When you enjoy your job, you don’t count the years: Piyush Pandey, Ogilvy

Pandey, Ogilvy’s Chairman-Global Creative and Executive Chairman-India, completes 40 years at the agency. exchange4media spoke to him to understand his creative journey, and many other things

e4m by Kanchan Srivastava
Published: Aug 10, 2022 8:38 AM  | 8 min read
piyush pandey

From a trainee account executive to the Chairman-Global Creative and Executive Chairman-India, Piyush Pandey’s four-decade-long journey with Ogilvy is truly inspiring, not only for young admakers but for everyone who dreams of making big through his/her skills, grit and determination. 

The man behind the iconic campaigns of Cadbury, Fevicol and polio, Pandey (67) redefined Indian advertising by changing its colonial flavour to Indianness, using powerful Hindi language in the ad campaigns that appealed to the masses. Under Pandey’s leadership, Ogilvy grew exponentially and won hundreds of awards for its powerful and catchy ads. The veteran recently completed 40 years at the agency, possibly a world record of sorts in the advertising sector. We caught up with the legend to talk about his creative journey, and many other things. Here are excerpts from the conversation. 


You recently completed 40 years with Ogilvy, which must be a world record in advertising. You are still in full swing and delivering wonderful campaigns as ever. What keeps you going on and on? 

If someone stays in a job for a long time, that means they are passionate about their work. They (employers) keep you in the job because you are excellent and able to deliver. So, it is the combination of both. When you enjoy your job, you don't even count the years. 

I still remember the first 40 days of my job at Ogilvy, forget about 40 years. When you are playing in a match, you don't play for a score, you just enjoy the batting. 

You might have received many job offers in these years. But your “Fevicol ka mazboot jod" with Ogilvy is truly remarkable. Was there any day in your career when you felt like you were done? How did you get out of that phase? Any advice to youngsters who are tempted to switch jobs anytime that feeling occurs?

If you enjoy your work, then you don’t feel like changing jobs. Some people receive job offers in terms of money. Money anyway gets equalized in two-three years. So, look for another job if you are able to actualise yourself better in that job. Don't be fooled by the money, if the work is not good. 

In the early nineties, somebody offered me a job and said that my name would be included in the company’s board. I told him, “When you landed in India and drove from the airport to the Taj Hotel to meet me, you might have seen many boards.  My name is written all over, so I am not concerned about my name. My work is my name, not the vice versa.

Many people look up to you and want to understand your process of creativity. What do you usually tell these people?

First think of the audience. If you are not able to move your audience, then your idea is not good. Client is secondary. If you think that your idea can move your audience and the product is able to deliver, then you can utilize it anyway. Family, neighbourhood, city and the nation should be your starting point. Impressing a client means nothing, unless your idea impresses the audiences as well. If you are able to impress your client but not the audience, the client would never hire you. 

Don’t think about things that you love. You can make paintings about it and keep it in your house. You have to think about what others would love. We are in the business of communications. We are not pure artists, but commercial artists. 

From radio and newspaper ads to television and then to 30-20-10 second digital ads. How has creativity, and you as a creative leader, evolved over the last four decades? 

Go back to the audience and find out what they are watching or reading or from where they are getting their message. The 10-second nonsense is completely a myth. It is not the number of seconds, you have to measure the impact. If you can move your audience with a 50-second video, then you don't need to run 10-seconders 20 times a day. By the way, which 10-seconder do you remember? 

People won’t remember your brand just because your ad is running day and night. You have to catch your audience wherever they are. Catch them at the cricket match or cinema, under a tree or wherever they are. If you know their preferences, and have an idea to communicate, then you have to keep your mind open to technology. 

Admakers often struggle with the deadlines. How did you deal with the deadline pressure at the beginning of your career and how do you deal with it now? 

Rakshabandhan comes every year around the same time. Other festivals also come as per their schedule. Barring a few sudden developments, most of the occasions have fixed dates. You should start preparing accordingly. 

Instead of delaying or seeking extension of the deadline for the festival campaigns, you should start working earlier to meet client’s objectives effectively. 

I don’t think that any client gets the kick to see you working two nights in a row. Working round the clock doesn’t mean good work. Clients need to be explained, “My eyes might be open at night, but my mind would be closed. If I work in a relaxed mind, I would get the idea fast.”

You have to deal with the deadlines. 

What are your own five best picks? We would also like to know the core idea behind both the versions of the iconic Cadbury ad- kuchh khaas hai zindagi me.

The first version was very simple -we wanted adults to eat chocolates. Adults were not eating chocolate in the public then as it was considered a children’s product. The fact was that they loved eating chocolates. The idea was to get adults to eat chocolate, without losing children who were enjoying it anyway. We thought there was a child in each one of us. Many of us like to soak in the rain but never experience it because we think what our neighbours would think of us. 

The campaign highlighted that if you love something, go for it. My young team wanted to recreate it last year. We decided not to touch the music, which was the everlasting one. 

In the first ad, the protagonist was a performer, not a cricketer. We had Shimona then. In the second, we had a street boy as the protagonist. If you tweak the original version and bring something new, then it is recreating not remaking. I loved the young team’s work which did the magic all over again. 

In such a long career, it is very difficult to pick the best five. It is unfair to compare the ads which were made in different time periods. I love the ‘chal meri luna’ campaign that was made in the eighties, and the Cadbury campaigns that came much later. Asian Paints, Pidilite and so many. Never compare Don Bradman with Sachin Tendulkar. 

Which ad campaigns created by others do you admire the most? If you can name some campaigns.

There are many such campaigns. Our competitors are doing fabulous work. Some of them worked with me as well. I loved Dentsu's campaign for the British Museum, it is a fantastic piece of work. ‘Hamara Bajaj’ and ‘Daag Achhe Hain’ campaigns are also amazing. 

India completes 75 years of Independence. Ogilvy has done many campaigns for the nation. Which one is the closest to your heart? 

‘Mile sur mera tumhara’ is clearly the best national campaign so far. Created by Sudesh Malik 35 years ago, that music is still alive. Show me any piece of work that lasted for 35 years. I was part of that campaign. I also loved the polio campaign which we did with Amitabh Bachchan. India was declared polio-free in 2014. It was such a great moment for all of us. Indian literacy mission, ‘Purab se surya uga’ campaign, was also very powerful. It's a lifetime opportunity to serve your nation. 

You created successful campaigns for the BJP in 2014 elections. Did you have any apprehensions while doing it? And would you make campaigns for other political parties as well, if they come to you? 

We had not worked on political campaigns when the BJP approached us. We didn't know much about their functioning. Then we realized they are also human beings. BJP has been a very good client. 

They knew what they wanted, they were very precise in their thoughts, very professional in receiving the ideas, were open to criticism and motivated to give it a better shot. We wondered whether it would be a rough ride for us and whether they would pay on time. We campaigned for them in the 2019 elections as well. 

We are working for the BJP from time to time, so there is no need to work with others. It is the same way- when you do the Cadbury ad, you don’t do for other chocolate brands. 

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