Tara Sinha saw the future of advertising: Chintamani Rao
Guest Column: Chintamani Rao, renowned Strategic Marketing and Media Consultant, recounts Tara Sinha's contributions to the field of advertising
The first time I heard her name was 45 years ago. From then to now I have only heard her spoken of in awe and with respect.
It was 1974 when I started my career at Clarion-McCann in Bombay. Tara Sinha, or Mrs Sinha as she has always been referred to, had been head of the office. She had since moved to Calcutta and then to Delhi to set up ACIL (Advertising Consultants India Ltd), a wholly Indian subsidiary of the company to handle public sector business (which by the new rules, only a wholly Indian-owned agency could). Subroto Sen Gupta was in Bombay as Regional Director, but you couldn’t miss her presence, not because she visited frequently (she didn’t) but because every now and then, someone would refer to Mrs Sinha – about an office rule she had made; her view on a particular brand; how she had stood up to some client; or how she had taken someone to task – and always, always with respect.
Over the years her name kept cropping up, as she moved to Coca-Cola, first in Delhi and then in Atlanta; returned to Clarion and left; set up Tara Sinha Associates; got into partnership with McCann, and eventually sold the agency to them. At one time her daughter Pia worked with me, and at another time her brother was my client (both in another agency, not hers) but I never got to work with her.
Circa 1991, her agency was thrown out of AAAI. The offence was that on one account, Videocon, they did the creative work and media planning but handed over to another agency for media buying, and of course in that process shared the 15 per cent agency commission. That was labelled discounting, and a violation of AAAI rules.
Mrs Sinha was summoned by the AAAI. R K Swamy accompanied her to lend support. Mine was the lone dissenting voice on the Executive Committee, which included AAAI laureates Anil Kapoor (in the Chair), Goutam Rakshit and Arun Nanda. I pointed out that Hindustan Lever had been doing the same thing for many years. (Back then media planning was done by each creative agency for its brands and all buying by Lintas.) But Lever was the biggest advertiser in the country and too big to wag a finger at, so AAAI turned a blind eye to the offence. Tara Sinha Associates, though, was good to flex their muscles with and show who was boss.
That was some six years before Carat started in India, in 1997, and ten before Universal McCann and Mindshare did. Clearly, she saw the future when the leaders of the AAAI did not.
I stepped once again into her lengthened shadow when I joined McCann-Erickson. She had sold her stake in the agency to McCann and her name was off the shingle, but there again were the frequent references to what she had said or done. And in what had once been her agency I saw her legacy in action. She was tough and demanding, but what she demanded was high professional standards. And what she left behind at McCann was some top drawer professionals committed to the high standards she drove and inspired them to live up to. In them, she lives on.
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