Book Review: George Parker’s The Ubiquitous Persuaders
Prolific creative consultant and PSFK columnist George Parker isn’t afraid to bring some real talk to the table in his most recent book, The Ubiquitous Persuaders, a rousing look at the quickly evolving world of advertising – where it’s heading and how far it’s come. The book serves as a much-needed update to Vance Packard’s 1957 book The Hidden Persuaders, which attempted to expose the nefarious world of media manipulation, subliminal advertising, and other business-driven mind control closing in on us.
The Ubiquitous Persuaders offers a comprehensive study of advertising and all its follies, including industry niches, the relevance of new technologies/social media, and of course, BDAs (Big Dumb Agencies, coined by Parker himself) and the contradictions they endlessly (and ubiquitously) propagate. The starting text for Chapter Two hints at the overall tone and theme of the book: “It’s deja vu all over again: How advertising went from insiduous mind manipulation and hitting the consumer over the head with a two-by-four, hard sell of the fifties, to the creative revolution of the sixties, then back to the hard sell of the seventies, and why it continues to do all of the above in never ending repetitive cycles.”
Parker’s invective against some of the major players in the monolith of Advertising (with a capital A) is more than just an entertaining read. It’s considered and undoubtedly eye-opening, his criticisms borne out of an earnest desire to see real change in the way advertisers and brands think and behave. Parker sees the current model as a dysfunctional, paradoxical machine that is simultaneously building up myths while stifling creativity. He cites sources ranging from David Ogilvy and company CEOs to “The Terminator” and Stephen Fry to illustrate how the art of persuasion has become a conflicted religion rooted in money, deluded omniscience, and maintaining the status quo. The Ubiquitous Persuaders helps to uncover the false idols and contradictions of the faulty industry. It’s a bold, insightful wake-up call that asks us to reconsider what, why, and how we buy, sell, and market.