At a time when client-agency relationships are vendor-zoned in the advertising business, there are still partnerships that tell a different story. Ogilvy’s Piyush Pandey is one of the few creative professionals who is known for maintaining rock solid bonds with his clients. As Pandey is stepping into an advisory role and giving up his position as executive chairman of Ogilvy India, Storyboard18 caught up with Pidilite’s (makers of Fevicol, Fevikwik) managing director Bharat Puri to understand what makes their bond an unbreakable one.
Pandey and Puri have worked together for 36 years on some of India’s most loved brands like Asian Paints, Cadbury and Fevicol. Here’s what Puri had to say about his long-term partner-in-crime Pandey.
Do you recall your first meeting with Piyush?
Of course. I was a young marketing manager at Asian Paints. It was the time when English was still the primary language used for advertising. We wanted to change that because mass media had just started to take off. We decided to advertise in local languages, and wanted to start with Hindi.
Those days the practice was that agencies would present the ideas and copies in English and later after approvals would translate them. Ogilvy presented an idea around the lines ‘Celebrate with Asian Paints’, which we really liked, and asked the agency to get a Hindi translation. They came up with the tagline, ‘Asian Paints ke saath jashan manaye’. It didn't work out at all for us.
I asked Madhukar (Sabnavis) who was the account manager to get a good Hindi copywriter for us. He got Piyush, who was then the Hindi copy chief of the agency, to our office. He had a chat with me and called me the very next morning and said, “Crack hogaya, partner.” That’s how we got the line, ‘Har khushi mein rang laye, Asian Paints’. I told Madhukar that I want this guy on the account. And rest is history. I think the two of us have the longest agency-client relationship in the country. We have worked together for 36 years.
What has not changed about him from then to now?
Piyush’s passion and childlike enthusiasm has never changed. I think he is always going to be like that. In the days of landline phones, he used to have a deadly habit of calling me early in the morning while having his cup of tea just to discuss ideas that he would wake up with. His energy for work hasn’t changed even a bit.
What’s the best advice that Piyush has given you as a friend and as a client of his?
Both of us are cricket enthusiasts. As someone who has maintained solid client relationships over the years, he often…tells me, “At times as partners we would hit a century and sometimes we may get out at zero. If we are not ourselves and not make our strokes, then we will only play safe. So take your chances, we are right with you.” He has taught me how I should be playing on the front foot and how I should push the envelope and do better.
As a client who has worked with him over the several years, what makes Piyush’s pitches convincing even today?
Piyush owns the brand he works with. He doesn’t enter a pitch room just to present ideas. He takes ownership and that sets him apart. When the Cadbury’s worm controversy broke, Piyush used to come into our office every day to be with us and come up with ideas. Piyush is not in the business of selling idea, he is in the advertising business for his pure passion.
What impresses you about Ogilvy’s current leadership team?
They are people who I have known for years now. The only difference is that have newer designations. They have a sense of the history of the agency. They may have become leaders in the last few years, but each of them have behaved like a leader since they entered the agency. Ogilvy India is an agency that truly knows to home-grow its talent.
Show reel – Some of the iconic ads Puri and Pandey have worked on together