Piyush Pandey, Ogilvy's chief creative officer worldwide and executive chairman, India has advised brands to avoid tokenism and taking a stand on a sensitive topic without having something concrete to say about it. “Aukat ke bahar mat aao”, (In Hindi: don’t play outside of your area of your position or expertise) is the advice that Pandey had for most brands who wanted to talk about a sensitive issue, without actually caring about it.
“Not every brand has to comment on Article 377 (the legislation in India that illegalises homosexuality)," he contended. "People see through a brand’s bullshit. Be very careful and if there is no purpose for your brand, don’t add a meaningless one.”
He delivered the last last talk at the 10th edition of Ad:Tech. The advertising industry veteran covered a range of issues in his talk.
Pandey joked about how he spent his twenties chasing women, but soon after started chasing his passion and still is, even today. Giving the audience some motivation, he said, “Do something that gives you joy. Don’t change your job just for the sake of it. If you love what you do and look forward to the next workday, you will be successful.”
He then made a clear statement to those in advertising, about how everything must be centred around the consumer. “I don't write for the client, I write for the consumer. If I focused on the client, then I wouldn’t be doing justice to the client because his consumers would not be happy,” he added.
Role of research in adland
Last year, Cadbury India, remade its popular ad for Dairy Milk. The original ad had a woman dancing her way to the cricket field.
Pandey claimed that doing prior research would have not made the ad as successful as it was. “Most moms would say that they didn’t want to see their daughters dancing on the field that way. However, when we researched later, we found that all the moms regretted that they didn’t do something like this in their life and thus missed the chance.”
He labelled this feeling of missing out, as a woman's unfulfilled desire for something that she couldn't do, as result of societal judgement and restrictions. “You get to know the real truth when you talk to people close up and not through a questionnaire, which will always give you over the surface answers that are not real," Pandey added.
Playing the managerial turf
Arguing with colleagues and disagreeing with an idea coming from them is not wrong, according to Pandey. However, he stated that putting people down and hurting their intelligence is what defines a troublemaker.
However, shunning the idea of perfectionism, Pandey revealed that he too made mistakes. “None of us is God - we all make mistakes but we also have to correct them. I was also trained at some point in time. I don’t manage all the people I work with in India. We talk to each other. If I don’t understand something, I’m open with my colleagues and tell them that I’ve hit a roadblock."
Speaking about the infamous term ‘burnout’, the advertising veteran stated that the term is not good for him. “I don’t believe in creative blocks, but only look at them as speed breakers. There are days when things are not as great, but psyching yourself to say that you have a block is a little over the top. What you do is take a break and come back when you’re better.”
When nudged to namedrop campaigns that were executed by agencies other than his own, Pandey responded that Ogilvy was not the only agency that did good work, but one that did good work more often.
"I’ve seen good work from many agencies from time to time and we acknowledge that. Work for brands like Times of India and Swiggy was not done by us, but we still loved it,” he said.
Speaking about how an agency can still do good creative work in a regulated space like healthcare, he shared the example of the Polio campaign, which Ogilvy worked on for about 10 years with actor Amitabh Bachchan, until India was declared polio-free in 2014.
He regarded this campaign to be his biggest achievement.
Making responsible communication fun
Challenging what he was once told about not making a serious communication too much fun, Pandey recalled how someone once told him that since Saridon was a headache product, it couldn’t be had fun with.
“Don’t make your world so small that you’re not thinking of the consumer. I know that if somebody is watching TV, he doesn’t have a headache and when he hears of one, he thinks of Saridon. Don’t take yourself so seriously with a pharma product. You can be human and still make a serious statement,” he added.
Coming to the last, but the most important aspect in advertising - meeting deadlines, Pandey stated that it was always best to be honest. “You have to tell the client to wait ten more days if you don’t have a good idea in your mind. If you want a house and the builder says you have to wait another month, would you tell him to just build it in any way, or would you give him the time to perfect it?” he asked.
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