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Obituary: Ogilvy's erstwhile Kolkata star Anshu Banerjee passes away

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 03, 2011
Banerjee passed away due to old age on November 1, 2011. He had served on the Ogilvy board until the late 80s, and was well-revered in the industry, particularly in Kolkata's ad circles.

Advertising veteran Anshu Banerjee is no more. He passed away on November 1, 2011, due to old age. Banerjee is most known for his stint at Ogilvy India, whose Kolkata office he headed through the 70s and the 80s. He had also served as a director on the Ogilvy India board until the late 80s-early 90s, post which he retired, while still continuing as a consultant to clients for a while.

Banerjee's association with Ogilvy goes back to the time when it was known as Benson & Mather. He started his career as a journalist with Amrita Bazaar Patrika, and later joined advertising. He has worked across JWT (then HTA), MAA (Marketing and Advertising, an ad agency), and at Ogilvy.

Deeply saddened by this loss, Sumit Roy, founder-director, Univbrands, remarks, "I am understandably biased. Banerjee brought me into the world of advertising in 1973, and then groomed me over 14 years." Roy recalls asking him once what he enjoyed most about advertising. "He had given a paternal smile and said 'to see people grow'. And yes, it's true. Many of us such as Bunny Suraiya, Derek O'Brien, and Nirmalya Ghosh are products of his gardening," Roy says.

Suresh Mullick was Banerjee's creative partner at Ogilvy Kolkata, and together, they grew many a brand, including Bru, and Eveready Torches ('Jeevan Sathi' and 'Commander'). Roy further adds that Banerjee was amongst the first perhaps to encourage Mullick to take up the role of NCD at Ogilvy India.

In recent years, Banerjee also authored a book titled 'The Business of Advertising', which traces the evolution of advertising from 'Babylonian' times so to speak, until the advent of social media in 2005.

R Sridhar, innovation coach, Ideas RS, recalls his days of serving with Banerjee on the Ogilvy board. "I worked very closely with him when the Brooke Bond business moved from Kolkata to Bengaluru," he says. "He had a knack of making young people feel at ease, of making them talk. People sought his opinion over issues, as he was the one with the most unique approach, the most unpredictable 'I-wish-I-had-thought-of-that' kind of way to solve problems." According to Sridhar, Banerjee had a sharp mind and was an astute thinker.

Mohan Menon, director, Chennai Business School, was a copywriter during the days when Banerjee headed Ogilvy in Kolkata. He remembers him as a much-beloved ad personality who was dominant in the 'East India' advertising circles. Menon himself is a former Ogilvy board member.

"I first met him in 1974 at Ogilvy. He was a great, fun person, lovely to work with," says (Nirmalya) Ghosh, administrative officer, Birla School of Management, and who is quite emotional about his ex-boss Banerjee. He recalls an anecdote. Post his trip to Auckland, (Suresh) Mullick returned to India, and on his first day after his return, he invited Ghosh out for lunch during office hours. The duo ate leisurely and on their return, Banerjee is believed to have commented that a creative director (hinting at Mullick) can stroll in at 3 pm post lunch, but not account executives (hinting at Ghosh). "That was my lesson number one from the man," muses Ghosh.

Banerjee was also a man of principles, and when he walked into office, all the beer bottles were stashed away quickly before he saw them, remembers Ghosh.

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