Raahil Chopra
Sep 26, 2023

Life has to change: Piyush Pandey

As Ogilvy India sees a new leadership in place, we catch up with Devika Seth Bulchandani and Piyush Pandey

Devika Seth Bulchandani and Piyush Pandey
Devika Seth Bulchandani and Piyush Pandey
Earlier today, Ogilvy India announced that Piyush Pandey, global creative and executive chairperson – India, would be taking a backseat from the agency’s day-to-day operations and consulting as chief advisor.
In an interaction with Campaign India along with Devika Seth Bulchandani, global chief executive officer, Ogilvy, Pandey explained why he thought this was the right time to move on.
“In Hephzibah Pathak and VR Rajesh, we have champion stalwarts. They need to take on the day-to-day operations and take forward the body of work they have created. Now they will run this agency and I’m there to help, guide and advise them when they want it,” said Pandey.
Bulchandani resorted to Pandey’s cricketing terms.
“He batted and hit sixes time and time again while doing so. There’s no bigger giant in our industry than Piyush right now. The biggest hallmark of a giant is the succession that it creates. The team he has put together have been here for 20 plus years and there’s an incredible group of giants who will be taking over,” she said.
Clarifying that Pandey remains available to the agency, she added, “Piyush isn’t going anywhere. His role has changed. Ogilvy in India is a machine. The team will run this machine that has continuously made magic. Piyush will be free to focus on simply the magic we can deliver for clients. He’s built such an incredible leadership team.”
Pandey has been notifying clients about his new role for the past few weeks. 
On the reaction they’ve had to this, he said, “I have spoken to senior clients. They are very happy that there’s a change that’s happening. But yes, there’s a question about where I’m going to be. My answer is that I’m going to be around for them and there’s no reason to worry.”
Having said that, on what he plans to do in the future, he said, “Life has to change. They (the clients) will get comfortable with the rockstars that are here and then it’s time for me to plan the next gear, which we’ll see.”
Brands need to celebrate 'ideas' more than celebrities
Recently, in a column for Campaign India, Pandey wrote that the advertising and marketing industry needs to think of ideas, specifically when celebrities are in question.
Elaborating on this, he said, “There are celebrities in every damn ad. It’s not just one, there are three sometimes and there’s no idea! People probably get lazy when they get celebrities and if that’s the case they must wake up. Clients need to push them and get the value they pay the agency. I’ve never seen it this bad.”
On the topic, Bulchandani believes that brands are looking at celebrities for a media play rather than advertising. “Celebrities come with their social following. What social media does is it somewhat makes us lazy for ideas. The celebrity or influencer comes with a following so we are buying that following. It’s more of a media play than it is an idea play.”
Pandey also put the onus on celebrities. “When one goes to them for a film script, they want to read it very properly and debate their roles. The same guys with an ad script don’t bother about their role,” he said.
Now, with Pathak on board as the first female executive chairperson in India, Ogilvy is a step closer to the diversity balance it wants. 
“I feel incredibly proud and happy with the appointment. We have Kainaz on the board as well now. Our CFO (Hufrish Birdy) is also a female. Globally, we have more women on the board. Our global CCO (Liz Taylor) is a woman.  Our global CFO is Stacey Ryan Cornelius, who is a black woman. Our global head of talent is a woman too, and so is our CFO (Stacey Ryan Cornelius). Our global CEOs for consulting, health and PR are also women,” she said.
On whether there have been conscious choices to hire women, Pandey added, “It would be demeaning to say that. They were there to earn it and we should be proud of it. I was speaking to people here when Devika took over as the worldwide head. We took pride in it that she happens to be Indian. She made it to the job because she was bloody good.”
Giving an example of the chase to hire for a position in the New York office, Bulchandani had a contrarian point of view. 
“You have to be intentional about these things. The easy thing to do is hire non-diversity because the talent pool is bigger. If I take Darla Price, the current president of Ogilvy in New York, it took me 18 months to woo her and nurture her,” she said. 
Ogilvy 2024
Listing down the targets Ogilvy has for 2024 and beyond, Bulchandani emphasised the importance of creativity.
“The first target area for me is we are a creative agency and creativity is the heart and soul of the agency. We have to be the best in this space. That’s the target for 2023, 2024, 2025 and beyond. If we forget that, we forget who we are. That’s where agencies and companies go wrong. We start chasing shiny objects and then we forget the core reason for clients to come to us and what we bring to the table,” she said.
She went on to explain how the agency is also focussing on influencer marketing and content.
“We want to take our creative product in its most modern avatars and manifestations. Creativity is big for us and then comes technology and data, which are enablers. We are looking at influencer marketing seriously, and are the number one agency in the world. We are pushing to see how we can maintain our leadership, while not just becoming another influencer marketing agency,” she said.
“Content is important too. We have a massive operation here with Content Force. Our challenger here is similar to influencer marketing. We have to bring creativity to it and not just create ‘junk’. We want to have content that has an idea at its heart and is true to the brand,” she added.
She also added about the importance of health and why the agency needs to focus on it, even though it may have taken a back seat over the last two to three years.
“We are all living longer and so it has to be a major focus area. I think there was a period when there was a lot of creativity around health, but as a sector, it’s still very important. There was a time when we saw a great health idea every year at Cannes earlier. It’s a massive focus for us.”
Delivering the last word, Pandey said, “We don’t lose our focus on it. We will lose out on an opportunity because it’s coming back.”
Campaign India

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