This week Ogilvy India has seen it all.
On Monday, the agency announced the ghar-wapsi (home-coming) of its star of the 1990s, Sonal Dabral as a Group CCO and vice-chairman. The same day, there was news that the agency had lost its president and country head of OgilvyOne and Neo@Ogilvy, Vikram Menon to mar-tech services provider Ad2Pro. Menon joined them as a president of their global operations.
Two days later, Ogilvy dropped another bombshell. Agency chairman Piyush Pandey announced the departure of national creative director, Rajiv Rao. In his 18 years at the agency, Rao had created waves with his work on telecom brands (Orange-Hutch-Vodafone) among others. Some agency staffers call him the bedrock of the Vodafone-Ogilvy relationship, though that epithet could be well suited for another Ogilvy veteran, Hephzibah Pathak as well. In his letter to announce Rao’s departure, Pandey described him as the ‘Zoozoo man’, a reference to the advertisement characters that have been a signature element in Vodafone’s campaigns for more than eight years now.
When Ogilvy announced the appointment of Dabral as the group CCO, it raised many doubts on the role for Rao as an NCD. That doubt was cleared today. Another version is that Rao’s been planning to move out for some years now, to make ad films. Rao had even briefly dabbled with the idea of relocating to the US and apparently stayed back on Pandey’s persuasion.
Dabral was Pandey’s first partner in building the creative reputation of Ogilvy India as it stands today. Rao and his generation shouldered the responsibility from where Dabral left off. Rao joined Ogilvy’s Mumbai office in 1999, the same year Dabral left Indian shores, to work in Ogilvy’s offices in Malaysia and Singapore for nearly a decade.
As one senior advertising executive remarked, “The corridors of Ogilvy will once again echo with Sonal's puns and Piyush's subsequent laughter. It brings back some great memories. Many of us who were a part of the 1990s Ogilvy gang knew that Sonal would return home, the only question was when.” At some levels, Dabral’s entry is being seen as a succession plan for Pandey. As executive chairman and creative director for Ogilvy & Mather India and South Asia, Pandey who turned 60 years of age in April 2015, is reportedly on an extension of his contract.
However, Ogilvy insiders vouch that Pandey, who is known for his frequent references to the game of Cricket, is still in "top form" and is playing on the front foot. With Dabral all set to join the team in September, and as Ogilvy moves towards its "next chapter"
globally, will Pandey's game change? Like they say this about Cricket, advertising is also a game of glorious uncertainties.
(The writer is the managing editor at Campaign India. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)