Devina Joshi

Mudra attempts 'public display of affection' for Bobby Pawar

January 11, 2012, was Bobby Pawar's first day at work at JWT India. Outside the office, the agency he left behind -- Mudra -- unleashed a cheeky hoarding, welcoming him at JWT. The story unfolds.

Mudra attempts 'public display of affection' for Bobby Pawar
So, what was Bobby Pawar's first reaction to the hoarding put up by Mudra outside the JWT Mumbai office on the morning of January 11, 2012, addressing him? "I laughed!" answers the adman, currently chief creative officer and managing partner at JWT India.

For those who tuned in late, January 11 was Pawar's first day at work at JWT India, after having left the Mudra Group as chief creative officer at the end of 2011. As a gesture to wish him well, Mudra put up a hoarding at Lower Parel, outside Peninsula Corporate Park, which is where the JWT Mumbai office is located. The hoarding contained the copy 'Mudra welcomes Bobby Pawar to JWT', with the Mudra logo to adorn it, alongside. It was the brainchild of Pratap Bose, COO, Mudra Group.

Mudra attempts 'public display of affection' for Bobby Pawar
Mudra attempts 'public display of affection' for Bobby Pawar
Mudra attempts 'public display of affection' for Bobby Pawar
Mudra attempts 'public display of affection' for Bobby Pawar
Interestingly, Pawar didn't quite see the hoarding on his way to work that morning, and says that he "may have missed it as his car whizzed past". He was intimated of it only once Bose rang him up to check. "I told him I haven't seen it, so he prompted me to check out a picture of it on his Facebook page," grins Pawar. "I looked at it and just laughed as it was so cheeky!"

Pawar adds here that it's a great gesture on the part of Mudra, to have done something like this. "It's flattering that the agency still feels enough about me to put this up," he says. "Anyone who thinks Mudra is being malicious, is stupid," he adds.

When asked about the industry's reaction and the innumerable calls he may have received about it, Pawar is nonchalant. "Journalists called me more than ad folk," he quips. "And, I anyway don't care too much about what people think about me, so it's all okay." He adds that the reaction from Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT India, was 'a smile'.

Bose talks of the reason behind a public display as this one. He says, "It's all in good spirit, and a way for us to say 'thank you' to Bobby for his contribution at Mudra. It's in good humour, and tongue-in-cheek, minus any devious intent." Bose punctuates his point with facts: on putting up the picture on his Facebook profile, in a short span of time, there were 200 'likes', and over 50 comments, mostly all commending the creativity behind it, barring the odd comment or two which questioned the agency's intentions behind such a public statement.

"It was an attempt to bring the fun back into advertising. We're all a family at the end of the day," shrugs Bose. The hoarding is still up, and will be for a few days more.

Hoarding, hoarding on the 'wall'

Largely, the industry got to see the hoarding only on Bose's Facebook wall, and brought about more than a chuckle or two, by way of reactions. Says K V Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India, "While there have been private quips about JWT's three-NCD structure, or probes on Bobby's decision to quit Mudra at this stage and move on to a bigger agency, no one is taking offence here. It is a jovial attempt in good spirit, and nothing else."

Sridhar aka Pops feels the attempt is 'harmless' and reminded him a little of the airline wars on outdoor media a few years ago, in Mumbai. "It brought out a similar laugh in me," he jokes. Pops does feel that as the hoarding makes more sense to ad folk than the common public, perhaps the hoarding should have been inside the Peninsula Corporate Park instead of outside, but that is just a question of geography.

He shares an interesting story: when he quit Lowe Lintas and Partners in 2003, and joined Leo Burnett, the entire Burnett crowd stood outside the office on the street, with garlands and band baaja (with musical instruments, desi style) to welcome him. In fact, the road there was jammed as a result of the celebration. "It is something similar to this," chuckles Pops. However, in Pawar's case, it is not the 'welcoming' agency that has undertaken such a gesture, but the previous one.

Priti Nair, founder, Curry Nation, too echoes the sentiment that it is a sweet gesture on Mudra's behalf. "It is the agency's way of saying 'we're still good with you, and that there is nothing lost between us'. Bose himself called Pawar up, so clearly it's a fun, light-hearted effort," she opines.