I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.
But who shall so forecast the years
And find in loss a gain to match?
Or reach a hand thro' time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?
These lines taken from Alfred Lord Tennyson's famous poem, In Memoriam echoes the feelings of friends, well wishers, colleagues and students who see in the demise of advertising legend Larry Grant on April 30, a passing away of an era when advertising was truly a gentleman's profession and advertising folk, a species that strove to achieve excellence at the highest level.
"He was an invaluable friend," asserts a grief-stricken Jameel Gulrays, who recently launched Cutthroat Communications with renowned art director Gopi Kukde. "His depth of character can be gauged from the fact that if I were to tell him that I have killed somebody, far from being judgmental and critical, he would in all likelihood take me in his arms and tell me, "Let's sit down and see the problem through."
Copywriter, teacher, columnist, consultant - Grant was a man of many parts. Born on October 10, 1937, his advertising career spanning 35 years saw him oscillate between O&M, JWT (then HTA) and Contract with brief stints at ASP, Radeus and his very own Larry Grant Communications.
Ranjan Kapur, vice-chairman, Ogilvy Asia Pacific and executive chairman, Ogilvy India, whose association with Grant goes back to the late sixties when both were young men working at Bensons (now O&M) says, "Larry was a spirited fellow with a great sense of humour. We had great times together especially in the evenings during the good old days of prohibition. He was thorough as a copywriter, giving attention to detail and craftsmanship. He wasn't the one who would merely write his lines and get going, but would see his work through to the end. At a time when the copy and art departments were two separate units, he was one of the first few copywriters to have worked very closely with art directors."
Grant's most notable campaigns include the one for Liberty Shirts, Bajaj Auto and a family planning campaign for the Government of India in the sixties. As Kapur of O&M states, "He was an articulate writer, finicky about his choice of words and how sentences were crafted."
Ram Sehgal, president, Rediffusion DY&R, and erstwhile head of Contract Advertising, knows only too well; after all, Sehgal had first hired Grant in the early seventies while working at JWT, Mumbai, as account director. "He was a perfectionist. A wonderful person, and a valuable asset. I hired his services for several projects and every time Larry came across as very systematic, who did his homework thoroughly and met every deadline. If the client wasn't keen on something, he would bounce back in the right spirit. I hired his services again while at Contract in 1990 as training director for our training centre in Andheri. He ran it for six years."
Erstwhile competitors such as Ishan Raina, chief executive officer, Euro RSCG India, who first met Grant in the late eighties while working on the Bajaj Auto account for Lintas (now Lowe) has fond memories of the man. Grant was representing his outfit Larry Grant Communications on the business. "He was a perfect gentleman who remained curious about things to the end including technology. He was fond of training and I was fond of him."
Training was a passion with Larry Grant. He, along with Gulrays and the late Govind Sajnani of CAG (Communications Arts Guild), founded the Training and Professional Development Committee at the AAAI in 1983-84. The committee was responsible for a number of workshops conducted in tandem by Grant and Gulrays.
A prolific writer, Grant authored a number of books including one on advertising for Commerce students when Mumbai University included the subject in their syllabus. A regular columnist with The Times of India, Grant conceived the tabloid The Daily, which was a popular paper in Mumbai.
"They don't make men like that anymore. He was simple, honest, direct and sincere," says Sam Balsara, CMD, Madison Communications and president, AAAI.
Adds Mike Khanna, chief executive, JWT, "I have fond memories of Larry. We were colleagues for several years (at HTA). We shall miss him and he will be remembered as a person devoted to training generations of advertising professionals."
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