The urgency of being 'always on' is the stupidest thing a brand can do: Bobby Pawar

After an illustrious career of three decades in advertising, Bobby Pawar, former chairman and CCO at Havas India, announced his retirement from the advertising world. delved into the mind of this creative genius to uncover the secrets behind his success and gain insights that can inspire the next generation of marketers and advertisers

Akansha Srivastava
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The urgency of being 'always on' is the stupidest thing a brand can do: Bobby Pawar

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The urgency of being ‘always on’ is the stupidest mistake brands make. This urgency pushes the Indian advertising landscape even farther away from the ‘big idea’, as per Bobby Pawar.

“No person wants to be ‘always on’ with a brand. Say something only when you have something relevant and resonant.”

Pawar emphasised the need to find the ‘big idea’ while we continue to run in the rut of memes, influencer marketing, the metaverse, Gen AI, and other such sophisticated jargon.

He said, “The agencies need to prioritise. One can do lots of little things on social media, but only the big idea will help win the race. We’ve been caught up so much in purpose, serving society, and being high-minded. The truth is that people generally buy products that make a difference in their lives and are useful. Our first job is to sell the brand in a manner that makes it lovable."

He also said that we are not spending enough time with the youngsters in agencies, teaching them how to go about the big idea. “Even I am to be blamed for that.”

When it comes to preparing the next generation for the future of advertising, Pawar believes that the agency culture has changed so much that it isn’t in the kids these days to take positive criticism. He commented, “The kids have become too soft. It’s not easy for them to hear that their work is not good enough. It’s harder for them to be at it 12 times and still continue to be not good enough. Instead of taking seniors’ opinions and suggestions as positive criticism, they end up going to HR to complain. The consequence is that they will be made redundant by AI.”

Pawar partially put the blame on the clients for the lack of big ideas. He explained, "Clients hire a social media agency for Rs 1.25 lakh a month. The same social media agency hires three kids just out of college who will sit in a coffee house for hours and do social media posts for the brand full of grammatical mistakes. The same client will shout at his agency’s client servicing team for a single grammatical mistake in print. This dichotomy hurts everyone: why is the same brand precious in traditional media but not on social media?

After spending 30 years and losing people close to him last year, including Pratap Bose, Bobby Pawar decided to hang his boots in advertising and pursue his dreams and fulfil his wishes as he realised that one really can’t predict the next moment in life.

In his last job in advertising, Pawar was the Chairman and CCO at Havas India. He joined the network in November 2018.

Before his tenure at Havas India, Pawar spent five and a half years at Publicis. Prior to that, he was the Chief Creative Officer of JWT.

Pawar also spent four and a half years as the CCO of DDB Mudra Group. Pawar began his advertising journey at Ogilvy & Mather.

Because he can’t live without writing, he will continue to do so for the rest of his life. “I have always been a writer before I became a copywriter. I want to continue to do that,” he said.

Pawar is an engineering college dropout who went on to study English literature and now can’t live without writing. He believes that if a person isn’t interesting as a human being, nobody will be interested in what he or she creates.

When asked if he still wants to pursue stand-up comedy now that he’s out of active advertising, he said, “Who knows! but whatever it is, it will always be related to writing.”

Pawar is a person full of quirk and used to write love letters for his friends’ girlfriends for beer and money in his college days. He’d also had stand-up comedy gigs in his younger days. Advertising just happened to Pawar in life. In 1992, when Pawar joined advertising, he said, “My ambition was only to earn at least Rs 3,000 a month, which would pay for my alcohol and cigarettes. But my problem is that I can’t just be a participant. I got exposed to great work and wanted to do something like that. That’s when I fell in love with advertising.”

He further said that in his early days in advertising, he was also told to quit writing and pursue account management. “But I enjoyed writing and fell in love with great work. So many times, my writing didn’t click with people, but I knew one day I would hit it. The only way you can get better is by being bad first. To reach the level of creating good work, we must analyse what makes good work and find our own ways of doing it. Although there are no shortcuts around it, one first has to become really good in his comfort zone and then try to push outside it.”

Sharing some cheerful memories of 26 years back from his days in Ogilvy, he told that many times, he and a few other people used to land at Piyush Pandey’s house. “Free alcohol, food, and a beautiful house didn’t harm a couple of overworked, broke advertising boys. But I remember, we strategically blackmailed Piyush to switch from Royal Challengers to Teachers so that we too get to drink an upgraded version of whisky,” he said.

Watch the full interview to uncover the secrets behind his success and gain insights that can inspire the next generation of marketers and advertisers:

creativity Havas India JWT Piyush Pandey storytelling Publicis big idea Bobby Pawar writing