The august persona who held the first copy was at the receiving end of a barb from a certain do. I remember his visit to India; just prior to his introduction to the Ad Club members, he was behind the curtain, rubbing his shoes on his trouser legs and muttering how tough it was going to be to face these intelligent Indian advertising folk.
So let me provoke a bit more. I can take an even bet, with a few exceptions, none of the readers of this august magazine will be able to place the people written about. Maybe we have no sense of our own history. Maybe we don’t care.
These are folk who sat on the same high table as their clients. They did not hang around waiting in the receptions, nor did they part with their principles. They were respected and trusted.
They were the keepers of the brand’s keys.
Subhash Ghoshal certainly suited the role of the ‘first citizen of advertising’. And they say he looked like an agency head even in his swimming trunks! And when put to pasture, imagine the travesty of being introduced by an ignorant emcee as Sumantro’s dad! Whatever else he did or did not do, he gave this business and his agency, JWT, respect. Ayaz Peerbhoy, the Grand Mogul who ran MAA and had pasta flown in from Italy! The one and only R K Swamy, who gave public sector a good looking face.
Anyone, anyone… Frank Simoes? Who ran away to Goa at the height of his success and mercifully expired before his feats were forgotten. Has anyone any memory of the Liberty Shirts ads which set the newspapers they were printed on, on fire? Or his deadly brand building of Raymond’s?
P N Sarma? Art director and manager of a company called Benson’s! And while on Benson’s does anyone recall Amol Bose – the most ‘moohphut’ agency head ever? And Suresh Mullick (who’s name is still inscribed on the Titan website – god bless them - as the only client who pays homage to their agency people)…. Mile sur mera tumhara. Roda Mehta the original media numbers don. Bal Mundkur who then went on to found Ulka. The legendary Bal, who threw blocks into the Worli Seaface when it was dared to suggest he take some blocks and find a willing passenger at Bombay airport to carry them to Delhi for urgent publication!
Vinod Mehta was a copy chief of Jaison’s (Oops!). He wrote a book and in it mentioned Kersey Katrak admiringly…as a person with whom he would have a one night stand if he was a woman! Kersey’s MCM – which had such a huge repository of talent that it just had to explode! Ravi Gupta, Mohammed Khan, Arun Nanda, Kiran Nagarkar, Arun Kolhatkar, Sudarshan Dheer, Panna Jain.
Ravi of Trikaya, who baffled the Old Spice guys by not presenting advertising, but a design for a larger orifice for their shaving cream to come out from (increased sales!!!).
Nuru Swaminathan, one of the earlier grand dames of advertising, whose deathless advice to all servicing people “write your minutes of the meeting, minutes after the meeting”. Nargis Wadia, who set up Interpub and closed it behind her. Syeda Imam and Tara Sinha of Clarion McCann. That one mother of an agency who had Subroto Sengupta, the man who lit the lamp for advertising at the IIMs; and who had a Board full of lawyers!
Ahmed Ibrahim of Everest. The man with the Dunhill cigarettes and pin striped suits. And the great guru of them all – K Kurian who before he founded Radeus, was part of the ASP Brigade with Sylvester DaCunha who was responsible for the first real media ‘innovation’ of the last thirty years – the painted BEST bus. Yippee…it’s Dipy’s! And, Walter Saldanha the clerk from LPE Aiyers and Brendan Pereira, the humblest of great creative directors who founded Chaitra.
Even then, there were unsung guys; and the shiningest star of all was Balwant Tandon. Thick glasses, ink stained pocket, writing advertising poetry on scraps of paper at Lintas. Na jadi booti, no Simla Ooty, yehi hai Fair and Lovely ka kamaal…which takes us to the last of the first citizens of advertising. Alyque Padamsee. And interestingly, Lever’s has just drawn the curtain on a certain lime green soap and the nymph. Like in all of Alyque’s plays, the curtain finally drops.
Now that the A List has gone underground, long live the A List.
Rajesh Pant is an ITES worker and has some experience in advertising.