menu

Confessions Of A Mad Man: You Have To Make The B**tards Pay!

Confessions Of A Mad Man: You Have To Make The B**tards Pay!
Advertising

In his tell-all memoir, author George Parker holds forth about what it's really like to work in the steamy ad world, as popularized by AMC's Mad Men. All it's cracked up to be? Read to find out.

George Parker
  • 22 august 2011

The third installment in our series of extracts from George Parker’s new book, ‘Confessions of a Mad Man.’ One of the few surviving ‘Mad Men,’ George Parker has lived through more than forty decadent years in the world’s second oldest profession. He’s seen it all and done it all. And a great deal of what he’s done would make the TV show, ‘Mad Men,’ look like Sesame Street. Unless Kermit is caught in flagrante with Miss Piggy on the PBS boardroom table. Ah, the good old days… Sex, drugs, rock & roll… It’s advertising as you always imagined it.

There’s always been a perception in the business world that advertising agencies have an unlimited license to print money. Back in the glory days of the sixties and seventies this was accepted because most agencies, in collusion with the avaricious marketing directors of their respective clients, were all playing the same game. Let’s do lunch, let’s go to Yankee Stadium, let’s go to the Mets, let’s play golf, let’s do the sales conference in Tahiti, let’s do Broadway, let’s get laid. Shit, let’s just blow money out of our arses. After all, it’s not ours; it belongs to people dumb enough to invest in our shell-game of a company, which in turn, has decided to blow massive amounts of money on a really big advertising program!
So, nobody gave a shit, because we were all playing the same — I can do it because I can get away with it — game. Which, even though pretty bad, was amateur hour compared to the escapades of the last few years by companies such as MCI, Enron, Tyco, Home Depot, AIG and others, with their “Super CEO’s.” The one’s who’ll maybe end up getting “bitched” in an extremely non-country-club-jail long after they were featured, and forgotten, on the cover of Forbes or Business Week as “Man/Innovator/Futurist/Wanker of the year.”

And, even though I wouldn’t want his high-priced lawyers all over my arse, I would suggest ex General Electric CEO, Jack Welsh, provides a prime example of current Twentieth Century Chief Executive greed. After all, here’s a guy who retired with millions in cash, stock options and pension benefits, who will provide nothing of any value to his former company for the rest of his life, yet as just one of the many perks GE is dumb enough to provide, he expects them to pick up the tab for thousands of dollars worth of fresh flowers every month in his company provided Fifth Avenue apartment, even though he’ll only stay in the place when he’s flown into town on a company jet to take advantage of the company provided tickets for every re-run on Broadway, the US open, the Met, the Knicks, the Kicks, and the latest Lady Ga Ga concert. The evil old wanker even gets a life time supply of “vitamin” pills. Probably the little blue ones, for crying out loud!

It hasn’t got to that stage in the agency business yet, but I have no doubt that it will. Only a few years ago, when freelancing for one of New York’s biggest agencies, I had to get some ads approved by a senior agency executive late one evening so they could be finished up for a presentation early the next day. This meant schlepping it round to his Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment. But, as he and his wife were having the place remodeled, he asked me to bring the work to their temporary digs at the Carlisle Hotel. This turned out to be a two bedroom suite (they had no kids, just a dog) which had to be in the region of $1,500 to $2,000 a night for the three week stay. The agency was picking up the tab. Which, if you think about it, means that the agency’s clients were picking up the tab. They just didn’t know they were.

You might presume that as most agencies are now part of multi-national conglomerates run by dull-witted bean counters all of whom would be just as happy selling pipe fittings, undertaker services or insurance policies, providing it generated sufficient profit, these somewhat dubious practices would be a thing of the past… Au contraire…

When I first got into the business, back in the Mad Man days of the sixties, virtually every agency was still a private company, so management didn’t have to be bothered with such bothersome distractions as shareholders or Wall Street busybodies.  This meant you could spend a significant portion of the client’s budget on lunch at The Four Seasons, afternoon cocktails at the Ground Floor, and dinner at the Rainbow Room, all with relative impunity. You always flew first class, got driven around in limos, and wouldn’t be caught dead staying in anything less than a five-star hotel.  Yet strangely enough, the quality of the resulting advertising often seemed to justify this shameless extravagance.  And because everyone else in the business was doing it, no one seemed to care very much.

Now, because of the pressure dictated by trying to meet their quarterly numbers, agencies which find themselves trapped within the slimy tentacles of such conglomerates as Omnicom, WPP, Publicis or IPG are forced to crank out mundane, often terrible work, and unlike senior management (who will always find ways to live high on the hog) the unfortunate peons who actually do the work, can’t even enjoy themselves while they’re doing it!  Unlike the situation a few years ago when Michael Furlong, my Art Director Partner and I enjoyed a rather memorable almost five hundred dollar lunch at Smith and Willensky’s Steak House on Third Avenue. And why the hell not? At the time we were working on the American Express account and considered it an essential piece of research in order to come up with ideas for the client’s latest “fine dining” campaign! Unfortunately, as three quarters of the tab was for insanely fine wine and well aged cognac, not to mention torpedo sized illegal Cohibas in those wonderful, fuck it, you can smoke anywhere days, we didn’t remember too much about it.

The current state of the ad industry can best be summed up in the reputed words of a senior executive at the New York office of one of WPP’s agencies.  When asked how he rated the quality of the work currently being produced by his agency, he replied, “Fuck the work, it’s all about the money!” Damn right sir, you have to get your priorities in order.

More of this degenerate, but highly enjoyable profligacy, next week. Right now, as the sun is almost over the yardarm, it’s time for cocktails and foisgras at Smith & Willensky’s.

Purchase ‘Confessions of a Mad Man’ on Amazon.

Advertising
Trending

Lancôme's Newest Campaign Stars A Domestic Abuse Survivor

Advertising
Arts & Culture Yesterday

Small Urban Pavilions Create A Nature Refuge In East London

These relaxing micro shelters provide a haven amidst chaotic city environments

Travel Yesterday

Travel Laundry Pouch Washes Your Clothes Wherever You Are

The Scrubba Wash Bag helps anyone wash their clothes easily and quickly with just a little water and soap

Trending

Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Social Media Yesterday

Swipe Up To Register To Vote On Snapchat

The social platform has partnered with TurboVote to help young people easily enroll in less than one minute

Children Yesterday

Battle Card Game Promotes Childhood Vaccinations

An Australian doctor has developed a playful way to inform parents about immunization and entertain kids

Related Expert

Dustin Callif

Interactive Storytelling

Fitness / Sport Yesterday

Oakley And Intel’s Sunglasses Give You A Built-In Personal Trainer Wherever You Go

The sunglasses/earbuds hybrid tracks your performance and lets you know how well your workouts are going

Experiential Marketing Yesterday

UNICEF’s ‘Time Machine’ Tells Stories With Data

An experiential installation at the UN General Assembly reminds us why every child matters

Design & Architecture Yesterday

Watch The World’s Tallest Building Become An LED Display

Burj Khalifa gives a backstage look at how the transformation came to be

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Travel Yesterday

Boeing Wants To Make Your Flight Better With Cloud And Star Projections

The manufacturer is trying to patent a projection system that would allow them to project images onto a plane's interior surfaces

Latin America Yesterday

Colombians Teach Dance To Fund Students’ Education

Chocó to Dance is a platform that shows you how to replicate popular Latin dances to help create scholarships for local students

Work Yesterday

Editorial Roundtable: What A People-First Workplace Must Prioritize First

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX on why employee fulfillment is a journey and not a destination

Culture Yesterday

Brand Engagement At The Gates Of The World’s Largest Open-Air Gallery

Tiger Beer and a neighborhood-minded nonprofit celebrate and promote New York's creative spirit by beautifying 100 security gates

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

Technology Yesterday

How Technology Can Save The World By Saving Time

PSFK attends the Social Good Summit 2016 to see how new tech is changing the world for the better

Travel Yesterday

Marriott’s Gravity Room Installation Gives Travelers A New Perspective

The luxury hotel chain's #MGravityRoom invites visitors to snap and share pictures of its inverted set up

No search results found.