Campaign India Team
Feb 08, 2010

Ad legend Mani Ayer of O&M passes away

Advertising legend S.R Ayer, popularly known as 'Mani' Ayer, the former managing director of Ogilvy & Mather has passed away. He was 75 years of age. The last time, Campaign India spoke to Mr Ayer was for a tribute to David Ogilvy.  Reacting to the news, Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive, WPP said, "Sad news. Sad news. A lovely person."

Ad legend Mani Ayer of O&M passes away

Advertising legend S.R Ayer, popularly known as 'Mani' Ayer, the former managing director of Ogilvy & Mather has passed away. He was 75 years of age. The last time, Campaign India spoke to Mr Ayer was for a tribute to David Ogilvy.  

Reacting to the news, Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive, WPP said, "Sad news. Sad news. A lovely person."

Talking to Campaign India, Piyush Pandey, chairman , Ogilvy & Mather South Asia recalls his association with the ad legend, "Mani Ayer was one of the pillars of the Indian advertising industry. He brought in a lot of dignity to the business. He was a tough man when it came to clients' interests; he would always put his agency's interests only after those of the clients'. He was a mentor to all of us who are a part of that generation." 

He further adds, "I remember he'd signed my appointment letter in 1982, a good 28 years ago. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to have worked with him for 11 years. I've learnt a lot from him. I remember him taking us out to lunch quite often, in spite of us being really young, as he believed that a one-on-one basis was the best way for him to teach us new things about advertising." 

Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, Brand Comm, recalls his meeting with Ayer, during his stint as president of the Ad Club, Chennai, when Ayer was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. "Mr Ayer was a real legend of his time, which included peers like Subhas Ghosal, RK Swamy. He was among the lot of leaders who took on industry issues head on, and was a trusted advisor to his clients. Mr Ayer was among the lot of men, who gave back to the industry as much as he got from it. Today, there is a lacunae in the top leadership of the industry of people like Mr Ayer, who took up industry issues and tackled them head on." 

Harish Vasudevan of Enfatico, Singapore, too, remembers Ayer. "It’s been close to 20 years since I saw or spoke to Mr SR Ayer. Yet when I heard the news of his passing away, I was filled with huge sorrow. That is the impact he had on me, and many of us who worked at Ogilvy with him.

David Ogilvy talked about hiring gentlemen with brains. Mr Ayer was Exhibit A.

Those were great years at Ogilvy. Mr Ayer had assembled a stellar cast of talent that propelled the agency to great heights. Many from that cast have gone on to phenomenal careers of their own within and outside Ogilvy.

I learnt a lot from Mr. Ayer about strategic thinking, integrated planning and evaluating creative.

But beyond that I learnt integrity counts for everything. You are nothing if you cannot keep your word.

I care. About the work.  About the client. About the business. About your team mates.

And I learnt fun is an important part of the business.

At that stage in one’s career, learning the human side of the business was as important as the business itself. No training programs teach that. It comes from exposure to people who represent those values.

Mr. Ayer was such a person.

I wish I had the chance to have said “Thank you, Mr. Ayer” before the end.

But he is(not was) my Facebook friend."

Suguna Swamy, creative consultant, Ogilvy & Mather, recalls, “Mani Ayer was one of the most intelligent, sharp and erudite men of his time. He was a tall man indeed, with lofty ideas but with his feet firmly on the ground. We hear the media talk about people in their late 20s and 30s becoming CEOs, but what many may not know is that Mani was 38 when he was made managing director of Ogilvy & Mather, upon his return from Australia. He was a remarkable man, a visionary who built the Ogilvy brand. Recently, when we created the e-book in memory of Suresh (Mullick), it was Mani who was extremely keen on getting the project done in the first place.”

R Sridhar, who heads Ideas RS and who was Ayer's former colleague at O&M says, "I worked with Mani from 1975 to 2000; he was the one who recruited me in Ogilvy & Mather. He hired me for Mumbai and then sent me to set up the Chennai office. It was on his encouragement that I set up O&M Direct. He was a man of tremendous generosity. Mani was an extraordinary leader, with the ability to take huge risks on people, and bring out the best in them. He has had a lasting impression on many people’s lives. I am what I am today, because of him.”

“The e-book on Suresh Mullick was his idea and he was determined to make it happen. It was his way of remembering one of his closest associates and dear friend Suresh Mullick,” R Sridhar adds.

Ranjan Kapur, country manager, India - WPP Group shared his memories of the late Ayer with Campaign India. "I joined the agency in 1966. I remember Mani Ayer as a professional who displayed a shrewd financial mind throughout his time at O&M. Although he wasn't a banker, he could definitely have made an excellent one, with his kind of financial accumen."

Further, Kapur remembers the time Ayer took over the agency as its MD. "When he took over O&M as the managing director in 1974, he literally turned over a loss-making company in the space of year, something that would not have been possible without his skill as a financial strategist.

"Kapur relates another interesting anecdote about Ayer. "He took just a half day's leave when he had to go get married. In fact, he actually came back to work post his own wedding!"

"He was a sharp, shrewd person who was very close to creative people and gave them their space. He had all the making of the perfect client-servicing person," Kapur reminisces.

Pratap Bose, COO, Mudra Group recalls, "In the sad demise of Mr Mani Ayer we have lost in my opinion the last of the true blue advertising professionals that this country has seen. May his soul rest in peace. I always believed that Mani Ayer typified what David Ogilvy was and stood for, and it is no strange coincidence that he worked for Ogilvy for a span as long as 36 years. A man who was intuitively very sharp, strategically very insightful and someone who had that very distinct old world charm about him. Very early in my career with Ogilvy, I remember one morning Mani Ayer calling me into his room at Apeejay House and instead of admonishing me for the mistake I had made on a large multinational client, he, in his very nasal tone, said ‘ Pratap … you’ve been hired for a job …. now go out and fix it.’ He was strict and demanding, but he had a manner in which he got the best out of the people he worked with."

He further adds, "Mani Ayer was the ‘gold standard’ in his era and if you look at all the stalwarts he seeded in his time, one can’t but admire the man. God Bless you Sir."

Campaign India

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