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George Parker has spent more than thirty five years in the Madison Avenue salt mines with such major agencies as Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam, Chiat Day. J. Walter Thompson and many others. He's worked in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, Stockholm and anywhere else were they would pay him obscene amounts of money and give him an AmEx platinum card with no questions asked. In the course of his career he's won Cannes Lions, CLIOs, EFFIES, the David Ogilvy Award and several hundred other bits of tin and plastic His blog AdScam.Typepad.com, which was named as one of the four best ad blogs in the world by Campaign Magazine, is required reading for those looking for a piss & vinegar view of the world's second oldest profession.
George Parker is quite often described as being full of "piss & vinegar". I can't attest to his actual chemical makeup but I can tell you there is one thing he is definitely not full of. The Ubiquitous Persuaders is an insightful and honest look at a profession that he obviously loves. Having spent over 30 years in the same profession I share his concern about the current state of advertising. The times are not a' changin'. They have changed. Mr. Parker's analysis of how some very smart people began making some very questionable choices is dead on. I don't know if I would suggest this book to someone who wants to get into the business. It would probably cause them to seriously reconsider that offer they got for a steady bartender gig. On the other hand, I would suggest it for everyone who has anything to do with today's ever widening field of "marketing and communications". We have enough people with degrees in accounting. We need a few who majored in common sense.
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Anyone who is interested in, works in or teaches about the "advertising" industry must read this book. More than once.
GEORGE PARKER IS EITHER A MADMAN. OR A GENIUS. (Or both?) Because only a madman or a genius would have the vision and guts to write a book like this. After all, he's "been there"--more than most. And "done that" successfully for many years. This book provides a brutally realistic, uncanny portrait of an often-dysfunctional industry---painted with a sharp knife that cuts away all the assumptions and myths about the "ad biz" leaving an intriguing landscape populated by people (and companies) who are running in place--- running toward the future--or running amok. Those who live and work in that world...know that.
PARKER PAINTS A BRILLIANT PORTRAIT OF AN INDUSTRY THAT'S A PARADOX. On one side, the advertising industry has made a lot of people extremely wealthy. Provided a haven for creative minds. Helped many, many businesses and organizations succeed and profit. Forced itself into the social and cultural fabric of our country--and our world. Shaped many attitudes, perceptions and preferences about a lot of things, products and companies. Anointed some cartoon characters, icons and imaginative people into "sainthood." Helped politicians win--or lose elections--or lose elections. And, told gazillions of consumers what, where and when to buy the stuff they need. After all, advertising is definitely "ubiquitous." More so these days than ever before.
On the other side, it is an industry that also contained--as Edgar Allen Poe might put it--"the seeds of its eventual destruction." An industry that created and broke "rules" with almost gleeful, sadistic abandon.Read more ›
As someone starting out early in my career in marketing I found this book to be very insightful. It gives a birds eye view of recent advertising history as well as an overview of the current state of advertising. The chapters cover various industry niches such as IT advertising, youth advertising, health advertising, and new media. In true AdScam fasion perhaps the best thing about this book is its critical eye. No error goes unnoticed, and every flaw of the current system is held up to the light. Parker does a wonderful job of examining the contradictions inherent in the business models and actions of the BDAs (big dumb agencies).
The overarching theme of The Ubiquitous Persuaders is that the advertising industry is botched and must be reformed; Parker makes this point by examining the industry thoroughly and quoting David Ogilvy as often as possible. The two largest issues brought to light are that agencies make the mistake of giving clients what they want rather than what they need, and that advertising has decreased in quality in negative correlation to the increase in available mediums; the number of mediums is exploding (hence the term ubiquitous). Reading this book you must ask yourself if the ubiquitous persuaders are effective persuaders, to which the answer is assuredly not. Can they be in the future? That is the real question. George takes a shot at answering it, but I won't spoil the book for you.
Overall I found The Ubiquitous Persuaders to be very enjoyable. It's to the point, not too big, and full of good information. The book overviews the ad industry. That being said, if you already have been working in the industry for a decade you've probably already seen the problems he points out, but if you're not in the industry or are just getting started this is a great read.
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Parker has an axe to grind with ad agencies and most of it is well deserved. His writing is probably the way he talks, which is what you'd expect from a sailor whose been at sea for months with nothing but smelly, sweaty men on board. But being accustomed to locker room talk, it bothered me not a bit. Just be careful if you are offended by salty talk. I frankly think that a person who writes a book should use more class and better language. But, having said that, I loved this book.
Parker makes some factual errors that should have been caught by someone. He says, for example, that Bette Davis starred in "Mommy Dearest." While the great Bette could have played the part quite well, the honor of that part went to the queen of mean, Joan Crawford.
To give you an idea of his feelings about ad agencies he says, ". . . I have seen repeated innumerable times in innumerable presentations during my long and somewhat checkered career - the ass kissing, . . . It is proof of something I have always believed: the vast majority of people earning their crust in advertising agencies will prostitute their wives and sell their children into slavery if it will keep the client happy." How true that is!
It's always disgusted me how ad people will do whatever the client wants when the client has absolutely no idea what's best for him. It's like a doctor giving the patient any pill he wants just to keep him happy --- even if the pill is going to kill him.
This book is a take-off on the popular classic by Vance Packard in the fifties, "The Hidden Persuaders." I own a first edition of Packard's book and I still love it. But, it's full of crap just like most books about advertising. That's because advertising is full of crap.Read more ›
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