David Ogilvy passed away on July 22nd 1999 and ten years later three Indians who had the fortune to work closely with him recall their lasting memory of him.
Mani Iyer, former CEO, Ogilvy & Mather
“Why do all Indian women in advertising look like maharanis, why don’t they look like typical Indian women?”
That’s a fact that always puzzled David Ogilvy about Indian advertising. Of course, that was back then. Not that it’s changed much since then. David Ogilvy was one of the most observant men I have known. He did his homework well and was very well briefed on the Indian advertising market here.
Because David had a fear of flying, we would take trips to other Ogilvy offices in the country by train. He had a habit of sitting at the window and staring outside for hours on end, and then suddenly throwing a question at you. The question was usually rephrased from an earlier question that he had already asked before. He wanted to see if our answers were consistent.
India was not liberalised at the time, but we knew that it would happen one day. David used to always say that when that happened, India would have tremendous potential as a market. He always believed even back then that India would be a source for talent in the future and had suggested sending Indian employees to other markets to work in.
Ranjan Kapur, country manager, India- WPP Group
I knew David well as he was Chairman of Ogilvy India till the time he passed away. He had a strong influence on me right from the very first time I met him. This was way back in the 70's when I was working at the New York office.
It was a very cold day in November when I came down from my office. I usually walked home. As I got to the curb a very large black limousine pulled up and two gentlemen walked briskly towards it. One of them was David. He brushed past me, turned to apologise and stopped.
'Hello Ranjan', he said to me. I was totally taken aback. How did he know my name?
'Hello' I said. I could not bring myself to address him by name. 'How did you know it was me?, I asked.
David smiled and his vivid blue eyes lit up. 'Look around you', he said, 'can you spot any other crazy Indian here?"
He went on to tell me that he had been aware of my transfer and was eager to meet the crazyIndian who had left his beautiful country to come to this horrid city.
He then asked me if I lived in an apartment or in a flat and whether I took the lift or the elevator. I don't remember what I answered but he reminded me that English was his preferred language and that the Americans were bent on ruining it. He urged me to remain true to the English language.
Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and national creative director, O&M
“Boy can I bum that cigarette off you?”
That’s my lasting memory of David Ogilvy.
Sometimes we take life for granted. I may have forgotten the date until Campaign India asked me to write this piece on the occasion of his tenth death anniversary but I havent forgotten the values that I learnt from him. The first time I met the man was in 1982, when he had come down for Ad Asia. I was a trainee account executive at the time and was smoking outside when he came and asked me for the cigarette. Those were tough days when I could not afford to buy cigarettes but I felt privileged to have met the man. The one quality that I would say I admired about him and learnt to imbibe into my own working life would be the immense amount of pride in what he did. He stood up for what he believed in. He was fairly old when I met him and not that involved in the day-to-day workings of the agency at his level but I still remember the time when he was in India and saw an ad for Stayfree sanitary napkins that a woman in the agency had created back then. It was a long copy ad and he loved long copy ads. He liked it so much that he signed the ad and gave it back to her. For the creative in question, it was inspirational to get such validation from a man like David Ogilvy.
David never liked travelling by air, he had a morbid fear of flying.So his travel plans within India involved long elaborate train journeys across the country. I remember the time when the agency would send a Rolls Royce to receive him at VT station. David Ogilvy was a man of convictions and it was an honour to have worked with him in my lifetime.
As told to Bindu Nair Maitra