Aishwarya Ramesh

"Vocal for local won't make impact unless products are truly Indian": Piyush Pandey, Ogilvy

In a webinar hosted for Amazon's employees, the veteran adman spoke about advertising history, 'vocal for local', among other things.

Piyush Pandey is a name to reckon with in the Indian advertising industry. A 'chai' addict, the veteran adman says that when he was younger, he was so passionate about cricket that studies took a backseat. In a 'Fireside Friday' chat hosted for Amazon's employees by Satish Upadhyay, the head of marketing, Amazon India Marketplace. Pandey reveled in an honest and heartfelt conversation where Upadhyay quizzed him about cricket, advertising and writing.

Satish Upadhyay in conversation with Piyush Pandey
Satish Upadhyay in conversation with Piyush Pandey

He informed viewers that he joined the world of advertising when colour television first entered people’s homes in 1982. “Clients woke up to the fact that they were reaching people’s homes and that if they were talking in English, their audience wasn’t understanding them. We were 10 years too late to realise that we were advertising to Indians who spoke in Indian languages,” said Pandey. He claims he was in the right place at the right time, and that it was important to pay attention to details.

Some of Pandey’s most famous ads – the Fevicol fisherman ad and the Cadbury Dairy Milk 'Kuch Khaas Hai' ad – were played during the webinar.

On the Dairy Milk ad, Pandey said, “We couldn’t find a way to convince people, who were growing out of their childhood, to continue having chocolate. We’d portrayed earlier that chocolate was for children as a reward for, say, doing well in an exam. That’s what made adults think that it was for kids, not for them. They would eat it in hiding, but not in the open – that was the main problem.”

“The thought was that there’s a child inside most adults that wants to break out – so the idea was to unshackle the child within you. Children loved the fact that adults wanted to make a mickey out of themselves, and adults loved the fact that they were now free to act childish and do the things they felt like doing,” added Pandey. He admits that he knew he was sitting on a good thing, but the stamp of greatness is one given by the audience – and one he wasn’t expecting for this pitch.

“If magic has to happen, it will happen. Nobody can make it happen, or force it to happen.”
Piyush Pandey

The Fevicol ad featured a bus full of people hanging on (to it), yet none of them were falling off despite the bumpy road/ride.

It was pointed out that this ad was as local as it gets. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently pushed the ‘vocal for local’ idea, which, in turn, prompted brands to beat their chests about their ‘Indian-ness’. “It won’t cut through the clutter, or make impact, if a brand simply claims to be local. They need to be truly local in what they do, make local products that make the world sit up and take notice,” said Pandey.

“Learn to put your neck on the line, but do your homework so your head doesn’t get cut off.”
Piyush Pandey

During the course of the discussion, Pandey mentioned that a campaign he is proud of is the one he did with Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan for the cause of polio awareness. “When India was declared polio free in 2014, it felt like a huge emotional victory for us. We played a small part in the process – the communication part of it. The doctors, the panchayats, the Health Ministry, etc., played a much bigger role.”

Next came the Vodafone ads – the ‘Happy to Help’ ad with the pug was played, along with the one featuring Zoozoos.

Pandey admits that the pug ads happened because he sat it out and left it to the creative team. He revealed that the dog initially brought in for the ad didn't perform and the pug ended up becoming a stand-in. "Every time I pass a pug on the street, I give it a salute, or a 'salaam', because these ads went on to define Vodafone-Hutch in India."

The last ad of the webinar was an ad close to Pandey's heart - made for Amazon. The ad was a piece for Amazon Saheli. Amazon Saheli is a platform created for women to bring forth their skills and help them stand on their feet. From handicrafts to handmade books, jewellery to eco-friendly stationery to unique fashion accessories, it has a wide range of products created by women.

The campaign aims to highlight the work of these women which helps them become independent. A press note mentions that the idea is to showcase how women leave their mark in everything they make. The film shows you how Amazon Saheli is powering her dreams and ambitions every day.

Pandey mentions that without the cooperation of Upadhyay's brand team, Ogilvy couldn't have made the magic that they did with the Saheli film. Upadhyay and his team was responsible for launching Amazon storyboxes which illustrated QR codes with sellers' pictures; to give users a glimpse into the making of the product and the person who made it.

Amazon has used this element to bring sellers to the forefront of their marketplace in India and hence, create a deeper connect with customers. The Storybox features the stories of Amazon sellers who have seen a transformative impact in their lives by selling on the marketplace and are positively impacting the society through their businesses.

Watch the full discussion below.

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