Recap 2008: What made headlines in the year that was

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | January 05, 2009
A look at some top developments in the ad industry in the year gone by


was ushered in on the back of Airtel's Breaking Barriers TV commercial and Prasoon Joshi's lyrical trysts with Taare Zameen Par. For those who may have sleepwalked through the year, here's a flashback of how it was.

2007 had proven to be quite a year for ad agencies, with Grey Worldwide, Publicis Ambience, McCann Erickson and Rediffusion DY&R figuring among the agencies that underwent the maximum management churn. The musical chairs continued into 2008, with a new management structure at the Leo Burnett Group: Thomas Xavier took over from Nitish Mukherjee as chairman and national creative director at Orchard, while Mukherjee found himself at Burnett as its managing director.

JWT saw Dhunji Wadia leap from Bengaluru to head Mumbai, while Tarun Rai was given a bigger role. Mudra Marketing Services' Meera Sharath Chandra moved to RMG Connect.

The words "banking" and "makeover" continued to be uttered in the same breath, with Canara Bank being the latest to go the rebranding way. This turned out to be O&M's third such effort with a bank brand in recent times (after SBI and Bank of India).

Cheil Communications won the Samsung GSM biz, Contract won Whirlpool, Rediffusion won LG Electronics. Cricketer MS Dhoni made headlines with his 'mamaji' and Brylcreem, Maruti swiftly called for a pitch for Swift, while Vodafone continued to 'Make the Most of Now'.


Did we say Tarun Rai got a bigger role at JWT? The industry did a double take as Rai moved out of the agency he had spent 17 years with, to join World Wide Media (WWM) as chief executive officer. Preet Bedi moved out of Percept Picture Company.

Bates 141 and Maxus drove home with the Fiat account, while Lowe won the Maruti Swift Sedan business. The AdFest and New York Fest saw several Indians on its jury panels. FritoLay launched its biggest ever brand initiative across its five flagship brands, called 'Chala Change ka Chakkar'.

Brand ambassadors were busy in February: Pepsi made noise with Ranbir Kapoor and Youngistaan, Akshay Kumar continued to chase his Thums Up, and Idea Cellular had Abhishek Bachchan play a tour guide at the Taj Mahal.

Tata AIG Life experimented with special effects in its advertising, Mentos made a 'monkey' of Darwin's theory, while MotoYuva rocked the ad circuit with its irreverence and youth focus.

Contract got busy with a campaign for the upcoming GoaFest.


The month saw BBDO India dish out the high-voltage Bheja Fry campaign for 7Up, it's first-ever campaign for the brand, which generated mixed reactions. Anchor White found a rather strange match in film actor Kajol as a brand ambassador and a testimonial campaign followed, which didn't turn out too memorable. Sonal Dabral of Bates 141 delivered the Ad Review speech organised by the Ad Club, while sharing his ad experiences across the Asian region.

If Pepsi was aggressively Youngistaan-ing, Coca-Cola took the softer approach with its corporate thought, 'Little Drops of Joy'. Virgin Mobile exploded Indian telly screens with its 'hatke' campaigns, while Samsung announced the appointment of film actor Aamir Khan as its brand endorser. Slice found its endorser in actor Katrina Kaif.

Iqbal Raj rose to become NCD at Percept/H, Euro RSCG's Ashok Karnik and O&M's Jignesh Maniar set up their own agencies, while Grey won Greenply largely thanks to NCD Priti Nair. Bajaj Pulsar experimented with 'bike ballet'. Health minister Anbumani Ramadoss initiated a complete ban on surrogate advertising on traditional media by liquor and tobacco brands, which wasn't greeted too well by the brands or the ad agencies.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) teams called for pitches and rigorous branding efforts followed, even as one wondered how each team would be positioned - on the basis of the players' strengths or using the region card.


April equals GoaFest, as far as the ad industry is concerned. As the Abbys and AAAIs finally saw eye to eye, with the former becoming a part of the GoaFest, one wondered about the much hyped "dilution" of the Abbys as an awards night. But it all turned out okay. O&M came first in terms of wins, followed by JWT and Leo Burnett, while Mindshare led the media tally. The Donald Gunn Report made news, while news of Naked Communications and Strawberry Frog eyeing India were whispered about in the galleries at the GoaFest.

Among other developments, Bobby Pawar took over as chief creative for the Mudra Group, Agnello Dias was promoted as chief creative officer at JWT, and TBWA India brought in Shiv Sethuraman as CEO. Prem Mehta retired from Lowe Worldwide.

The Hanes "obscenity" controversy surrounded McCann and the agency was quick to put out the flames before too much damage was done. However, a debate on scams caught steam in the industry.

Shopper's Stop did 'Something New' to its branding, while Vodafone was 'Happy to Help'. HUL relaunched Pond's amidst a publicity stunt involving actors Malaika Arora Khan and husband Arbaaz Khan.

Sprite kept up with its age-old tradition of spoofing on PepsiCo and took on Youngistaan's case, this time around with its 'Seedhi Baat'. One saw the emergence of new brands such as Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils: IPL's eight teams became brands of sorts practically overnight, which had consumers picking and choosing their favourites.

Videocon called for a creative pitch. While O&M moved office in Mumbai, JC Giri moved from O&M (no pun intended). Shifting office became the norm, as Everest Brand Solutions, too, moved to another place in Mumbai. Leo Burnett's Rameet Arora hopped over to the marketing side at Colors. Ajay Chandwani was nominated to the board at Percept, and Prabhakar Mundkur moved up as CEO.

Spoofing was the in thing, with PepsiCo taking on Coca-Cola's Thums Up in retaliation to Sprite's jabs. Max New York Life's 'Sanju' advert was everywhere on TV screens. The One Show saw a hat trick from India, with O&M, Burnett and Rediff winning a gold each in the Design One Show.

The Luxor Highlighter campaign found great appreciation and metals at award shows, but once again, some amount of ambiguity surrounded Burnett's involvement with the brand. Hanes called for a creative pitch post its split with McCann.

IPG launched Pickle in India, as SSC&B Lintas ceased to exist. ENIL's Sumeet Chatterjee and Rediff's Rahul Jauhari were the chief ingredients roped in for this 'Picklicious' recipe.

Speaking of pickle, mango drink brands continued their war of trying to be the original mango to its consumers. We wonder how the mango industry took that.

India canned 23 Lions at Cannes, with the country scoring its first ever Grand Prix, a Cyber Lion and a Lion in the Integrated and Titanium category.

Back home from the festivities, mid-year saw Dhoni making noise for Lays. June was also a month of serial 'fillers': Some brands experimented with advertising that was aired serially in parts, to create suspense. Cases in point include the Pond's White Beauty films by O&M, which resembled a Bollywood story (a love triangle featuring film actors Priyanka Chopra, Saif Ali Khan and Neha Dhupia), and ad films for Samsung Guru.

Domino's called for a pitch, but shortly thereafter, decided to stick with Contract. The agency also scored with Tata Indicom. Saatchi & Saatchi walked away with the hefty Videocon pie, while the DTH venture fell to Publicis Ambience.

Lowe lost some more old hands in Pranesh Misra, who walked away after 31 years to form insight mining firm Brandscape Worldwide, and Ashish Bhasin, who moved on to Carat Media. Ogilvy India lost Pratap Bose and Anurag Gupta to Mudra.

KS 'Chax' Chakravarthy returned to advertising and found his calling as NCD at DraftFCB Ulka.


Titan added more to its positioning with 'Be More', and Idea continued with its societal cause ideas (the Literacy ads). Center Fresh was on a mouth-zipping spree, while brands such as Philips Water Purifier, Pizza Hut and Horlicks revved up their advertising. A high-budgeted corporate campaign titled 'Next is What', loaded with special effects, was released for Samsung. It starred brand ambassador Aamir Khan.

Priti Nair made headlines when she parted ways with Grey Worldwide after having been NCD there for less than a year. Contract was in the news for Ravi Deshpande taking on the role of chairman and CCO, in yet another development of a creative head taking on the task of running an agency. Current Contract CEO Jagdip Bakshi moved back to JWT London, while Umesh Shrikhande took over from him.

Videocon was in major rejig mode following a management restructuring, and called for a pitch for its other portfolio brands, including Kelvinator and Electrolux - the results are still awaited. Kingfisher Airlines' global business went to JWT.

Strawberry Frog announced its intent to launch in India. Tata Sky said 'jhingalala' to Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador. Khan, meanwhile, also contributed to the Teach India campaign for The Times of India.

Ranjan Kapur was awarded the AAAI Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lintas' True Awards truly made noise in August.

Himani Fast Relief, Ram Madhvani and Publicis Ambience outdid themselves with 'Aadmi Bana Machine'. DNA showed off its love for hoardings in a pre-launch outdoor-heavy campaign in Bengaluru.

'Saifina' became a hit pair in the ad circuit also, and Head & Shoulders was among the first to capitalise on the duo's 'dandruff-free', hence problem-free, relationship. Katrina Kaif replaced Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the Nakshatra brand story. Action hero Akshay Kumar 'unbuttoned' for Levi's 501.

Contract's work on Tata Indicom took the emotional route with 'Suno Dil ki Awaaz', while its efforts on Aegon Religare, strangely reminiscent of the Balbir Pasha campaign on AIDS awareness, had people wondering if they were suffering from KILB (Kam Insurance Lene ki Bimari).

Axe came up with its Dark Temptation ads: communication which tempted more than its consumers as the ASCI pulled it up later on. Hanes, post its divorce with McCann, moved to Lowe. Siyaram's revived its advertising with Dhoni.

Diwan Arun Nanda made room for Mahesh Chauhan at Rediffusion, while CreativeLand Asia made room for itself in general, expanding southward. Lenovo and O&M launched a heavyweight commercial for the 2008 Olympics, while Olympics hero Vijender Singh bared his muscles for Bajaj Allianz.

The industry lost Radeus' founder and chairman, K Kurian, who passed away. Idea launched in Mumbai with a rather tongue-in-cheek point of view on the Raj Thackeray 'Mumbaikar' mindset.

Tata Sky began inching away from Rediffusion by awarding its PVR business (Tata Sky Plus) to O&M. Union Bank followed the general banking industry trend and went into makeover mode. Maruti SX4 brought men 'back', though from where is unknown. Hero Honda went the music video way with Dhak Dhak Go and eight celebs. Asian Paints invited homemakers to a 'Budget Wedding'.

GEC Colors called for a pitch and the account eventually went to Orchard.

On the people front, Shalini Dam took over as Grey's NCD. JWT's star CCO Agnello Dias and Santosh Padhi, Burnett's executive creative director and national head, art, both called it quits at their respective agencies, to form a combined venture, which is in the process of firming up. Ajay Jhala took over as the CEO of BBDO.

TBWA/India was completely bought over by Omnicom. MAA Bozell did some rebranding of its own and became MAA Communications.

Airtel became the title sponsor for the Delhi Half Marathon. The Economist launched its first ever TVC in India, which was a reflection of its print and outdoor efforts.

Murmurs of BBH's launch in India got louder as developments were firmed up.

Piyush Pandey lent his deep voice yet again for Asian Paints.

Brand consultancy Serum was dissolved and Dhar & Hoon went back to Dhar & Hoon, post a parting with Chetan Marwah. Ogilvy beat JWT at the Tamizh Awards. Crayons cornered the Rs 150 crore Congress business. Bates' Rajeev Raja returned to the Mudra Group, joining DDB Mudra.

Spoofing found its way into the DTH category: After Airtel launched a teaser about the brand 'Coming Home Soon', Big TV launched a spoof revealer. Undeterred, Airtel DTH and JWT unveiled their star-studded revealer, which ruled TV screens for quite a while. Airtel's 'voice SMS' ads by Rediff were talked about by many.

IDBI was relaunched post O&M winning the account. Lee attempted to 'Make History'. Bates was on a hiring spree after having lost some key people, including Subhash Kamath (whose BBH plans were now public).

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting frowned upon the Virgin Mobile Hospital TVC, claiming it to be vulgar.

Even as the economic slowdown hit the airline industry, SpiceJet was in pitch mode.


Priti Nair, Subhash Kamath and Partha Sinha were the heroes of November as BBH was launched amidst much fanfare in India.

Bharti launched a new corporate identity created by Percept/H, which was "historical" in more ways than one. The Ministry of Tourism brought on an incredible 15 agencies for Incredible India!, including Mudra and Lowe.

McCann launched its second agency, T.A.G., in India. The London International Awards saw Leo Burnett and O&M collect several metals.

Post JWT launching Honk in India and Mudra creating Water, Rediff, too, launched its own design unit. Tata Sky finally settled on O&M as its agency.

Mudra's campaign for Amrutanjan was high on creativity, but gave low budgets a whole new meaning. Crayons had to share the Congress business with JWT.

Lowe declared its plans to go back to being called Lowe Lintas, a move that provoked much nostalgia and reminiscing. JWT led the way at the Effies, winning the Grand Effie for Lead India. O&M ranked second. It's ironic that the Effies concluded on the same night as the terror attacks began in Mumbai.


Although things were a bit sombre due to the terror attacks in Mumbai and the political and economic situation, Set Wet Zatak attempted to infuse humour on television with its spoof on Axe. Anand Narasimha quit Bates 141 to start off on his own.

Juhi Chawla was given a backseat as Kareena Kapoor took the front-stage for Kurkure, dancing to Desi Beats. Sony Bravia launched Domino City, a commercial based on the 'Colour. Like No Other' philosophy, out of Bates Singapore - a campaign on which Sonal Dabral worked closely.

Ex-Rediff guy and brand consultant Vinay Kanchan unveiled his book on advertising, The Madness Starts at 9, which used viral means for promotion, having been published through

Umbrella undertook rebranding efforts for the Indian Cancer Society towards the end of the year and followed it up with a new corporate identity for Saraswat Bank. VIP relaunched with film actor Shahid Kapur to the rescue; it was also a resurrection of Kapur as a brand endorser.

Nirvik Singh was elevated to chairman and CEO, APAC, at the Grey Group.

Ghajini gave movie marketing a whole new meaning. Pitches for Honda's Jazz and Maruti's Splash kept agencies busy. Asian Paints painted the final canvas this year with its Saif Ali Khan 'Painting Up a Storm' ad, while Idea's 'Democracy' commercial was the brand's way of bidding farewell to 2008.

© 2009 afaqs!