Advertising industry veteran, Piyush Pandey, chairman and creative director of Ogilvy and Mather, India and South Asia, launched his book 'Pandeymonium' in Mumbai in the presence of the advertising fraternity. Present as the chief guest was actor Amitabh Bachchan, who has also written the foreword for the book. In a candid discussion between Pandey and Bachchan, topics ranged from brand responsibility to language. Excerpts:
Talking about responsibility of the advertiser towards the celebrity they use to promote a brand, Pandey said, “I think there is a huge responsibility, towards the brand that has invested and taken the services of a celebrity; and the celebrity who is representing the brand. You wouldn’t look very good if someone told you that the ad in which a particular celebrity is stupid and that ad happened to be yours. So you need to find a connect and try and see that it’s a win-win situation for the celebrity and the brand.”
Bachchan, on the other hand, talked about the responsibility of the brand to the celebrity promoting it, and the responsibility of both to their audience. He recalled his campaign with Cadbury following a bad hit the chocolate brand had taken.
“Cadbury had been through a terrible time. When they came to ask me to endorse them I asked, “Do you want me for your campaign because you are in trouble or because you like my face?” They were honest enough to tell me that they were in trouble. I told them that it would be better to be honest. So I asked them to tell me directly what went wrong and then I could see if I could be part of designing their campaign. I wanted to know what they had done to repair the damage. So they explained to me how they now had a double wrapper on the Cadbury product and it was absolutely safe. I asked that they take me to their factory, which they did, and I got to see firsthand what new measures were in place. We then decided that instead of a typical ad, I would just sit in front of the camera and speak about exactly what was happening.”
According to 2012 stats, India is now 100 per cent Polio free. This had a lot to do with the campaign by Piyush Pandey featuring Amitabh Bachchan which spearheaded the call to action.
Pandey recollected, “We were just a small part of the whole campaign. There were people on the ground – doctors, government and social service workers who made the whole campaign a success. Yes, the creatives were different from the regular public notice pieces but the exercise was huge and many people were involved.”
Adding to this, Bachchan said, “This campaign took eight years to make India 100 per cent Polio free. There were a number of issues we faced along the way. In rural India for example, mothers were not keen to put these two drops into their children’s mouths. We had to really convince them. We also faced problems with communities who did not want to contribute to this. We had to design a campaign to impress a particular community by using artists who represented that community. Even after we had experimented a lot with this Piyush felt it was still not working. He said he had an idea where he wanted to convert my on screen persona into a campaign. Instead of pleading with people to take these two drops of the Polio vaccine, he asked me to actually get annoyed with them. And so we shot the video and it was kind of odd to be angry with the country for not giving their children the Polio vaccine, but it succeeded.”
In many ways, the advertising world is dominated by the English language, but Piyush Pandey remains one of the few who still juggles English and Hindi with elan. “Some of us can make a mistake which is to learn the English language ‘at the expense of’. But it should be ‘in addition to’.”
Here Bachchan referred to a campaign done for Gujarat tourism. As part of the campaign, Pandey created a tagline for Kutch which went ‘Kutch nahi dekha, toh kuch nahi dekha’. The line became popular enough that two years later it was seen painted on the rickshaws in the area.
When asked what his favourite campaigns with Piyush Pandey, Bachchan refers once again to the campaigns he did for Cadbury, Polio vaccine and Gujarat tourism.
For Pandey, the Polio vaccine campaign is his greatest. “It will always be because of what was achieved by the nation through it. We also had a lot of fun with the Gujarat Tourism campaign because we got two months to be with Amitabh Bachchan, learn from him and travel with him.”