Unapologetically Indian, unabashedly witty, and also known for his booming laughter, Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director at Ogilvy & Mather — South Asia, can hold his audience’s attention, just like his path-breaking advertisements in the ‘90s on television did.
His creative lineage
Pandey, who was in the city to release the Marathi translation — Pandeypuran — of his bestseller Pandeymonium, laughed, chatted and spoke candidly on the ad world, his love for cricket and his family.
Pandey, the eighth son born after seven sisters, calls his family a ‘creative factory’. “My sisters were very creative, naturally inclined towards art. My younger brother, Prasoon, was studying in National Institute of Design. He knew he would be doing something in arts. I was the only one who wanted to be a cricketer. And I did reach the Ranji level. But after that, well, I couldn’t succeed,” he explains.
The reason for the failure was because he concentrated on his attire a lot more than the game. “That was my stupidity,” Pandey says with characteristic candour.
Power of advertisements
He has made award-winning advertisements on the anti-smoking campaign, which were questioned by his mother. “She said to me, ‘How could you get this award? Don’t they know that you smoke?’ It was a pertinent question and I had to give a reply, so I said, ‘Halwai ko mithai khaate huye dekha hai’,” he says, having everyone present in splits.
The man knows that he wields enormous influence through his work. “Advertisements can convince and influence people. I have formed some bad habits, but if I can help someone to make correct choices in life, then why not,” he argues.
Speaking in chaste Hindi, Pandey says his work is enormously influenced by the common people on the street. “Research is important, but what details you get out by sharing a cup of tea, swapping notes, sharing stories and food on trains, cannot be compared to the calibrated responses gathered in a survey,” he says.
When asked what advice he would like to give youngsters in the advertising world, Pandey quips, “Stay away from Google. After this launch, I will be visiting my friend’s place in Panchgani. We plan to have dinner, go for long walks, explore the town. It’s essential that we connect with hinterland. Learn about agriculture... that way you will be introduced to your culture.”
Is that the reason he is not on Twitter, we ask. “Well, I care for my self-preservation. I might land in trouble...”
Know your country
Pandey, who calls himself a ‘storyteller’, has seen much success. But he admits that every day you can’t score a century. “Some days your ideas are not accepted. Take the good and the dumb in your stride. Hausla nahi chhodna [Don’t lose hope],” he shares his pearls of wisdom.
One of his most successful works is penning the lyrics of Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, the late ‘80s anthem of ‘national integration’.
When asked if something like that could be replicated in this century, he laughs and says, “Something like this happens only once in a lifetime. This was Suresh Mallik’s vision. I only wrote the lyrics. By the time, we create another classic, I will be in swarg [heaven]. Suresh would be very happy if a younger team comes up with another gem.” But what would be the issues raised in the song; where is India heading? “Well, we had to make a four-minute song on integration. We need one solid subject to make an impact. There are many issues that we need to address — from poverty to corruption,” he says.
Warts and all, Pandey is happy to live in India, and not move abroad, despite getting offers. “You come up with your best work when you are comfortable in your surroundings. I am comfortable with my friends, neighbours here. I find contentment here,” adds Pandey.
This is also his advice for his countrymen — “Apna desh jaano [Know your country]. I am planning to visit Arunachal Pradesh soon. What’s the point in travelling abroad, or relocating there, if I haven’t discovered my own country? There are many NRIs who want to return to India. India is the place to be.”
Is that what makes his brand unique? What is the Piyush Pandey brand all about?
“That’s not for me to say,” is his quick repartee. “Many others will tell you my story,” he says as he signs off.