Shreyas Kulkarni

"When someone gives you freedom, they give you 10 times more responsibility": Piyush Pandey

The veteran adman talks about Ogilvy's latest anti-COVID ad, the difference between working for brand and government clients, and how freedom begets responsibility.

"Our aim is to mentally prepare people, to be strong, open and human. And, when we use all these elements, only then will we be able to combat something as devastating as this," says Piyush Pandey.

The chief creative officer worldwide & executive chairman India, Ogilvy, is referring to the latest ad in his agency's anti-Coronavirus campaign for the government.

Featuring Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, the ad talks about the virus' dual attack – physical and mental – on humans. As far as the mental attack goes, people may grow suspicious and get scared of those who've recovered. "Only we can win this battle of the mind," says Bachchan.

"We used Mr Bachchan because he speaks with a lot of conviction, and carries so much credibility" reveals Pandey.

"Mental strength is challenged in many ways. It is shaken when you see tragedy around yourself. It makes you insecure and insular, and can sometimes make you suicidal also. If you don't get rid of these things, you will start feeling insecure about those you love. You'll start fearing friends, who've been part of your lives. You'll get so obsessed with fear that you won't even allow others to help you," adds Pandey.

"We become insecure – if I tell my problem to someone, will they leave me alone? What will they think of me? We feel scared of people who've been struck by this virus. We're so scared that we end up treating them as untouchables, though they've been cleared by the doctors."

Pandey says the aim of this campaign is to help people. "... Be secure in yourself, be helpful to each other, don't disown people who've gone through a problem, or who're still going through a problem."

He says that unless we help each other, we won't be able to face the problem as a team, as a community, as a country, and as a worldwide fraternity.

Clients: Brands versus government

We asked Pandey about the difference in creating such campaigns that aim to change people's mindsets for two sets of clients, i.e., the brands and the government.

His response, "The person involved makes all the difference. Different people have different approaches. Some people get the best out of you and use you for your talent, and encourage you to give your best."

"They may be a brand client or a government client. You may have bad brand clients or bad government clients. You may have bad creative people or good creative people. So when the chemistry is correct, the understanding of the objective is correct, then it doesn't matter if you're a government client or a consumer brand client. It all depends on the person you're dealing with."

Pandey talks about how someone can approach you, thinking that you will listen and understand their problem. Then you and your team "... give them solutions which are meant for the people they're trying to deliver this message to, and not be self-indulgent. That combination works."

Freedom and responsibility

Pandey says that when he's working on campaigns like the work he's done on COVID - 19, he's given the freedom to do things his way. On his work for Gujarat Tourism, he says, "... had a single client at that time who used to brief me and give me all the freedom to do what I wanted to do with Mr Bachchan (again), and the client's name was Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat at that time and the incumbent prime minister of India."

Pandey says he changed the tourism line from 'Vibrant Gujarat', which was being used for attracting business and promoting tourism together to 'Khushboo Gujarat Ki'.

He goes on to talk about freedom, saying it is essential. "Never misuse freedom," says the legendary adman, adding, "It is actually not that free. When someone gives you freedom, they give you 10 times more responsibility."

According to him, when somebody says, 'I believe you', then you tend to question yourself 50 times, but when somebody says, 'I want it like this', then you get lazy because they've defined as to what they want.

"When someone says that 'I trust you, this is my scenario, this is what I want to do and now do it your way', there's pressure. You then start rejecting ideas. You don't need a client to reject ideas. You’re constantly reminded that somebody has placed a bet on you, somebody will actually buy what you say, so I better not sell the wrong thing," Pandey signs off.

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