Advertising legend SR Mani Ayer (1935-2010), who was also the former Managing Director & CEO of Ogilvy & Mather India, passed away on February 8, 2010. It is understood that Ayer was ailing for the past few days. He is survived by his wife, daughter and a son.
Ayer was born on September 5, 1935. He joined Ogilvy (then SH Benson) in 1958 as a copy writer. He spent 36 years in Ogilvy & Mather, of which two years were spent in Ogilvy Australia, prior to taking over the reins as Managing Director in 1973. He was only 38 years old when he took on the role of Managing Director, Ogilvy India, from his predecessor Padubidri Sarma. Ayer was probably the youngest Indian MD of Ogilvy India, or for that matter, even perhaps the youngest MD across industry sectors at that time.
Ayer is credited with laying the foundations of modern Ogilvy in India. He brought a high level of strategic thinking and business orientation into the advertising thinking process. He created a new wave that has today become the mantra of account handling/ client servicing professionals in Ogilvy and ex-Ogilvyites – always put the client first.
David Ogilvy described Ayer as “the most outstanding individual in the Ogilvy network”.
Ayer believed that if anyone was serious about a career in advertising, then they had to be good at writing, teaching and training. He invested hugely in training – time and money – and would take time out to sit and observe a session being conducted by a new trainer to ensure they got it right.
He took enormous pride in the successes of his people and applauded as much as he provided constructive criticism on performances, reaching out to his people when they faltered. He was very particular about celebrating successes. He had an amazing capacity to learn constantly from varied sources and get to the heart of any issue, responding instantly and in a very systematic manner and form. Behind his tough, disciplinarian manner, Ayer was a man with a heart of gold.
It may be recalled that Ayer had complied a tribute for Suresh Mullick. The tribute comprised anecdotes that recounted the fondest memories of Mullick during their time together.
In 1993, he retired as Managing Director of Ogilvy India. He moved to Chennai post his retirement. Among other accolades that Ayer won, the most recent was being inducted to the Hall of Fame by AAAI.