So he wrote a book on the stories behind the scenes of some his favourite ads from the past - recent and remote. And he's already alluding to a Part 2.
"When I meet non-advertising people, the first thing they ask is, 'So what do you do in advertising?' When I answer, they don't always understand what 'advertising' is... then you say, 'Have you seen that ad?' They'll say, 'Yes'. Their interest is in ads," KV Sridhar, founder of HyperCollective, a consultancy (strategy, technology, data, creative), tells afaqs!, about the universal appeal ads have in India.
here.It was this mass fascination with ads that prompted Pops, as he is fondly known, to write a book about the stories behind some popular ads. Read an excerpt from the book
"They want to know which celebrities we've worked with, what happens behind the scenes... they have no source where they can find out more about the ads they love. I want people to know how Piyush Pandey and other people from advertising look..." explains Pops, "Write ups about ads (in publications like this one) are skewed towards industry people, not common people - the people you meet on flights, for instance. So this book is not for advertising people. Even advertising people, in fact, won't know all the stories, unless they sit and drink with these legends..."
In the book, titled '30 Second Thrillers', published by Bloomsbury, Pops has listed the following professionals as contributors: Alyque Padamsee, Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi, R. Balki, Josy Paul, Prahlad Kakkar, Kailash Surendranath, Prasoon Pandey, Ram Madhvani, Shantanu Sheorey, Prakash Varma, KS Chakravarthy, Agnello Dias, Gauri Shinde, Amit Sharma, Nitesh Tiwari, Priti Nair, Arun Iyer, Shriram Iyer, Ashish Khazanchi, Kartik Iyer, Parshu Narayanan, the late AG Krishnamurthy, and himself.
"The real objective (of writing this book) is to bring those stories out before we lose them... After AGK gave an interview for this book, we lost him..." says Pops. AG Krishnamurthy is the only 'business person' in the book. "The reason I had to bring AGK into the book is, there's no one else who can talk about old campaigns like Only Vimal, Rasna girl...."
"We have already lost one golden era of print advertising - the generation of art directors, copy writers from the era between the post-independence phase and the '60s, '70s... till TV came. Unless we document the work and the stories, they'll get lost," he explains, "I am in a unique position to bring these stories out, because as far as TV ads are concerned, actual television work is what we - my generation and the one before me - did. The next generation is doing a bit of television and a bit of everything else."
The ads chronicled in the book go back 40 years; the collection includes ads from the Doordarshan days (Surf, for example).
Pops interviewed 24 people and has written about the stories and anecdotes behind around 110 ads. It took him a year to conduct all the interviews, and another six months to put it all together. How did he pick the ads? "It's all my gut-feel," he says, "I have no moral obligation to pick any ad over another. I didn't pick them based on the personalities or agencies that created them... it was ad-driven."
The first person he interviewed was Prahlad Kakkar. "He and his wife came home. My wife and I hosted them. Prahlad said, 'Pops I want to sleep after this Andhra meal...!' So I had a tough time getting him to stay awake and talk," he laughs, "Aggie came home too. Priti and Chax came home. I met Balki at Taj Land's End. He was busy shooting for 'Ki and Ka' at the time, but I said, 'Balki, you just have to meet me' and he did. I met Prasoon Pandey at his house over dinner; Prasoon and his wife cooked authentic Rajasthani food - dal baati and all - for us. I met Prakash Varma at his office, Amit Sharma at his, Kailash Surendranath at Breach Candy Club... it was Kailash who gave Salman Khan his first break in a (Campa Cola) ad after he spotted him roaming bare-chested at the same club... we recalled those old times. I met Shantanu Sheorey at Goa..."
"If two people were involved in the same ad (for instance Prasoon Joshi and Ram Madhvani for Happydent), I didn't repeat my questions. I asked them different questions," he says.
Ask Pops to pick his favourite story from the book and he jumps into an anecdote: "Some of them are better story tellers than others. In the book, Prasoon Pandey is a master storyteller; he must have added a five per cent hyperbolic twist to all his stories! In (the context of the) Fevicol (Marine) ad, in which many chairs are stacked up on a boat and the guy starts throwing them in the water when he sees a beautiful village girl, Prasoon said, 'Pops I must thank you for that ad'. That's when he revealed that he took inspiration from my iPad painting - a specific one of a village girl in a long-sleeved yellow blouse... I didn't know he did that much homework." Read about Pops' iPad paintings in our 2011 story.
Pops then spoke to us about the here and now: "Advertising on television is becoming cacophonous day by day; it's not the kind that advertising that people love and want to know more about. TVCs have become mindless 20-second, story-less, catalogue-type, transactional commercials. These ads have no personality, no voice... what press advertising used to do earlier, television advertising is doing today."
"Content on YouTube, however, is good," Pops grants, "The art of storytelling is shifting from television to the internet." Among the current lot, he picks the recent Vicks ad about a transgender mom as his favourite. The ad is directed by Neeraj Ghaywan. Read our story on that ad, created by Publicis Singapore, here.
Pops laments, "Advertising agencies in this generation have not learnt the art of telling stories in longer format. They can, at best, stretch their skills to one minute, not beyond. On the internet, because (media) is free, they have a very 'loose edit', 'director's cut' kind of (approach). Over three minutes, they can't sustain the point... Today, fictional content needs to be treated as non-fiction for it to be good."