To his clients, Goutam was much more than an advertising man: Lloyd Mathias

Guest Column: Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist & former Asia-Pacific Marketing Head of HP Inc, writes a fitting tribute to adman Goutam Rakshit, who passed away on March 31st

e4m by Lloyd Mathias
Updated: Apr 2, 2020 9:18 AM
Lloyd Mathias

Goutam Rakshit belonged to the first generation of Indian advertising industry founders - who quit large mainstream agencies to set up their own creative shops. In 1982 he left Clarion to set up Advertising Avenues, following in the footsteps of other advertising greats like Sylvester da Cunha (da Cunha Associates); Ajit Balakrishnan and Arun Nanda (Rediffusion); Ravi Gupta (Trikaya) and AG Krishnamurthy (Mudra).

Goutam, an MBA from Mumbai’s Jamnalal Bajaj Institute, started off at Cadbury’s where he spent 9 years as a brand manager and then moved to Clarion as an Account Director on the invitation of one of his gurus, Prof. Subroto Sengupta. His long stint at Cadbury’s in brand and market development nicely set him up for a long and successful career in advertising – as he fully understood the client’s perspective and the business imperative. Most of all he managed to walk the fine line between clutter-breaking creative and sales-driving advertising.

Within two years of joining Clarion, Mumbai, he set up Advertising Avenues together with co-founders Ashok Roy and Gopi Kukde. Avenues, smartly identified the niche of start-ups and SME’s, who found it difficult to obtain the professional services of big agencies because of their being small or because they couldn’t afford big agency fees. Remember in the eighties, 15% agency commission was sacrosanct. Most of Avenues early client were first-time entrepreneurs for whom advertising till then meant packaging design and in-store communication. Avenues grew with clients’ businesses and became a force to reckon with in the late eighties.

Together, Goutam, along with Ashok Roy- an ace strategic planner and Gopi Kukde - among the best Art Directors, helped build some iconic brands on the back of truly memorable advertising. Avenues hallmark was a singular creative proposition based on deep consumer insight (Onida- so good it will draw neighbours envy; VIP Frenchie – the irresistible appeal of macho male bravado; Skypak – delivery at all costs) with a telling visual mnemonic (The Onida devil depicting envy; the sexy Frenchie man invoking sex appeal; or the Skypak man showing up in the strangest of places).

The agency’s work was very print, television and out of home driven as was appropriate in that period. The distinct look of an Avenues campaign was unmistakable and was as much a tribute to Goutam’s and the founding partners’ passion and rigour. Much of the work for Tips & Toes cosmetics; Marico’s Parachute coconut oil, Leo Mattel’s Barbie – weren’t just award-winning, but also worked fabulously in driving sales.

For his clients, Goutam was much more than an advertising man. At Onida, he was accorded the same reverence as the promoters. Onida’s Managing Director Gulu Mirchandani consulted him on many issues well beyond the creative domain. Ditto with the promoters of VIP Innerwear and TNT Skypak. Goutam did not just have a great sense of consumer insight, but also understood the use of media – and above all knew what drove consumers to a brand and kept them there. He also questioned the use of changing campaigns ever so often, arguing that company insiders tire of their campaigns, much more than customers do.

But most of all Goutam was a thorough gentleman who always had a patient ear - listening to feedback and suggestions from various levels of his client organisation, with the same intensity as he did with the promoters. He would always clarify the purpose of the creative route taken, be it to enthusiastic young trainees or know it all trade partners.

Goutam was active in Industry bodies like the Ad Club. He was Chairman of the Advertising Standards Council of India in 2004. His void will be deeply felt by the Indian ad industry and the many successful brands and companies he helped build.

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