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Not going to Himalayas or Goa, which my competitors would like to believe: Piyush Pandey

After pondering for over a year, Devika Bulchandani and Pandey think it is about time for the latter to hang up the boots. The duo assured that Pandey is just moving on from the day-to-day operations and will be very much available when needed

(Left) Devika Bulchandani, Piyush Pandey (Right) in Mumbai

September 26, 2023, became a momentous day for the advertising industry globally when Ogilvy announced that after breathing, eating and sleeping Ogilvy for 41 years, Piyush Pandey will move to an advisory role starting next year.

India’s biggest creative agency also announced a few other leadership changes and inducted its core team to the board.

Pandey is currently serving in the role of Chairman Global Creative and Executive Chairman, Ogilvy.

Devika Seth Bulchandani, Global Chief Executive Officer, Ogilvy, who had specially flown to India for this big announcement, said, “David Ogilvy always believed in hiring giants. There is no bigger giant in the Indian advertising industry than Piyush. The hallmark of a giant is not just what they do, but that they hire people, nurture them and set them up for success to be giants in their own right."

Bulchandani added, “Gaadi nahi, khali gear badal raha hai”.

She continued, “After 41 years, Piyush has not only made sure that Ogilvy is number one in India and globally but prepared the leadership team here who's ready to take over and take the agency to new heights.”

Ogilvy announced that Hephzibah Pathak will also take on the role of Executive Chairperson of Ogilvy India. Additionally, VR Rajesh who is currently serving in the role of Group President of Ogilvy India will also be elevated to CEO of the agency.

Ogilvy India's leadership transition also involves important new appointments to the Ogilvy Board. Joining the Ogilvy India Board which already constitutes Pathak, Rajesh and Hufrish Birdy, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Ogilvy India, will be the agency's three Chief Creative Officers (CCOs) - Harshad Rajadhyaksha, Kainaz Karmakar and Sukesh Nayak, and the agency's CSO, Prem Narayan.

Confident about passing on the baton to the current leaders at Ogilvy, Pandey said, “These people are not kids, but rockstars."

"All of them have been with Ogilvy for over 20 years and most of the Ogilvy creations that have been appreciated, admired and acknowledged over the last many years are their work and not mine. They were already ready. We have been talking about this transition for close to a year now. It was about time to take this call,” he said.

While Pandey’s new role is as an advisor, he will continue to work closely with the leadership team and major clients. He will also be involved with key Ogilvy clients and new business prospects along with the creative product of the agency.

Pandey chuckled, “I am not going up the Himalayas, nor am I going to Goa, which a number of my competitors would like to believe. It will continue to be a full-time job for me. Only my role has changed.”

Giving his famous cricket analogy, Pandey commented, “It's like when Dhoni plays for a team which is being led by Virat, he has to go by the rules of Virat and it's up to Virat to make the best use of the experienced player like Dhoni."

Throwing another cricket bouncer about why it was time to transition to an advisory role, Pandey said, “Australia used to take pride in their cricket team and its fantastic bench strength. Their team kept playing for years. When this team was ready for retirement, so was the bench strength. When the time came for their bench strength to play the game, they had already passed their prime. We don't want that to happen. We want our guys who are in their prime time to go out and play.”

Pandey is synonymous with Ogilvy. Therefore, there would still be clients who would want him to be actively involved in campaigns. To which, Pandey answered, “I will be involved, but at the same time I will be building the platform for the new team. Just in case, one day when I am not there, the clients don’t mind my absence.”

Bulchandani added, “Piyush and I talked a lot about this. He is a chief advisor. We are not calling him as chairman emeritus. He is very much around. He just won’t be around for the day-to-day running of the organisation.”

Pandey went on to say that even the clients are happy about this big development at Ogilvy India. He commented, “Client's response is fantastic. They are very happy for the people who are going to be taking over along with the fact that I am not going to the Himalayas.”

Even the team at Ogilvy is very confident in standing up to the client’s expectations of producing great work. Pandey added, “They are the trapeze artists. I'm holding on to the net. If anyone falls, they won’t fall on the ground.”

Bulchandani further said that all the employees at Ogilvy are super excited about the new leadership in charge.

Many agencies look for talent outside for leadership roles in order to bring in fresh perspectives. But Bulchandani and Pandey said, they didn’t think for once about hiring someone from outside for the leadership roles.

Both Pandey and Bulchandani vouched for the work culture at the agency. Bulchandani said, “Our work and culture both are good. It’s not always about money.”

Pandey added, “A person can earn good money even by selling samosas. But one needs joy and work satisfaction and Ogilvy provides that.”

There is a notion among brands with smaller budgets that if they wish to work with Ogilvy, the agency might not assign their best team to the account and the brand would only end up becoming just another smaller incremental business in the mammoth agency’s India business.

To break this notion, Pandey said, “We don’t work with clients for their size, but their potential. Ogilvy too wasn’t that big when it onboarded Pidilite. Cut to today, Fevicol has become big, and so has Ogilvy. It's not about the money that you come with, it's the excitement that you bring to the team and the potential that we can achieve together.”

Ogilvy has been very aspirational to be associated with for both brands and new talent. Pandey commented that this stature has only been achieved because of the agency’s great work. “End of the day, common people don’t recognise us as people, but our great work. We are known for our work.” 

Bulchandani said that this is not just true for the agency’s Indian market but also globally. “While I am new to Ogilvy, the culture at the agency is that it is obsessively focused on clients and producing great work for them. Many agencies have a global presence, but Ogilvy is all about excellence.”

Then the duo went on to talk about the rising focus of the network agencies on the Indian market. Pandey said, “It would be foolish for network agencies not to focus on the Indian market.”

Bulchandani added, “Along with the growing economy in India, creativity coming out of the Indian market is altogether at a different level. You can see India everywhere. There's also greater consciousness in India. While the Western world is going gaga over data and technology and performance marketing, the Indian advertising industry continues to be driven by storytelling and creativity.”

There is also an increased focus on performance marketing in India. But Pandey highlighted, “The smart guys will know that unless you have a brand image, your performance marketing is not going to work. And brand image is built on storytelling. Culturally, we are a country of storytellers. If we don't use it, then we're stupid. That's our edge right now.”


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