Campaign India Team
Nov 24, 2020

Grey area: Malvika Mehra, independent creative

Ex-Grey ad folk reminisce about their time at the agency with Grey Group set to fold into AKQA

Malvika Mehra
Malvika Mehra
Campaign India is running a multi-piece series featuring ex-Grey ad folk. Here, they reminisce about their time at Grey Group, their fondest memories and learnings, and share their thoughts on brand Grey ceasing to exist in a few months.
Remembering her days at Grey today is Malvika Mehra, erstwhile national creative director at Grey, who is now an independent creative professional. Read about her memories at the agency:
Professional growth at Grey
My stint at Grey was a huge learning curve. I had been an out-an-out Ogilvy girl for 16 years at the time Tim Mellors (former worldwide creative director) and Jishnu Sen (then India CEO) got in touch about heading creative at Grey Group. I was certain I wasn’t going to quit Ogilvy, but it’s almost like they threw a challenge at me in a 'Can-you-show-us-what-you’ve-got-outside-of-Ogilvy' way. I decided 16 years was a long time to spend at one place, and as much as I loved Piyush, it was time to take the plunge.
A task was cut out for Amit (Akali, former national creative director at Grey along with Malvika) and I in terms of creative direction. Having said that, Grey gave me unparalleled exposure. I was on the Global Creative Council with Tim, and later Tor Myhren, when he took over from Tim. The Council helped me learn and master my craft, teaching me how to fine-tune and polish an idea. Grey was about opportunities, learning, exposure and looking back, it was pretty awesome!
Brand Grey’s days are numbered
I’m a lifer; I usually stick around in places for really long. I spent five years at Grey, and the brand not existing any more did make me feel a tinge of sadness. Amit and I had some great times, and together with our wonderful team, and we did move the needle on creative reputation. Grey also had hit a nice spot globally with the awards we’d picked up at Cannes Lions.
I do feel sad that brand Grey will probably pack up or might come back in a new avatar. I genuinely feel like it has some great potential, and I feel sad to see it go.
Learnings at Grey
Honestly? I learnt there’s no substitute for hard work. There was that one year when we did 52 pitches! I remember asking Tor about why we were pitching so much and how to ensure quality if we continued like this. Tor said, “That’s exactly why you need to pitch a lot because it isn’t necessary you’ll hit bull’s eye each time.” I understood what it means to be relentlessly hard working at that point.
Another thing is the creative culture at Grey that seeped down from Tor, Nirvik and Jishnu across creative and strategy. Nothing was just Amit and Malvika’s problem; everyone got together and understood that we were creatively solving for a business. This is important because it’s so easy to lose sight of what advertising is actually meant to do.
And like I said, everything I learnt about my craft during this time. It’s something I take everywhere with me.
Fondest memories
The big ones are the Cannes Lions we picked up in different colours – golds, silvers and bronzes. Then there’s the one where I hugged Marcello Serpa – the God of craft – on the Cannes Lion stage.
One very great memory is of the people I worked with. Amit and I had a great run together, and we were already buddies. Then there was Jishnu, Bindu Sethi (the then chief strategy officer for APAC) and the great talent we had hired like Goral Ajmera, Vishnu Srivatsav, Hemant Shringy, Pallavi Chakravarthy and Aarti Desai. These were such sharp minds who are doing so well now, too. I felt very privileged to be around such talent; it keeps you on your toes.
I have to mention the Reliance pitch and the funny way it happened. We had just finished presenting to the client for the last round, which was probably the seventh or the eighth time in all.
Bindu was on her way back to the airport. The rest of us packed up, had a great lunch, celebrated a great pitch and headed to our respective homes. Suddenly we got a call from Jishnu telling us we had to go back and pitch to Mr Anil Ambani! We thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. We hauled ourselves back, including Bindu who had almost boarded her flight and turned back. We were exhausted, but we presented again and won! It was so great. 
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