Goutam Rakshit, the ‘Onida Devil’ creator, is no more

Giraj Sharma | Updated on April 02, 2020 Published on April 02, 2020

The biggest tribute to Onida’s Devil campaign came from the great Alyque Padamsee when he openly confessed that this was one campaign he wished he had done

The founder of Advertising Avenues will be remembered as an indulgent parent to the brands he brought up

Not many advertising professionals treat their clients as supportive spouses and take on the responsibility of building brands as parents. Goutam Rakshit did just that, with great sincerity.

He was an indulgent, caring parent to all the brands Advertising Avenues, the ad agency he set up with Ashok Roy, managed. Goutam and the team at Avenues worked very closely with the other parent, the client, to ensure a good upbringing for their children (brands). Goutam passed away in his sleep on Wednesday, leaving the brands he cared for orphaned.

Goutam began his career at Cadbury’s and, after almost a decade there, switched to advertising, joining an agency that was then considered a creative hotspot — Clarion (Bates). After a couple of years he moved out to form Avenues. One of the first brands that Avenues handled was UFO Jeans and the thing that stood out was that the entire campaign ran without the product being shown anywhere — a rarity at that time. Goutam believed that small ad-budgets shouldn’t demoralise an agency and that a well-focussed, bold campaign could work better than large budget promotions.

Marketing vs brand strategy

I had the good fortune of working closely with Advertising Avenues and with Goutam while I was at Onida through the mid-1980s till late 1990s. As clients we were astounded at Goutam’s capacity to interpret situations, especially consumer interfaces, and churn out brand strategies from which emerged some amazing advertising. The principle that marketing is subservient to brand strategy and not the other way round is something that one learnt from Goutam and this forms the bedrock of our solutions to clients at BehindTheMoon.

‘The boss is never late, it’s the others who arrived in a hurry’ — that’s the first line that Goutam Rakshit gave us at Onida in the mid-1980s. Though it did not become as popular as the fabled ‘Neighbour’s Envy Owner’s Pride’, it set the tone for what Onida became as a brand — attitudinally. Instead of treading the beaten track, we took a big risk given that all pre-test research found no takers for the Devil.

That both the parents, Avenues and the promoters — Mirchandanis — were on the same page had a lot to do with Goutam’s conviction. The biggest tribute to Onida’s Devil campaign came from the great Alyque Padamsee when he openly confessed that this was one campaign he wished he had done. Not the ones to take a ‘safe and sound’ approach to creativity, Goutam and Ashok Roy, along with Gopi Kukde, went on to create some outstanding work for brands such as Skypak, VIP Franchie, Lovable, Ravalgaon’s Pan Pasand, Today Women’s Contraceptive, VIP Skybags and Bush Audio, to name a few.

An industry man

Goutam had an amazing relationship with his contemporaries and the respect he garnered was extraordinary. He was an out and out industry man and gave a lot to the advertising fraternity. His stints as the head of Advertising Agencies Association of India (3As of I) and Chairman of Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), among others, were significant and praiseworthy.

Ever a people’s man, Goutam would genuinely invest his time in you. I have some fond memories of discussions with him, especially one where we were evaluating an ad. He politely asked for the brief. His logic was that the ad has to be true to the brief and should only be judged based on whether it delivers what the brief says. That got me to start sending out written elaborate briefs and he would insist that these should answer a list of seven questions. The most critical of those questions being: What is the first emotion that you want to trigger in the beholder? Working out written briefs is something I still do religiously except that Goutam left me with no briefs when it was my turn to churn out this copy.

(Giraj Sharma is founder of brand consultancy BehindTheMoon. He headed the marketing function at Onida during the early 1990s )

Published on April 02, 2020

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