leave the room whilst shouting… “The business of advertising is selling.” Consistent old fucker.

A few years later, I won the David Ogilvy Award for the best global campaign from the entire network. As I have posted before, it came with a ten-thousand-dollar prize, which I was denied, ‘cos I was freelance. Triple billed the fuckers though. I’m sure David, spinning below the turf of Chateau Touffou, would approve.

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