Giles-Parscale: Success Trumps a Longtime Local Brand

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Jill Giles and Brad Parscale.

Courtesy / Giles-Parscale

Jill Giles and Brad Parscale.

It seems counterintuitive to suggest that Giles-Parscale has a serious brand and identity problem here at home.

The San Antonio-based firm founded in 2011 by designer Jill Giles and digital data guru Brad Parscale sets the standard for high-end design and branding work in the city and beyond, with a growing list of out-of-market clients.

It’s impossible to miss the firm’s work locally, from the Pearl and Hotel Emma to Signature restaurant in the northwest to the Esquire Tavern and the copper frieze on the facade of the Hotel Contessa downtown. And that’s just the physical expression of the company’s creative efforts. Far more of its work now is found in the digital world.

The firm has experienced meteoric revenue growth, thanks in large part to the work of Parscale, who took an extended leave of absence to work full time crunching data on behalf of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The firm’s revenue increased by 4,782.2% from 2014 to 2016, finishing last year with more than $97.6 million in revenue, making the company No. 1 on the San Antonio Business Journal‘s 2017 Fast Track list published last week. Unstated in the story, however, is that most of that money went out as fast as it came in, funding national media buys, paying vendors, and covering other campaign digital advertising expenses.

Throughout the contentious presidential campaign and the first 100-plus days of the Trump presidency, Giles has tended the home fires, focusing her team on all the other clients. None of that business is political.

Parscale, meanwhile, has established a new home base and a new company in the Miami area, one that associates say could grow to become a $100 million enterprise. Unfortunately, that won’t be growth San Antonio enjoys.

For Giles, her association with Parscale and his continuing work for the Trump administration has led to local businesses and individuals with strongly held anti-Trump sentiments to ostracize her. That acrimonious treatment has taken its toll on Giles and cost the firm some business it did not want to lose.

“Any local business we have lost has been more than made up by out-of-market clients,” Giles said last week, “but I don’t do political work and neither does anyone else here at Giles-Parscale. San Antonio is home. I don’t want to be under attack.”

Few people distinguish between the two principals. Parscale is still her partner. His name is still one-half of the firm’s name.

Courtesy / Giles-Parscale

The courtyard at Giles-Parscale.

“Jill had almost nothing to do with the campaign, and there is no one still working at Giles-Parscale that worked on the campaign,” Parscale said in an interview Friday. “The majority of our growth now is out of market. We have a lot of companies that want to learn how to use data to become better companies. We proved on the campaign how well we understand data and how effectively we can use data.”

Parscale feels that too many people in San Antonio can’t accept the firm’s work on behalf of a client they oppose politically. They fail to see the economic benefit of that work to the local economy, Parscale said.

“We spent nearly $100 million in the course of the campaign with our operation based in San Antonio, and a ton of that money was spent in San Antonio on campaign-related employment, thousands of hotel rooms, all kinds of economic activity,” Parscale said. “Many of the employees that worked on the campaign have spun off their own enterprises, using the campaign as a catalyst to better success.”

Parscale still maintains a condo in San Antonio, but South Florida appears to be his new base, where he is expected to grow a digital consultancy that serves businesses and political candidates with actionable micro-data strategies, helping clients to better connect to customers or voters, depending on the work.

Regardless of how any of us voted in the November presidential election, Miami’s gain is San Antonio’s loss.

I’ve known Giles far longer than I’ve known Parscale, but if there is one attribute they both share, it’s an absolute confidence in their talents and ability to deliver on behalf of the clients they serve.

Giles has been a small businesswoman since 1984 when she and a single production artist established Giles Design in a King William studio. For 30 years, Giles has dominated the high end of the local market with her work, building a reputation for first-class design work in print and in the built environment.

Courtesy / Giles-Parscale

Inside the Giles-Parscale office.

She met Parscale in 2010 at an Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event and one year later they were in business together, Parscale leading the firm into the fast-growing digital space.

The two partners are very different people. Giles is petite, soft-spoken, with trademark long blond curls. Parscale, a former UTSA and Trinity University basketball player, is 6-foot-8, blunt-spoken, with a shaved head and fiery red Viking beard.

Trump’s victory over a pack of Republican rivals and his stunning electoral defeat of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, many in the political world agree, was due in no small part to the digital and social media strategies shaped by Parscale. The use of big data and social media were key to underdog Trump’s fundraising, building his base, and turning out voters eager for change at any cost in Washington, D.C.

For all the years Giles has worked here and built her brand and reputation, it’s Parscale who has become more of a household name in political and business circles. Trump’s ascent to the presidency transformed Parscale into a minor political and tech celebrity, and that’s where the challenge began for Giles.

The more national and local media attention Parscale attracted and the more credit he was given for contributing to the Trump victory, the more heat Giles felt from some friends and colleagues who supported Clinton and loathe Trump.

The irony here is that Giles is fairly apolitical, far more interested in communicating through good design than in political messaging or partisan politics. Like many women of her generation who have worked hard to achieve business success in a male-dominated world, her focus has been on empowerment and proving that excellence prevails in the marketplace.

Part of the problem is the firm’s success as it morphed into two very different enterprises, both under the Giles-Parscale name, during the presidential campaign. Giles and her team continued to do design work, while Parscale established what became an independent operation focused on a Trump victory. Few people knew he had taken a leave of absence, and even today, few know that he lives in the Miami area and travels more often to Washington D.C. than to San Antonio.

Parscale is no longer much of a presence here. None of the current agency employees worked on the campaign or work today on Trump administration business. Yet most people in San Antonio continue to associate Giles-Parscale with the Trump administration.

Parscale said he wants to help Giles-Parscale continue to grow even as his new business takes shape in Florida. Can he have it both ways? Common sense suggests people will not stop associating Giles with Parscale’s work for the Trump administration unless the firm’s name and ownership structure change.

Giles has no desire to live or work anywhere but San Antonio, while Parscale is bound to become a road warrior as his new business is built on his success as part of the Trump team. He will be in high demand in conservative political and business circles, and that means living in a city with a big airport with lots of nonstop flights. That’s not San Antonio.

“This presidential campaign was an amazing experience,” Parscale said. “I am going to continue to work for the president and into the 2020 election. I also am running America First’s digital operations.”

Politics can be a brutally cyclical business, so Parscale could be flying high into the 2020 presidential campaign, or he could find himself on the sidelines. That’s not a problem he has to face anytime soon. But a breakup with Giles, however friendly, seems inevitable. Parscale’s work is no longer in San Antonio, while for Giles, there’s no place like home.

36 thoughts on “Giles-Parscale: Success Trumps a Longtime Local Brand

  1. I take issue with the idea that we should just accept Giles’ association with Parscale because it’s just business and it’s good for our economy. I would want a business partner of mine to hold the same ethical values. How much money is worth being able to look yourself in the mirror and your clients in the face? Parscale’s morally sketchy work for the Trump campaign has severely damaged their business’ brand. I feel little sympathy for either of them.

    • Yes! The opposition to Giles-Parscale is not simply because they worked on a political campaign. The opposition arises from the highly unethical practices Parscale used in the campaign. You can’t champion hateful rhetoric and unethical advertising and then act surprised when people are upset by that and by extension with you.

  2. Very disappointed. Diminishes the credibility of the Rivard Report. She made her bed and her money…let her lie in it.

  3. “Parscale feels that too many people in San Antonio can’t accept the firm’s work on behalf of a client they oppose politically. They fail to see the economic benefit of that work to the local economy, Parscale said.” What?!? I see the economic benefits for Brad Parscale for sure. Nice stab at trying to clean up a despicable mess that a majority of locals find disgusting and deplorable. Anyone that much in bed with Trump is begging to have rotten tomatoes tossed their way.

  4. Slept w/a dog,got fleas.Elitist mindset’s resulted in a hit to her pocketbook.Blonde zebra’s stripes haven’t changed.Rivard:this piece belongs in celebrity woes/regrets column. No sympathy or support for unethical business dealings-esp that bait & switch w/Ron’s campaign web site.

  5. Great article, highlighting the difficulties of working with someone who does not share the same political agenda.

  6. Good article on a topic difficult to assess, and you did not. Interesting facts here give the public insight into the power political forces have outside of Washington, even though they were not the focus of the entire percentage of total workload.

  7. I’ll join the chorus of people who are disappointed that RR printed this article. Obviously Giles had to buy into the Trump bid and agree to go along, since she is half the ownership. Obviously she would have known the company would be overwhelmingly associated with the campaign and its reputation and that San Antonio is NOT a Trump supporting city. I feel no sympathy whatsoever. If she wants to clear the reputation, she needs to break from Parscale, rename the company, and rebuild a better reputation from scratch.

    On a personal note, I once met Brad Parscale by chance in the Pearl parking lot back when I was still working in tech. The only things I remember about this conversation — he bragged about how little he had to pay junior web developers in San Antonio and I thought he was one major a**hole. Good riddance. Can’t wait for him to be permanently out of the San Antonio tech scene.

  8. Thanks to everyone who has commented here this morning, although I could do without the personal attacks. I welcome critical disagreement with my work, but why disparage my character?

    This was not a political commentary. It wasn’t an endorsement of anything related to the Trump campaign or the president and his administration. It was a business and branding story about San Antonio’s leading design firm and the unusual predicament of success in one direction leading to problems elsewhere in the business.

    I concluded with my own view that Giles-Parscale can’t have it both ways and likely is headed toward a change. For the record, neither the business nor the individuals have contributed to the Rivard Report. –RR

    • I have known Jill for many years. She is a fellow designer and one of the best. She was also my friend. As a designer, I have turned down work from companies and organizations where I held a strong opposing view to that organization’s values, goals, philosophy, product or service. Integrity & self-respect are just that important to me…more so than monies to be made. And I’ll admit that sometimes making a decision to turn down business is difficult if there is a tremendous financial incentive to do the work—as might have been the case in Jill’s situation. And if that’s the case, just how much is a reputation worth?
      Here’s what folks want to know: Would Jill pursue work with anyone if she believed them to be a racist, homophobic, misogynistic fascist….or be partners with anyone who was an avowed, ardent sycophant of that fascist—How about if she could have predicted the outcome and disastrous consequences of applying her talents working for the likes of a Trump campaign?

      Maybe she believes none of the above are applicable here. If she didn’t believe those things, and actually likes Trump, then I’d have some respect….I wouldn’t like her choices at all, but I would respect the idea that you stand by your convictions…and accept the consequences.

      Or maybe she doesn’t even care what he is, what he does, whom he hurts. She says she’s “apolitical.” Maybe she thinks as long as she’s doing good work—just doing her job and being handsomely paid for it of course, it shouldn’t matter. Being apolitical is fine when you’re creating a logo for a restaurant, or doing a website for a physician’s practice, or branding a hotel. But when you’re choosing to do work for an organization whose actions will profoundly and adversely affect millions–some of whom are literally your friends and clients (I assume), and quite possibly change the course of history of our country….you had better take a side….and be able to live with the consequences.

      To Jill: Mr. Rivard’s nice commentary/excuse/rationale is not enough to set things right. (We could all use a nice endorsement like this.) My best advice to my old friend Jill would be that if you really don’t align yourself to the extremist beliefs of your Alt-Right partner, then sever ties with him immediately….He may eventually be accused of or indicted for treason, and that my friend is not something you’ll want to be associated with especially if things are untenable now…. Let everyone know you made a mistake –a big mistake even….and don’t let folks apologize for you. Once there is a perceived mistake made, a new level of trust has to be re-established. If clients don’t trust you, they may not want to work with you. You have to take responsibility—don’t claim to be “just doing your job”….The road to the Hague is riddled with people on the wrong side of history claiming that they were just doing their job.

      • Thank you Michelle. A big fat YES to all the above. Since I wanted to say something and I can’t say it better than this I just wanted to acknowledge your words and my similar thoughts.

  9. Bob this article is what I love about the Rivard Report. Articles like this that stir the pot and invite commentary. Jill’s work is the best in town and you don’t get to the top without having to put up with a few people trying to pull you down and that’s true for the Rivard Report as well.

  10. News flash for Jill Giles: If you ride with horse thieves, you hang with horse thieves.

    If she isn’t capable of repudiating the actions of her partner, just continuing to cash the checks, she is culpable.

    Our country is in real trouble and Brad Parscale is in it up to his chin hairs!

  11. I found your article very interesting. I also found the comments left behind both interesting and a bit sad. I am naive about exactly how much the G-P agency bought into or benefited from the political work and the election results. However, I was very concerned about the backlash this obviously talented firm has suffered and the predicament Giles and the firm are now experiencing
    (Previous commentors please note: I come from the town Hillary grew up in. My daughter attended the same high school Hillary graduated from. I loved the same olive burger that Hillary loved from the Pickwick Restaurant. I am devastated by what happened in the election and by the “Red Menace” we are now shackled with!)
    That said, and being reassured that Giles is committed to an apolitical target market, I’d like to see her firm regain the local business it has lost due to it’s association with Trump-related business. Why not rebrand and rename Giles-Pascale? If Giles can’t raise the funds to buy out her partner then why not rename the firm: “Giles & Associates”. Then those of us who can’t stand the political leanings/ gleanings of Mr Pascale can simply be reminded that it is he who is the “Ass” in “Associates”.

    • It would seem if Jill Giles had a problem with the political leanings of her partner, Brad….She would have ended the business relationship many months ago. But all that money….hard to walk away from all that I guess.

    • I think it’s safe to say that without Parscale’s ability to mine data and manipulate voters, we would not now be saddled with the Orange Menace. I also don’t believe that Parscale was unaware of the Russian influence. Also, this isn’t the first time Parscale worked for Trump — he’s done work for his real estate business as well. Giles has her name on the business and profited from their client. I’m sorry, I don’t care how good a designer she is — her integrity or lack thereof, speaks volumes. As does her judgment in partnering with him to begin with. I wouldn’t hire her now and don’t know if I would even if she were to break up with Parscale.

  12. “The irony here is that Giles is fairly apolitical, far more interested in communicating through good design than in political messaging or partisan politics.”

    It is naive to say you are apolitical when your firm’s co-owner has been a major factor in electing a corrupt, fascist person to be president of the United States. We are now facing the possible (and already in progress) loss of our DEMOCRACY. And this guy is PROUD of this fact, y’know, it’s made him lots and lots of money, hey, that’s all that matters, he got his, right? No, THEY got THEIRS. Giles is his partner. To say she didn’t benefit financially from electing a man who is ruining the lives of so many in our country is simply making excuses for both of them. Giles made her bed, I don’t care if she is only part of the design part of this business. She is part of a company that contributed to the erosion of civil rights, immigrant rights, environmental protections, freedom of the press, and the healthcare of all US citizens. This is unconscionable. Absolutely unconscionable. I hope NO ONE does business with this firm.

  13. Thanks for the story. My questions have been answered.

    I’ve been aquatinted with Jill Giles in the past and often wondered what her views were on this issue. She never struck me as someone who would wrap her arms around a canpaign as divisive as Trump’s or the tactics we saw used.

    She can do what she wants. I’m no expert so can’t judge that. Maybe a separation is inevitable and for the best.

    Then there’s this.
    http://www.businessinsider.com/brad-parscale-trump-russia-investigation-2017-6

  14. Great article, Bob. Through other media, it’s pretty clear that Trump success has made Parscale a persona non-grata in SA. I wish G-P would hold firm as “theirs” is a legal pursuit of good business. Only now, I guess I will need to separate G from P in order to alleviate pressure on G? It won’t matter: This is bullying on an adult level. Enjoy the success and find the next client! I’m proud of Brad- local guy who hit a home run thanks to his business acumen. Right up there with David Spencer.

  15. It is disingenuous of Parscale and Giles to say that their customers and potential customers disagree with Trump politically. The disagreement goes much, much deeper than a simple political disagreement. When you do business with a racist, misogynistic, lying bigot, you’re going to lose the business of decent, progressive people.

    When you lie down with dogs, you’re going to get fleas.

  16. All those millions$ rolling in must have been heady, but look where the country is now…in constant upheaval from the White House to San Antonio Federal Courthouse. Did you think to ask Jill her thoughts on all of Trump’s sexist remarks about women? Our country will never be the same again, and neither will Giles-Parscale, rightfully so.

  17. In the article it was written, The irony here is that Giles is fairly apolitical.
    No the irony is she turned her back on what her partner’s dealings were and now she is paying the consequences.

  18. What many people don’t know or realize is that GP started working for Trump years ago from the referral of another real estate firm in New York. It was small work and way before the Presidential election. One thing led to another, and the jobs got bigger. None of this happened overnight. When the opportunity for supporting the Presidential campaign came around, I’d be willing to bet no one thought he would go that far.

  19. What is most interesting of all is the backlash. Giles-Parscale are business partners and Parscale delivered value to his client. Period. Also, the concept of innocent until proven guilty should be respected as any of you detractors would never accept the idea of people calling you out for treason because of a far fetched theory that Parscale was involved in some sort of Russian Collusion. You know that iPhone that you violently typed your angry reply to this article on, dismissing Parscale as a bad guy because he helped his client win because of said client’s personal views that are abhorrent? That iPhone was produced under unhumane conditions from as early in the supply chain (the mining process) to the final manufacturing processes of your phone that is “designed in California.” Please think critically and realize that Mr. Parscale was serving his client well, and that Ms. Giles’ association is through a business partnership. Brad and Jill are both good people. Please don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house. Mr Rivard, thank you for your excellent journalism, as always. -Sean

  20. So what if the ‘majority’ of San Antonians are anti-Trumpers? What does that have to do with Giles Parscale? Trump won the election, G-P had been engaged by a political campaign when no one, not even the candidate , thought the campaign had a chance of winning. It would be nice if those that hate Trump so viscerally would back off their visciuos attacks on him and give him a chance to fix the mess that weak politicians have placed us in. Thanks to all those who respect every POTUS during his term in office whether or not they voted for him, (or, her, someday), and even if they can’t stomach his Un-Presidentiality, like most former Presidents, too many to name. Bob Rivard is handling great it right.

    • Trump has made a huge mess, that so many could anticipate. So Gene, do you support him now? GP have engaged in treasonous behavior with a foreign power. Why are you so comfortable with Treason? I respect POTUS until he is selected by a foreign government helped out by GP.

  21. I’ve worked with Jill for many years and know that her primary motivation for maintaining the partnership was this: keeping her people employed. I think those of you who are slamming her for keeping Giles-Parscale running “for the money” have not considered that angle. Dissolving the partnership would have put many talented, loyal employees out of work.

  22. Oh dear. Have you seen the newest info from DC regarding Brad Parscale’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica? He worked for them and hireda bunch of their dark data dudes to work on the campaign. Looks like Mueller probe might be digging a little deeper into Parscale’s involvement with CA.

    Time to rebrand the company!

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