Neha Kalra

Profile: Sanjib Dey being married to advertising

Though thoughts about joining his family’s restaurant business cropped up now and then, for Sanjib Dey the pull of advertising was much stronger. afaqs! caught up with the new president of Saatchi & Saatchi one afternoon to know why advertising is his ‘choice’

Two years into his first job as an account executive (after MICA) in Fountainhead Communications’ Chennai office, Sanjib Dey had to return to Kolkata in1995 when his father retired. Since Fountainhead did not have a Kolkata office, he joined Clarion.

Kolkata was not a major advertising centre then. Six months after joining Clarion, Dey decided to shift base to Delhi. With offers from RK Swamy and Everest, he chose the latter simply because it was the first to hand him an offer letter.

Profile: Sanjib Dey being married to advertising
How does Dey view his affair with advertising? “It’s like a marriage. If you’re in it by choice, you will make sure that it works, no matter what. But if it is an impulsive decision, you will shrug it off the day it gives trouble.” Sixteen years of that marriage, six agencies and many brands later, what has the experience taught him? And which is the brand he enjoyed working on the most?

The 41-year-old Dey doesn’t hesitate as he picks LG. Many people think that LG is a low cost - and not very aspirational - brand that was aimed at low-end consumers. Dey doesn’t agree. According to him, LG has been innovating constantly.

“Being aspirational is about what your needs are. For a person who wishes to purchase an Audi, a Maruti will not be aspirational. But if he is also looking at a less expensive alternative, Maruti is certainly aspirational for him. LG is bought by both high-end and low-end consumers alike,” declares Dey. He goes on to compare LG with Nokia. “Just because the brand gets most of its volumes from the low-end segment doesn’t make it any less aspirational. If Nokia sells a phone worth Rs 1,000, it also sells one worth Rs 40,000 equally well enough, and mind you, across segments. Talks about LG being middle-class are all armchair discussions.”

Dey is an admirer of Santosh Sood who, while at Lowe (since LG’s Lucky Goldstar days), was greatly responsible for the brand being where it is. Dey worked on LG at Capital Advertising in 2005, and then again in Lowe in 2006. Dey also cherishes the time spent with Mohammed Khan during his two stints at Bates Enterprise (then Enterprise Nexus). He got to work with Khan on the General Motors account. “Khan could translate a simple brief into something magical!” says Dey, reverently. He has other heroes too.

“Minds like Ajit Shah at Everest, Shanta Kumar and S Ghosh (better known as SG) at Saatchi, Subhash Kamath at Enterprise (now Bates) and Nirvik Singh at Grey helped me understand what it takes to create good advertising.” Dey believes that Grey “shaped” him as a professional. It was Grey that first offered him the chance to be in charge, manage and steer large projects such as Hyundai, Aviva, Carrier Aircon, Ranbaxy and Haier. In 2005, after a short stint at Capital, he flirted with the idea of joining the restaurant business. But 10 days later, he was back in advertising joining Lowe. Dey rejoined Saatchi & Saatchi in 2007 as executive vice-president, eight years after his first tryst with the agency. Now, as president, he is assisting Kamal Basu in the decision-making processes.

Does he feel he has moved too many agencies? “When you are giving more than 110 per cent for the team whose jersey you are wearing, I don’t think it matters,” he says. Dey is an outdoors person (one can’t catch him in town on weekends) who likes listening to Indian classical and folk music. Life in advertising too was a whirl of travel between Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Delhi. And wherever he went, Dey took his motorbike (which he had from 1989-2002) along.

What if the restaurant bug bites again? “I might want to do it five-six years later. And I’ll do it myself - there were too many stakeholders involved earlier.”

(Profile is a regular column which peeps into the career path of senior advertising, media and marketing professionals, who are currently in the news.)

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