Archie works on his legacy

Dur­ban’s first black ad­ver­tis­ing agency owner out­lines his jouney in the in­dus­try


ARCHIE Hi­rasen started the first black ad­ver­tis­ing agency, Red Baron Ad­ver­tis­ing, in Dur­ban, with as he puts it “a roll of dice, a few wads of notes and an undi­min­ished faith in the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try”.

Soon he scooped ac­counts with Sapref, Tiger Brands, AG Sweets, Jayshrees/ri­vaz, In­tu­ition Col­lege, Chef Braai Prod­ucts and a string of jewellers.

He has rep­re­sented the SA Tamil Fed­er­a­tion (SATF) in com­pil­ing the Hindu syl­labus at the Univer­sity of KZN Westville, been on the ex­ec­u­tive board of the SATF, the Natal Tamil Fed­er­a­tion and the In­do­log­i­cal So­ci­ety and is a founder of the Saiva Prop­a­ga­tion Cen­tre of South Africa.

He met Wal­ter Sisulu, Joe Slovo and other SACP lead­ers and un­banned ANC rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the Jo­han­nes­burg Sun in the late 1980s, to sup­port the new dis­pen­sa­tion.

Years later, he had “the sin­gu­lar priv­i­lege” of in­tro­duc­ing then-pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki to a crowd of about 40 000 at Chatsworth Sta­dium.

A trip to In­dia, when he was just 20 years old, evoked a spirit of self-dis­cov­ery.

“Trav­el­ling to In­dia alone to ex­plore the coun­try of my fore­fa­thers, was some­thing hardly heard of in the 1970s, as In­dian par­ents were al­ways very pro­tec­tive of their chil­dren.

“Hav­ing been brought up conservatively with tra­di­tional val­ues, travel opened new vis­tas of cre­ativ­ity and greater un­der­stand­ing of hu­man­ity.”

At 23, he started work­ing for one of the largest de­sign stu­dios in South Africa: Pa­ton, Tup­per & As­so­ci­ates.

“This was my great­est op­por­tu­nity, get­ting my foot in the door of a huge or­gan­i­sa­tion with in­ter­na­tional artists and il­lus­tra­tors.”

Over the next 12 years he ap­plied him­self avidly, learn­ing the ropes un­der the com­pany’s found­ing fathers.

This be­ing the “non-com­puter” era, vi­su­als and fi­nal art were pro­duced me­chan­i­cally… a long and te­dious task, he said.

Head-hunted by Matthews & Char­ter, a young dy­namic group of cre­ative spir­its, he worked on ac­counts for Lever Broth­ers, Smith & Nephew, Ocean Ap­pli­ances, Bata Shoes and El­ida Gibbs.

“I was part of the se­nior man­age­ment and also spe­cialised in il­lus­tra­tion and air­brush­ing. John Char­ter and Pe­ter Matthews gave me the solid foun­da­tion to set up my own ad­ver­tis­ing agency.”

In Red Baron Ad­ver­tis­ing, he en­sured he had a staff com­ple­ment able to de­liver high-qual­ity, cre­ative ad­ver­tis­ing.

He also lec­tured at pri­vate col­leges reg­u­larly.

With com­puter gen­er­ated art then be­com­ing the norm, he had to quickly adapt to this for­mat.

His favourite re­mains Pho­to­shop. He also stud­ied mar­ket­ing in­ten­sively to cater to the needs of his clients.

“I have been ever since.”

Due to a re­cent am­pu­ta­tion (a re­sult of di­a­betes), Hi­rasen now works alone, ser­vic­ing only a few ac­counts.

He also acts in an ad­vi­sory ca­pac­ity for sev­eral busi­nesses.

He still in­ter­acts spir­i­tual or­gan­i­sa­tions.

The Perur Aad­heenam Monastery in South In­dia (where he is a close as­so­ciate of the Pon­tiff of the Monastery), is just one.

He has given more than 1 200 dis­courses in Saiva Sid­dhan­tham (a spe­cial phi­los­o­phy of South In­dia); and met South In­dian mu­si­cal gi­ants such as KJ Ye­su­das, Pithikuli Mu­ru­gadas, Ila­yaraja and nu­mer­ous oth­ers.

Hi­rasen said he was work­ing on a se­ries of paint­ings for ex­hi­bi­tion early next year.

“This will be a legacy that I would like to leave be­hind. I also want to spend my re­main­ing years of re­tire­ment en­cour­ag­ing and teach­ing both young and old to use the can­vas to ex­press them­selves,” he said. a cre­ative with di­rec­tor sev­eral

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