N. Shatrujeet

Remembering Frank Simoes

Advertising legend, inveterate writer and Goaphile, Frank Simoes passed away on Sunday, August 25, following a cardiac arrest

It's a unique responsibility writing an obituary for a gentleman we, of the current generation, have heard so much of but know so little about. For where do we find words that befit a man of Frank Simoes' stature? What can we say that doesn't sound platitudinous and doesn't insult the very turn of phrase that the great man held so close to his heart? And how can we, of the current generation, be pretentious enough to praise a man whose achievements we can merely sense but never fully comprehend?

We can only try, with the help of select friends and peers who knew the true worth of the 64-year-old stalwart Indian advertising lost to a cardiac arrest on Sunday last…

A man of achievement Simoes certainly was. From freelance journalist, typist, stenographer and "stowaway on a ship bound for Europe"… all the way to becoming the youngest member on the board at Bensons and being the first Indian to start a homegrown advertising agency in 1967, Simoes is a paradigm of triumph over circumstance. Append to all this the Hall of Fame credits at the Creative Arts Guilds (CAG) and the Advertising Club, and one begins to get a measure of the man's greatness.

However, those who have had the good fortune of knowing Simoes personally, remember him best for his passion for the written word. "What an exceptional man… the finest writer of advertising in this country." Coming from an acknowledged copywriter and contemporary like Mohammed Khan of Enterprise Nexus, that is genuine praise. "We had the opportunity of seeing his work for Raymond (Frank Simoes Advertising once handled the suiting brand). Such superb work, way ahead of its time. I personally think Frank put Raymond on the top of the heap. Even his work for The Taj (Group of Hotels)… Spectacular."

"I would rate Frank as one of the best creative people in my generation, a marvelous writer," says Kersey Katrak, who is still recovering from the loss of a very dear friend. "I am two years older to him," Katrak collects himself and continues. "We grew up together in this business. I would say Frank, Mohammed and I ushered in the first creative wave in the sixties and seventies. And as a person… what can I say? He was a great friend, a great drinking partner and a true nature lover."

Simoes had once translated his love for nature into a four-ad campaign for wildlife preservation titled ‘Beauty without cruelty'. And Ganga (Gangadharan Menon) of chlorophyll believes this campaign is one of the finest ever done by Simoes. "I was at Trikaya back then, and my guru was Chris (Christopher D'Rozario), who was Frank's nephew," he recalls. "I had heard a lot about Frank from Chris, but I never got the chance to meet him." Opportunity finally presented itself in the strangest of forms. "When The Brief: was launching this book called ‘The Last Word', Anil (Thakraney, editor of The Brief:) told me that Frank hadn't sent in his work. The reason for this was Frank did not have many of the pulls. That's when I offered to recreate whatever was missing, based on photocopies etc. Frank was thrilled that somebody was willing to do this for him. Of course, for me it was like gurudakshina. Since then, we had become very close friends. A really nice, warm human being he was."

That's the impression Simoes has bequeathed to many, including ex-colleagues. "Though he was my boss, I can only describe my relationship with him as that of a friend," says Sanat Surti, who has the distinction of not only art directing many of Simoes' campaigns, but also designing the gentleman's book on his beloved Goa, ‘Glad Seasons in Goa'. "He was easy to relate to as a professional, and it was a privilege working with him and knowing him. He was very spontaneous in his decision making."

Another person who uses the word "spontaneous" to describe Simoes is Ranjan Kapur of O&M. "In '66, he wanted me to join Bensons, so we met for lunch," says Kapur. "We spoke for some time and suddenly he had made up his mind. A very good writer and a dear colleague who grew to become an even dearer friend." Kapur admits that initially, he did not think Simoes to be a good businessman. "But I am very happy to be proved wrong. In fact, I have to thank Frank for where I am today. He was my benchmark. I wanted to emulate him in his standing among his peers. It was always, ‘Can I be as successful as Frank Simoes?'"

For all this, Simoes was also a very private individual. "He lived in a world of his own, a very happy world where his life centered at a loving wife, Gita, a loving daughter, Radhika, and a lovely cocker spaniel, Snoopy," says Kapur. "He was a quiet, introverted person." But there was always place for friendship. "I knew him only for a short while, but in that time, we became good friends," Ganga says with a smile. "When he came to know that I am from Kerala, he confessed that he loved aappam and stew. So one day, on a visit to his place, I took some aappam-stew my wife had prepared. He was so touched, he called a dozen times to thank me. I really wish I had known him more and from earlier."

Those who knew him briefly wish they'd known him better. And those who knew him well admit they haven't had enough. "I am sorry to lose him as a human being and a mentor," says Kapur. "It's not just advertising… the world is a sadder place today," Khan shares the sentiment. Katrak is obviously still coming to terms with the loss.

Surti, for his part, sums up the loss in a way we, of the current generation, can best appreciate it. "There has been a big gap ever since he closed Frank Simoes Advertising in the ‘90s and stopped working. I missed him then. Now I miss him even more." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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