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Defining Moments: Prabha Prabhu: The Adwoman

By Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Planning & Buying | February 26, 2014
Prabha Prabhu, who is CEO, Madison BMB, started working when she was 35. She looks back at a few key moments in her career.

Until I turned 35, all the experience that I can recount is as a social worker associated with an orphanage. I used to stitch clothes for the kids there, cut their hair and spend time grooming them.

Prabha Prabhu

The first defining moment of my life was when I separated from my husband. I had two kids who were five and six years old, then. That is when I started working at the age of 35.

I started with space selling for a publication called Investment Today. I managed to do well there. In fact, I got them double the number of ads than they used to get earlier, but I didn't like space selling as such.

New calling

The grass looked greener on the advertising side. I used to meet ad agencies when I was with Investment Today and the work always attracted me. I quit my job to join a small agency - Source Advertising. Having worked there for a short time, I went to AG Krishnamoorthy at Mudra.

I joined Mudra in 1983, at a much lower salary; the idea was to earn enough to keep my house going but more importantly, I wanted to enjoy what I did. At Mudra, I was handling all the clients as well as liaison work for the Ahmedabad office. In the beginning I used to be extremely stressed. I had the option of drowning or swimming. I decided to swim and got promoted to a senior level in just two years.

When Sam (Balsara) decided to quit Mudra, he called me one day and offered me a share in the business he was setting up. I was doing very well for myself at Mudra and I wasn't sure if I wanted to upset the apple cart. But what excited me was that Mr. Adi Godrej said that he would give us the Cinthol account. The Tatas gave us the Nelco TV account. I was very excited to start with such big and prestigious brands. The year we started Madison (1988), we made Cinthol the leader in premium soap market beating Lever brand Liril.

When Godrej and P&G got together to form PGG, we started working with P&G. They were happy with us and encouraged us to align with one of their roster agencies, DMB&B (D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles). We soon became their agency handling their flagship brands Whisper and Vicks. We made Whisper the leader despite their premium pricing and it was personally a fulfilling experience.

All in the family

Being part of the P&G Global Strategic Think Tank on Whisper, I travelled a lot and worked with people from all over the world. I realised the power of this exposure and wanted my children to get this exposure too. I sent my son and daughter abroad for their education. Today, both are in advertising in New York, my son in Deutsch Advertising and my daughter in Ogilvy.

Another very important phase of my life was when Madison signed a JV with Beattie McGuinness Bungay - popularly known as BMB - to form Madison BMB. With Raj Nair as my creative head, who has won awards for many campaigns, we have already achieved our targets for this financial year with a 144 per cent growth till December versus a year ago.

I believe you should do what you are passionate about. I am glad I got into advertising.

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