Raahil Chopra
Jun 09, 2020

Mistaken identities in advertising: Ajay Mehtas, Anil Nairs

What happens when two people with the same name work at an agency?

Clockwise from top left: Ajay Mehta, Anil Nair, Ajay Mehta and Anil Nair
Clockwise from top left: Ajay Mehta, Anil Nair, Ajay Mehta and Anil Nair
On 9 June, the trade media was buzzing with news of Rachana Lokhande stepping down as CEO at Kinetic. One portal broke the news that Mindshare’s Ajay Mehta will be taking over as CEO when Lokhande moves out with a picture of the duo side-by-side. 
 
 
We were surprised by this and reached out to Mehta (senior vice president, Mindshare Content+) for clarification. Mehta denied the move and pointed us to the direction of Ajay Mehta, MD, cinema (ITV). This Ajay Mehta had indeed been given the mandate at Kinetic.
 
Rewind to 25 March 2019. VMLY&R shared a release with the media of Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi’s Anil Nair joining the agency as CEO. Publications in the space shared the story but tagged the Anil Nair (Anil S Nair) who was still with Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi (at the time). The Nair who has been tagged, was in a global board meeting with the board of directors of the agency at that time. The board of directors panicked as they read the news along with pictures of the Anil Nair who was with them.
 
 
These are just a few instances where there’s been an identity switch because people with the same name have been working at the same agency.
 
We reached out to all four of the people mentioned in the story for more such mistaken identity tales.
 
Anil S Nair, founder, Goodwind Motor Tours
 
There have been may such instances. When Anil announced his move to VML, some publications ran my picture instead of his. I was in a meeting with the top eight managers with Saatchi globally. The global CEO came running in to the room because Saatchi got tagged in a post which had my picture about a story stating Anil Nair has quit! 
 
From a professional perspective that’s the most recent one. 
 
Since, I was the spokesperson for the agency, my picture was with most of the journalists. Even today, six months after I’ve moved out of advertising, whenever Anil K Nair participates in a webinar or something alike, my Twitter handle goes for a toss with all the mentions.
 
While we were together at the agency and travelled, there was a problem with airlines and hotels. Airlines used to get confused about check-ins. Nine out of ten times when we travelled together our luggage and boarding pass would get interchanged. We’ve had our situations where we were stuck in the US when hurricane Sandy set in. We were supposed to fly from Miami to NY and then to India via Etihad Airways. The Miami-NY flight got cancelled, so we took the last available flight from Miami to Dallas. We were running and the Dallas airport was a mess. Somehow, I passed security but he didn’t because his passport and boarding pass didn’t match. That was the fastest sprint both of us had to do to reissue the boarding pass.
 
For hotel check-ins too this has happen numerous times. One that stands out is from Paris. I landed after him in Paris. He was allocated his room. I tried explaining to the lady at the desk that I’m a different person. And Anil was sleeping with a DO NOT DISTURB sign, so they didn’t let me wake him up either. It was an hour long exchange which finally ended when the shift changed and the person who came in spoke and understood English better. 
 
Anil K Nair, CEO, VMLY&R India
 
Since we were working together for a long time there have been lots of funny stories.
 
We have had visitors coming for each other. Many of them were for meeting us for the first time for new business and only after talking for 10-minutes we would realise they were talking to the wrong Anil Nair.
 
We have had airlines and hotels mess up bookings and even cancel them at times! 
 
We have had literal scenes where we’ve met people outside of work and realised that the person was referring to the other Anil. Also people from school thought that my face has changed so much when they would see pictures of Anil! 
 
Then, there have been instances where credit card statements have reached each other. 
 
Luckily, our wives were friends with each other before Anil and I started working together so there was no confusion there!

Ajay Mehta, MD, ITV and Kinetic (part of GroupM)

There have been lots of instances where the swap has happened. 

There was this occasion when Ajay was travelling for a conference to South East Asia and his visa arrived on my desk! I also got his PF papers when he left Ogilvy to join Mindshare. 
 
He's also helped me set a new goal for myself. I want to make it to a 70-under-70 list. I’m 46 now and last year I got calls for people congratulating me for my appearance in a '40-under-40' list. 
 
The thing is that while Ajay handles content, he's still in the media space. So when we get calls meant for each other, it takes a while before we realise that it was meant for the other Ajay.
 
I founded Interactive (which was bought over by GroupM). I was in Mumbai one day eating lunch and I got a call while I was with a teammate. A consultant called for a job and it sounded really exciting. Being an entrepreneur, you don't get many job offers and especially this when it didn’t match my experience - that's when I realised that they are calling for Ajay! 
 
The good thing is that people and we can laugh about it at times like these. Our young man is doing really well so I get a lot of reflected glory.
 
 
Ajay Mehta, SVP, Mindshare Content+
 
It's such a coincidence. Along with us sharing the same name and working at the same company we also got promoted at a similar time. 
 
At times, it’s like scene from the movie Angoor (which was based on the Shakespeare play A Comedy of Errors). In the movies they’re twins and they get swapped. It’s a hilarious movie and our situation is similar. 
 
We keep cursing each other. When I got promoted it was a big day and he got all the calls. Now, when he got this move, I've been getting congratulatory calls. 
 
There have been times when people call me and start discussing things and I have to stop them and tell them that they've dialed the wrong number. And then I quickly call Ajay to warn him about this and he does the same. 
 
Today has been the highlight. People are telling me that I stole his thunder. Several people called me today including friends and relatives. One call that stood out was a school friend who called me after 20 years and started discussing outdoor and how we could help each other!
 
At the end of it we just laugh it out... and say we are brothers from different mothers!
Source:
Campaign India