Sonal Dabral is back

A look at Dabral’s ca­reer so far and the changes in Ogilvy’s lead­er­ship over the years.

The Brand Reporter - - EDITORIAL | CONTENTS -

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

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