Indian Advertising: Laughter and Tears captures the evolution of the advertising profession from 1950 till the present times.
Advertising is often regarded as a glamorous profession that thrives upon personalities. This book draws pen portraits of people who have one common trait—none can be disregarded. Almost all of them seem to thrive in being different in their attitude to life from their neighbours, friends or ordinary women and men they meet every day.
Advertising has been a profession that has at times seemed suspect in the eyes of leaders of governments that have ruled in Delhi after Independence. Indian Advertising covers the socio-economic aspects that influence the profession since governments in India wield enormous clout upon all business activity. The book also showcases advertising—the good and not-so-good—through each decade covered.
The views of men and women who have given shape to the profession find expression through their own words from excerpts of speeches delivered long ago. The book begins at a time when companies looked for full-service ad agencies that presented creative, media and PR services. It ends at a time when companies are no longer interested in full-service agencies. The business has disintegrated into Creative, Media and PR; each area now offers companies with their respective specializations. Indeed, advertising has come a long way.
Arun Chaudhuri began his career in advertising in the mid-1970s in Clarion McCann Advertising Services. He went on to work in other leading agencies such as OBM and RK Swamy before setting up Campaign, a Calcutta-based agency. He divested his stake in the company in 1997 to start Brand, an organization that specializes in Marketing Research, Rural Marketing and Creative Services.
He has been associated with a number of universities, where he has taught Advertising and Public Relations since the early 1990s. His other works include Eleven New Plays (2013), Indian Advertising 1780 to 1950 (2007), itc versus Bat (1997) and revaluation (1992).
Indian Advertising 1780 to 1950 was published by Tata McGraw Hill in 2007. This sequel covers the subsequent period in the history of Indian advertising from 1950 till the present-immediately after Independence, going on to the new millennium.
I would like to share with readers how I selected the profiles of those eminent men and women who shaped the character of advertising in India. The world of Indian advertising has been dominated by a cluster of ad agencies whose clients comprised the big budget advertisers for years. J. Walter Thompson (JWT), which later became Hindustan Thompson Associates (HTA) and then reverted to JWT; Ulka (now FCB Ulka Advertising); Clarion McCann Advertising (now Bates) and Lintas were initially the most visible in print advertisements. The persons who managed the business of these agencies naturally figure in this book with the proviso that each person selected left some significant impression on the advertising of his or her times. I deliberately omitted those who merely managed the business of the agency without making any professional contribution to advertising. This remains a contentious issue. For who am I to determine whether a person's contribution has been significant enough? The managing directors of JWT IHTA, sandwiched between Peter Fielden and Subhas Ghosal, were minor actors. The appellation of managing director or CEO given by an agency does not automatically elevate a person to the stature of Ghosal. I applied the same yardstick to Ogilvy & Mather (O&M). In my view, the last of the Mohicans in O&M was Mani Ayer. Indian advertising was transformed by the sudden arrival of Mass Communication and Marketing (MCM); this agency turned advertising into a glamorous profession. It threw away the norms followed by the lead agencies. MCM solicited business aggressively, which was unheard of. MCM parties were the talk of the town; clients and prospects hoped to get invitations. MCM attracted talent. When the agency closed, burning out like a meteor in the firmament, three other agencies-Rediffusion, Trikaya and Enterprise—were born from its embers. These agencies, which were remarkable for path- breaking creative work, were formed by young enterprising professionals and some of the most memorable ads of the late 1970s and 1980s were crafted by them.
A different kind of agency came into existence with R.K. Swamy Associates. The founder, who named the agency after himself, was middle-aged when he decided to float his own outfit. He was unlike any other ad personality of the times; he did not wear the creative hat. Swamy persuaded a number of young people who were his colleagues in HTA to work for him. The agency opened the business potential of public sector units, which up until then had remained indifferent to advertising.
In this brief history of Indian advertising, my attempt has been to present the profiles of people who may be called the movers and shakers of the profession. I have included memorable campaigns which showcase Indian advertising in each decade. On the other hand, I have also included a lot of advertisements that are poor in creative content. Since few advertisement campaigns stand out in any period of history and most advertisements are average in creative merit, the feel of the standards in a decade is important.
Though I deliberately excluded more recent celebrities in the profession, who regularly feature in the society columns of newspapers and magazines, it is not to belittle them. I left them out because they are no longer independent; they work for large international conglomerates. Those who own these conglomerates are more important than the faces hired to manage their various Indian ad agencies. For example, Sir Martin Sorrell, the owner of the WPP Group (WPP stems from Wire and Plastic Products, a UK manufacturer of wire baskets), is more important than the chief executives he pays to manage the day-to-day business of his leading Indian agencies. I had to mention him because he is shaping the course of Indian advertising since 1992.
I confess I no longer understand how one agency differentiates the way it arrives at the creative platform from another when both come under the same international umbrella. Once upon a time, the creative at Ogilvy, Benson & Mather (OBM) followed a distinctive pattern that owed its origin to David Ogilvy. We wrote long headlines that summed up the proposal of the entire advertisement; a headline could have as many as 25 words. Times have changed. Now O&M ads don't have the look and feel of the Ogilvy gharana. Ulka ads between 1960 and 1980 were different from the ads created at HTA. Rediff ads had a distinctive feel that was different from the ads created at Trikaya. Enterprise and Frank Simoes crafted ads with their magic creative touch. The client ultimately decides on the look and feel of advertising. Perhaps clients with more linear backgrounds-all MBAs-have lost the calibre to judge good advertising.
To reiterate-times have indeed changed. My daughter who chose a career in copywriting tells me a creative portfolio of a copywriter today has to include ads with long copy. That is reassuring since clients invariably ask, 'Who reads copy?' This amazes me because I am yet to come across a consumer who is persuaded without a single verbal impulse.
Advertising is influenced by certain extraneous factors. These are:
The political scene in India
When the Central Government had strong reservations about anything that smacked of an alien democratic culture, advertising was dubbed as bad for society. Then again, when periods are marked by religious tensions and there is a preponderance of religion in the social sphere, almost every image of a woman seen in an advertisement is regarded as promoting wanton sexuality.
The state of technologies in various spheres that are used in the making of advertisements
Between the early 1980s and early 1990s, printing technology went through a complete transformation in India. First, the process of printing newspapers changed. The age of giving advertising material in zinc and copper blocks or in matrices was past. Positives were now handed over to newspapers. Similarly, job printing also saw these changes. Master printers visited Germany every year and invested in more advanced printing machines. Despite the high import duty imposed on these machines, printing companies did good business and managed their books of accounts intelligently to remain profitable without showing good profits. Advertisements, whether in newspapers or as Point of Sale material, could now present high quality reproduction, which gave art directors greater scope to explore ideas based on photography.
Television replaced print as the most favoured medium of advertisers and agencies
Technologies came in that enabled the making of films for television rather than adapting films for cinema viewing into television formats. Technically the cost of making a commercial came down but clients continued to pay a steadily rising cost for film production. This remains one great mystery!
The emergence of new media
This is an inevitable offshoot of the development of new forms of communication such as the internet and mobile telephone. It added a new level of aggressiveness in advertising, encroaching into the personal sphere without permission.
However, in this book I have not gone into details pertaining to technology.
Critics of my previous book felt rather strongly that there is no need to mention zinc and copper blocks, matrices and to fill up pages with the development of the camera, the moving picture and so on when the author has the scope to write a gripping novel with so much material available in old ads. I owe them an apology. I wrote the book for advertising professionals believing that some day we will have people in the profession who like reading books and who may desire to know how ads were fashioned in the past with the technology then available.
The focus in this book is on those individuals who made Indian advertising what it is today. In a way, it is a celebration of the individual efforts of brilliant minds crafting memorable campaigns and creating brands which are still strong in their market presence. But even here I am aware of the exclusion rather than inclusion of a vast majority of art directors across the major advertising centres namely, Bombay (now Mumbai), Madras (now Chennai) and Delhi because I lacked the financial strength to research my subject better. There is enormous scope to improve on this but time is passing and with the passage of time information on people in the profession will be lost.
I am grateful to Niyogi Books for publishing this book quickly and making it available at the current price. I am especially indebted to Tultul Niyogi and her husband Bikash Niyogi for their infectious enthusiasm. I am grateful to my friend and colleague Sujan Datta for helping me with re-touching old pictures. This was not an easy job. The old papers and magazines from where the photographs have been sourced are yellow with age. Besides, the photographs were initially printed on the cheapest quality of newsprint with what were even then vintage printing machines.
I hope this book will be useful to those wishing to enter the profession. I also hope that more advertising people in India will begin writing about the profession.
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