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  • Writer's pictureHetvi Kamdar

Advertising Lessons from Piyush Pandey - India's Very Own Ad Man

Ask yourself: what elements of an advertisement make it memorable? Is it the repetitive reminders of the product, or the emotional persuasion - is it the forced brand integration or jingles, or the humanistic approach that tugs at your heartstrings?

When you think of Vodafone, an image of the widely adored pug, or the zoo-zoos may come to your mind, or if you think of Asian Paints - its heartfelt tagline - “har ghar kuch kehta hai” might ring a bell - this strong brand association is a work of art - art created through the vision of Piyush Pandey - the current Chairman of Global Creative, and the Ad Man of India.

Visual storytelling, defined by Shlomi Ron, is a marketing strategy that leverages compelling narratives, placing your customer at the heart of the story, staged with an emotional visual media experience and effectively distributed across your buyer’s journey - in order to empower customer’s lives and drive business results.

Rather than dissecting this long-winded definition, visual storytelling can simply be explained through the emotions an advertisement elicits - because emotions overpower logic - especially when the concern is our buying habits.

India is a country rooted in culture and sentimentality - we think with our hearts, and nothing reciprocates with the heart more than a story well narrated, and well depicted. Advertising in India is more than a tactic to gain consumers, it is about building and maintaining human relationships, and no agency understands this better than Ogilvy and Mather, India.

When you tell a compelling visual story, it won’t feel like an ad. Your audience will experience it as if it were a type of entertainment content.

The backbone of many established brands such as Pidilite (Fevicol, Fevikwik, M-seal), Cadbury, Asian Paints and even Vodafone - Ogilvy India has created a space for itself within the advertising ecosystem - and it has managed to do so because of its nuanced approach towards human emotions.

Piyush Pandey: The Ad Man, The Myth, The Legend

If you give me facts, I learn. If you give me truths, I believe. But if you give me a story, I remember.

Advertising is rooted in storytelling, and stories can be weaved out of even the most mundane of things, and Piyush Pandey - a child amidst 8 siblings, with his Rajasthani roots and avid interest in humans - understands this best. He may be a common name amongst the Advertising space today, but his humble upbringing ensures that he always remains grounded - for it is from his roots that his stories are born.

Piyush Pandey is the only Indian to have won a double Gold lions at the Cannes as well as a triple Grand Prize at the London International Awards. Under his expertise and leadership, O&M has gone ahead to win 25 lions at the Cannes, and he also won India’s first ever Silver Pencil at the One Show Awards. He has been the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by The Advertising Agencies Association of India - an award of utmost prestige.

But his work cannot be solely defined by his wins, but rather by the impact he has had on the mass audience of India. We cannot help but feel enraptured by his sentimental ads, and this achievement of being imprinted in our minds far supersedes any awards.

Through this blog, we try to understand how visual storytelling works, and how we can incorporate some of this wisdom into our daily lives: through the eyes and words of Piyush Pandey

Because, there are stories hanging in this country on every street, and this is a man who built an empire of such untold stories

Storytelling: Into The World of Emotions

Emotion does not only entail sentimentality - laughter, anger, tears are all a part of the large spectrum of emotions.

Advertisers are not pure artists, they are commercial artists - hired by a company to change a mindset, to change a perception and maybe even change consumer behaviour.

Google India’s heart touching ad commercial on friendships across borders is a good paradigm to understand just how big of an impact advertising has on our lives - and how it can unite us amidst our differences. Dealing with a sensitive topic such as that of the India-Pakistan partition, Ogilvy manages to elicit our emotions - through a deferred childhood friendship.

A lot of money, effort, and risk is at stake before the launch of an ad campaign. However, the success of an advertisement cannot be predicted by data or research - or even logic. This is because, a consumer does not think of logic when they consume a video - they are not trained for research nor do they use numbers to quantify their emotions.

There is no set guideline or mantra to create the perfect advertisement - you need to believe in the brand, and in your ability to discover the brand’s soul and bring it to life - and then wait for the magic to happen.

“No guts, no glory”

When you believe in your idea, you need to take a leap of faith - and see it through. Vodafone’s zoozoo commercials, a beloved part of our memories now - was precisely a leap of faith.

When Ogilvy received the contract for Vodafone commercials during the IPL season, they knew running the same 2-3 commercials on an everyday basis would lead to fatigue - there had to be another way.

It was then that they decided to ideate 44 individual commercials within the span of a week so as to keep the consumers entertained. With time and budget constraints, as well as insufficient development in the field of animation - they took a leap of faith and wore the zoozoo costumes and shot the commercials - because giving up was not an option; it never had been an option.

Defining the Soul of the Brand

Branding and Advertising can kill a brand, as well as bring it to life - and sometimes, it can give the brand a second, new life as well.

The psychology of persuasion says that in order to convince the psyche of a consumer - the commercial requires either an expert, a well-known and well-trusted figure, or a conventionally attractive person.

But maybe all we need is to see ourselves within the person we see on the screen, and feel the emotions they want us to feel. Maybe that is enough?

None of the Fevicol, Cadbury or Asian Paints advertisements rely on the above mentioned factors - they depend on the emotions they can elicit, and the joy they can send forth, rather than the wow factor.

To convince the consumer to believe in the authenticity of your brand, you must first believe in it yourself.

Life Insurance is a topic largely associated with death and grief, but how would an optimist tackle the task of advertising precisely that? By shifting the narrative of course.

SBI Life Insurance was advertised as a plea - not for the mourning of death, but for the celebration of life.

Asian Paints re-transformed themselves from simply a product oriented brand - to the ideal of what a home is, what a home can be like. With their tagline, ‘Kyu Ki Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai’ - they established human relationships at the core of their philosophy - and no matter how transiently their advertisements change, their theme remains constant.

Musical Harmony: Engage not Disrupt

To truly understand how music can make or break a video, watch the video linked below (Fevicol bus film), first with the volume turned to mute - and then with the volume turned up.

Music is the very soul of Indian culture, it is embedded in the most mundane of our daily routines, as well as acts as a background score to our lives. It is essential for the advertisements we watch to reflect this sentiment, so as to increase the connect and relatability with the audience at large.

But this music should seamlessly weave itself with the narrative, it should not seem forced - nor should it disrupt the flow of the ad film. When creating music for an advertisement, do not try to convert the brief into exact lyrics, instead focus on the emotion the brief wishes to convey.

Good music is invisible, yet impactful

It smoothly integrates with the commercial. But, bad SFX cannot be ignored - it screams and stands out, visibly reducing the value of the film.

The music in your ad film exists to bring the script to life - by entertaining, involving and engaging the viewer.

The Vodafone (previously Hutch) ad commercial’s tune - ‘You and I, in this beautiful world' is a great example of how music enhances the emotional quotient of a commercial.

On Multiculturalism and Consumer-Driven Advertising

The first and most pertinent task in creating a story, is to interpret the brief - and understand what it wishes to communicate. Sometimes a brief tells you exactly what the client desires, and while that might seem like an easy way to direct execution, it is the briefs that are vague and open to ideation, that provide space for creativity and imagination.

The brief for the Fortune Oil ad film was one such brief. It said: We have made a great product, now you make a great campaign.

And it was out of this simple brief, that an idea was born. An idea to tug at the heartstrings of every Indian, without the slightest hint of the product till the very end of the film. A lot of risks

were taken to bring this idea to fruition, but it was the conviction and unison of the client-agency relationship that resulted in the film that won Ogilvy consumer appreciation as well as multiple awards and recognition.

A 4:45 minute long TVC, this ad film touches the sentimentalities of all desi’s, and their attachment to ‘ghar ka khana’, home-cooked food. About this film, Piyush Pandey said -

‘It’s not about how many spots the client gives, but whether the ad hits the right spot.’

A multicultural company unites rather than dictates, and honours the consumers opinion as worthy of acknowledgement. At the end of the day, an advertising agency works for the brand, and the consumer. A commercial is meant to increase sales, and should be created solely from an award point of view, because how does it matter how many awards your work wins - if the product is still lying unsold in the warehouses?

If you have to explain your advertisement, it has already failed its purpose. Do not lose sight of the main goal and get overwhelmed by momentary gains, because being remembered for the impact you had far surpasses the transient pleasure that an award may bring you.

The Future of Advertising: From Here, to Where?

Piyush Pandey believes that advertising will continue to engage audiences through great stories, albeit with the addition of new technology and development. Tech can enhance your vision, but it cannot give birth to an idea - only your mind can do that. You must see yourself as an enabler of active change in the community, rather than simply a creator of ads that are placed in the media.

Advertisements have the power to influence the mindset of the masses, ensure that you use this power for good. The future of advertising is bright, but if the story lacks humanity - no technology

will be able to save you. Not today, not anytime in the future. Because at the core of communication, lies an idea.

Key Takeaways

1. God is in the Details

2. To stay relevant, stay nervous. Very nervous

3. Do not shy away from constructive criticism - embrace your professional insecurities

4. To do brave things, you need a support system

5. Great clients get great work, good clients get good work, and not-so-good clients get bad work

Read More about Piyush Pandey's innovative approach to advertising in his book - Pandeymonium and always remember: good ideas already exist, they simply need to be discovered.


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