From small-town dreamer to global icon – The inspiring journey of ad legend Piyush Pandey

Ganapathy Viswanathan, an independent communication consultant, writes that indelible mark on the ad industry, Pandey's journey is a testament to the power of creativity and determination

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From small-town dreamer to global icon – The inspiring journey of ad legend Piyush Pandey

Piyush Pandey

A few days ago, we heard that Piyush was going to step down and now play the role of Chief Advisor at Ogilvy. He took over the mantle from Ranjan Kapur and continued to build and grow the agency for over 40 years.

For me, he has always been an advisor for brands, both in India and internationally. He continues to earn the respect of all clients and brands for his strong commitment and thinking.

Starting his career in account management, he moved to creative. Because of his sheer creative talent, he was handpicked to head the Indian languages way back in the late 80s, when the Indian advertising business was expanding and opening up.

When Piyush took the mantle to run the Indian languages cell, in one of the internal newsletters, he wrote, “Our job is to talk to the consumer in the language he or she dreams in. We have a strong heritage and reputation that have strengthened over the last ten years or so. Take over the full mantle and translate this effort into bringing our brands closer to the consumer in a language that makes sense."

From here on, Piyush was unstoppable, and year after year, some great campaigns were created, starting from ‘Chal Meri Luna’ to Cadbury’s Eclairs and Rath Vanaspati, to name a few.

I had the opportunity to interact with the Guru in my early days at Ogilvy and always found him jovial and easy to approach. The bushy moustache and his laughter gave him a distinct personality, supplemented by his creative thinking, which made him stand tall in advertising for over four decades.

He has a unique way of connecting cricket with real life. Being a cricketer, he also had leadership qualities built in him, and that is what has helped him to be a strong and inspiring leader, even as he takes on the role of advisor from January 2024 at Ogilvy India.

Piyush’s intuition and understanding of the client’s challenges are amazing. He strongly believes in the power of observation, which always helps him think deeply to cull out magical insights for every campaign. He has this childlike enthusiasm, deep commitment, and passion that help him create path-breaking work that solves the client’s problem.

Over a span of time in his career, he has helped breathe life and soul into many brands through a deep understanding of the roots and culture of India’s hinterland. His campaigns, Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, Literacy Mission, and Pulse Polio, simply touched the hearts of millions of people across the length and breadth of the country and won many awards.

He always says, ‘Life is a game of cricket’. It has always taught him how to be a great player on a team and to accept victory and defeat. This same quality Piyush applied in his advertising career encouraged his team, who later became great creative leaders and moved on to other agencies.

He was never disheartened or disappointed if a particular script or campaign did not go through or was rejected. His energy levels and confidence were so high that he quickly came back to the agency, revisited the drawing board, and worked on a new campaign, meeting clients' new briefs and coming up with some winning solutions.

Chief Advisor Piyush’s blessing will always be there for the new team. With his vast knowledge and experience, he will pass on his rich expertise to the new leadership team and continue to keep the Ogilvy flag fluttering. Ogilvy’s core strength is its creative product, and I am sure Piyush will keep a close watch only to raise the bar, be it in traditional or digital media. He is a true legend, and his presence as an advisor will be a very strong asset for the organisation as he will step down from the day-to-day operations and play the role of advisor.

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