George Parker: Thoughts on Thursday

George Parker: Thoughts on Thursday
George Parker
  • 25 august 2009

As I’m sure many of you know, I hosted two panels at the PSFK “Good Ideas” conference at the Soho House in New York last Thursday. The subject of the meeting was “Advertising.” Which, surprisingly, had never been dealt with as a stand-alone subject at any of the previous “Good Ideas” shindigs. The format was that there would be two panels, the first a bunch of old geezers, who had come up through the traditional BDA structure, and the second being more representative of the newer kinds of communications companies who are not wedded to the traditional way of doing things. At the end, we would meld the two panels and have one overall Q & A session. There was also a definite attempt on my part, as I was moderating both panels, to avoid pitching a “Good old Mad Men days” nostalgia mob against a “Your time is past and now we’re the new kids on the block, so get the fuck out of the way” group.

In fact, what happened was that the two panels actually complemented each other rather well and interesting points were made about how, even though the business has changed radically in terms of the way we use all aspects of new media to reach expanding audiences, the essential core essence of what we do, hasn’t changed. As Curvin O’Reilly put it so well, there may be currently two radically different Yankee stadiums standing next to each other in the Bronx, but the game is the same, it’s still baseball.

I like to think of it best in the words of Howard Gossage “People don’t read advertising, they read what they are interested in, and sometimes that’s advertising.” I would suggest that’s even truer today. As I said at the conference, everyone has their knickers in a twist about the hundreds of new ways we now have to reach consumers, while failing to consider that the reverse of this is that consumers now have hundreds of ways to tune you out.

Much grist was milled about the changes, primarily for the worst, that have come about with the conglomerization of the business into the four giant holding groups, which because all are publicly traded, are now driven by bottom line considerations, rather than the quality of the product produced.

I loved one of the final questions. A lady asked, “If you were a psychiatrist and you had advertising on the couch, what advice would you give it?” Interesting answers, particularly from Tom Messener, who was a huge hit in his red socks. John Garland, ex COO of JWT, had some really good insights into the flaws inherent in the traditional agency model which are not being addressed, and probably, never will be.

The young Turks panel, as you would expect, came at things from a newer perspective, but as I said, we all agreed that fundamentally, the ad biz is as fucked as it’s ever been, and the chances of the BDA’s coming up with viable solutions are zero.

PSFK will be posting video’s this week. Watch out for them.

George Parker is the perpetrator of, without doubt, one of the most foul and annoying, piss & vinegar ad blogs on the planet. His new book, The Ubiquitous Persuaders, has just been published by Amazon and is currently setting the ether ablaze. He will continue to relentlessly promote the crap out of it until you are forced to stab yourself in the eyes with knitting needles.


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