Guitarists, poets, cooks and advertisers

Harish Bhat | Updated on: May 29, 2022

So long as there is a passion for communication, anyone can be in advertising

When Piyush Pandey speaks, advertisers and marketers stop to listen. He is, after all, the best known face of modern Indian advertising, and the creator of some of the most iconic marketing campaigns India has ever seen. No wonder his new book “Open House” has drawn a lot of attention. The book makes for a very enjoyable and insightful read. Based on his four decades of work, thoughts and experiences, Piyush answers all kinds of questions here — some serious, others frivolous, but all of them interesting and relevant. And he does so in his inimitable, direct, earthy style.

Passion for communication

One specific question Piyush explores in the book is the subject of what kind of people can make good careers in advertising. He talks about a young man who plays the guitar very well (and believes he has no other skills) taking up a role as a client servicing executive in an advertising agency. He goes on to say — “You could replace this young man and a guitar with almost any other combination. It could be a young lady and her love for poetry or another young man with a flair for cooking. All these combinations are good for a career in advertising, as long as you have the prerequisite of a passion for communication.”

This struck me as a simple, but profound truth. Good talent for marketing and advertising can come from anywhere, provided they have a fundamental trait this exciting career demands — an abiding passion for communication. You could potentially write up a detailed job profile with a long list of skill sets that are required, but at the center of it all, this passion is the spark that lights the lamp.

Markers of success

Piyush’s excellent insight led me to reflect on outstanding advertising and marketing professionals with whom I have interacted, over thirty five years of my own career. They include colleagues from advertising agencies, friends from the marketing fraternity, and also my bosses, peers and team members over the years. What has made them shine and stand out? What are the elements of “passion for communication” that have made them so successful?

First and foremost, they make the effort to understand people very well. They have keen interest in human behaviour, and love figuring out how people respond to messaging of various kinds. In the initial phases of their career, this is a capability they work hard to acquire, through constant interaction with people and keen observation. After some years, this becomes second nature to them, a finely honed instinct.

Simplicity and beauty

These professionals also have a penchant for simplicity in communication. They are able to grasp the essence of what a brand stands for, as well as what the specific marketing need of the hour is. They then translate this into simple, compelling messaging which appeals to the head and heart. Typically, they abhor jargon and prefer the everyday language of the consumer.

They have a way with words. They are in a constant dance with the beauty of language, choosing the apt phrase or exact word for everything that has to be said. The marriage of simplicity and beauty is a defining characteristic of their work, whether it be copy for an advertising campaign or the description of a new product.

My India, my brand

I have worked primarily in India, and the advertising and marketing people I have come to admire most are always in touch with the pulse of our country. They travel often enough to the towns and hinterlands, they follow popular movies and sports with passion, they find multiple ways to keep in touch with the man or woman on the street. Many of them tend to think naturally in Hindi or in their native Indian language, even though they may well possess great fluency in English also.

Finally, these professionals always have a clear point of view about the brand they are working with, its philosophy and the place it occupies in consumers’ lives. While they are open to assimilating new thoughts, they gravitate to a considered and well-defined viewpoint, which then permeates all the work they do for the brand — be it on advertising, product design or digital interfaces. On all these matters, they are forthright and often outspoken as well.

One such thoughtful, forthright and outspoken individual who has contributed significantly to the marketing and advertising profession in India is Anant Rangaswami, who passed away a few days ago at the relatively young age of 61 years. He demonstrated great passion for communication, and was a master of this art. Anant also skillfully curated Piyush Pandey’s book “Open House”, which triggered the above chain of thoughts. Farewell, Anant. We will miss you greatly.

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views.

Published on May 29, 2022
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