Sonal Dabral is back
A look at Dabral’s career so far and the changes in Ogilvy’s leadership over the years.
The story of Ogilvy India and Sonal Dabral, its recently appointed group chief creative officer and vice chairman, are intertwined. And how!
Each time Dabral’s journey in advertising is recalled, his “Humko Binnies Mangta” ad comes up. It is also a good time to re-look the leadership of Ogilvy India over the years.
Pandey’s work on brands like Cadbury inspired Dabral to join him at the time. The duo’s Kuch Khaas Hai ad (1994) changed the way the agency – and the chocolate segment – was perceived.
Recently, Ogilvy India announced a high profile appointment - Sonal Dabral has come on board as group chief creative officer and vice chairman of the agency.
There’s no better time than now to re-look Dabral’s career so far.
Before he joined the ad industry, Dabral, an NID graduate, was a TV host. As mentioned on Dabral’s LinkedIn page, he joined Ogilvy Mumbai in 1991. In what is still remembered as a great partnership, he worked closely with Piyush Pandey and “drove the agency from creative anonymity to India’s No.1 creative agency.”
In fact, it was Pandey’s work on brands like Luna, Fevicol and Cadbury that inspired Dabral to join him at the time. The duo’s Kuch
Khaas Hai ad (1994) changed the way the agency – and the chocolate segment – was perceived.
After that, Dabral worked at Ogilvy Kuala Lumpur (1999) as ECD, after which he joined Ogilvy Singapore. In 2011-12, he joined DDB Mudra India as chairman and chief creative officer, before which he led Bates across India and Singapore.
Dabral spent five years at Mudra before moving to Ogilvy. A couple of weeks back, Mudra announced that Rahul Mathew and Brijesh Kacob would take the mantle forward in the wake of Dabral’s exit from the agency.
Each time Dabral’s journey in advertising is recalled, his Humko Binnies Mangta ad comes up.
Meanwhile, Bobby Pawar (managing director and chief creative officer, Publicis Worldwide, South Asia) writes on Facebook, “The corridors of Ogilvy will once again echo with Sonal’s puns and Piyush’s subsequent laughter. It’s been what, nearly two decades since that happened. Damn, it brings back some great memories,” adding, “PS: Many of us who were a part of the 90s Ogilvy gang, knew Sonal would return home, the only question was when.”
Now’s also a good time to re-look the leadership of Ogilvy India over the years – recent and remote.
In 2014, Abhijit Avasthi moved out of Ogilvy, after leading the agency’s creative department as co-NCD, along with his partner Rajiv Rao. Speaking of whom, recall that, in a move that impacted the agency’s creative product significantly, Rao and Mahesh V – (who worked on brands like Hutch/Orange back then – now, Vodafone, a brand that Rao has famously created the Zoozoos for) – moved from Ogilvy Mumbai to Bangalore in September 2003. Rao has now moved on from the agency to pursue ad film-making.
At the moment, Kunal Jeswani heads Ogilvy as CEO; he was promoted to the position early in 2015 before which he was the agency’s chief digital officer. At the time, it was an important appointment for two reasons: Ogilvy filled the CEO’s chair after a gap of six whole years; the last time the agency had a CEO was in 2008 – Pratap Bose. And, more importantly, it was the first time a digital brain was made CEO of a creative ship.
At present, Piyush Pandey is executive chairman and creative director, Ogilvy & Mather, India and South Asia. As he mentioned – in upper case – in his book
Pandeymonium, “I have no intention to work anywhere other than Ogilvy.”
Pandey joined Ogilvy in 1982 (he was 27), back when Suresh Mullick (who spent his entire 35-year-long career at Ogilvy - (his Gale mein khich khich line for Vicks is still used in local parlance today!) - was the hot creative spark at the firm. However, it was an era when the agency’s creative product wasn’t its “lead weapon” as Pandey, in a 2009 interview with afaqs!, put it. Agencies like Rediffusion and Lintas were hotter on the creative front. (In the ‘80s, another strong leader who shaped Ogilvy’s product was Roda Mehta).
One of the defining moments for Ogilvy was when Ranjan Kapur joined the agency in 1994, as managing director. It was Kapur, in fact, who made Pandey creative director of Ogilvy Mumbai. Kapur, then, had taken over from Mani Iyer and changed the lens through which the agency approached its end product... the lens he fixed, one that stays firmly in place today, was the creative one.n