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Defining Moments: Brendan Pereira: Rich history

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | September 20, 2011
Ad veteran Brendan Pereira discusses the evolution of the ad industry, and some key moments that shaped his career.

He has seen art in advertising evolve from the days of illustrations made by brush strokes, with no photographs (much less, photoshop) do the trick. In a candid chat with afaqs!, 82-year-old ad veteran Brendan Pereira speaks of the key moments that shaped his career graph.

When I was at LA Stronachs Advertising as an apprentice, E Garrett was the art director. My first few months there had me doing odd jobs such as figuring out the lettering from A to Z in different typefaces. This kind of grounding is missing in art now.

Anyway, this lady -- Mrs Webber -- was working on a pharmaceutical brand and one fine day, she thought I could probably do the design work for it all on my own. I had to create all the four mailers for it, and what was remarkable was that it got approved in the first shot -- unheard of in those days! My creativity was first discovered then.

Hameed Sayani was the account executive in those days and he gave me the Castrol account to work on, as a challenge. I created the illustration of a farmer in a tractor on the field. Please note, back then, we had only illustrations. That too, got approved in one shot after a minor suggestion.

"He can write, too!"

A major turning point happened when, at D J Keymer (later, it became Bensons, OBM, O&M, and now Ogilvy), I was made assistant to art director P N Sarma. I was asked to create a print ad for the Rover, and I made it using an old British print of a Rover for the illustration, with a man tipping his hat, and the line I wrote went, "Well, well, look who's here."

The senior executive, Mr Anderson, was supposed to take it to the client, but didn't. He did not fancy the thought of a junior working on such a prestigious ad. He told Sarma the client did not like it. Upset, Sarma asked me to go see the client. I had never done that before. The client said, "This is fantastic." I learnt to sell creative work myself.

On another occasion, Bal Mundkur, probably having a bad day, came up to me, thumped my drawing board with his hand and yelled that he wanted a layout by the afternoon, which was an unreasonable deadline. I did something no young artist at that point did. I flung his papers back at him. My seniors spoke to an outraged Mundkur and calmed him down.

Check, check and double-check

At Aiyars Advertising, we were going to acquire the (SmithKline) Beecham's account in India. At that time, I was an art director in London, and was appointed there to come and head creative at Aiyars in India. The client had a request. They wanted me to join them for a year to understand their business, and also handle their account in Mumbai. What an experience this was for a creative! My mandate was to understand everything about their toiletries, pharmaceuticals, and overseas business.

Mr Pascal was the person in charge there. I was working on ENO Fruit Salts, and I had to work in tandem with the account person. There were some inputs that I got from him, and I was to present the details to Mr Pascal. He was furious when he found some error in it (I had done my bit, the error was in what the account guy had provided me with). Mr Pascal, albeit in a harsh manner, taught me to question everything.

Ambani

In 1972, when I left Aiyars to co-found Chaitra Advertising (an agency that started in my flat, by the way), we didn't have any businesses to speak of, and we were just a small bunch of ex-Aiyars.

I remember Dhirubhai Ambani was going to launch Vimal. He had no agency, and surprisingly gave us the business after seeing our work on Terene polyester (Vimal was getting into it at that time).

Ambani said, "So, you are new and have no business. Well, Congratulations! You have mine."

I'll never forget the fact that the man paid us for our artwork and everything in two days. He gave us the confidence to build a great agency.

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