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Alyque Padamsee: The God who changed the face of Indian advertising

He wouldn't stand down if he was sure of the quality of his product, He'd either convince the client, or redo the entire thing. Compromise was not his style

Urvi Malvania 

Alyque Padamsee, often hailed as the ‘Brand father of Indian Advertising’, and founder of India who passed away at the age of 90, donned many hats in his lifetime – that of an ad guru, a actor and producer, and author. Those who have worked with him or under him, however remember him bringing guts, glory and intuition to Indian advertising.

Padamsee was the man behind many iconic advertising campaigns in the country. While the Liril girl in the waterfall is among his most referenced work, he was also the man behind Cherry Charlie -– the mascot for Cherry Blossom shoe polish, and the MRF (tyre brand) Muscle Man. He was the force behind the Hamara campaign, created the Lalitaji character for Surf and the Kamasutra couple.

Sonal Dabral, group chief creative officer and vice chairman at Ogilvy India says it was Padamsee who inspired him to pursue advertising. “When I was a student at NID (Institute of Design), was the one name that I knew. I was interested in as well and he managed both his passions very efficiently. I decided that I wanted to work at once I graduated and so I applied at Delhi and that was my first job. I spent five years at Lintas, the first five years of my advertising career, and worked with Alyque on a couple of projects in that time,” he reveals.

Dabral adds that apart from having tremendous energy to juggle both advertising and theatre, Padamsee was a perfectionist to the core. “He demanded perfection from everyone (at Lintas). He was meticulous about all the work that the agency did, so much so that every film across offices of Lintas had to be signed off by him. He paid great attention to detail, something that we all learnt from him. He inspired young people (like me) to enter advertising.”

He mentored many of the leading ad and brand gurus of today, including the Late Anand Halve, and KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar. He hired Pops and KS Chakravarthy (Chax) to Lintas back in 1992. Pops recalls that the hiring process itself was quite an event as it involved all the board members and general managers of Lintas back then.

“We made a presentation like and agency pitching its portfolio to a client. There were 14 people in the room. In the lunch break, Alyque asked the general managers from the five units of Lintas to woo us. It was a very novel hiring process. We were the most expensive creative talent at the time, and he even offered to hire us as one person, and split the salary. When we refused that, he gave us charge of Unit 3 at Lintas, and asked us to ‘make it shine’.”

Apart from his achievements in the advertising world, Padamsee was also a force to reckon with in the world of known for productions like Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Tuglaq.

His love for theatre also permeated his working style in advertising. KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar, founder and chief creative officer at HyperCollective recalls, “He would treat a presentation like a performance in front of hundreds of people. He was meticulous to the smallest detail. Servicing executives were sent to the presentation venue to scout the place a couple of days in advance. He would ask for details like the layout of the room, the number of chairs, where the plug-points were, and where the MD/head (on the client’s side) would be seated. Being a tall man himself, he would also sometimes ask how tall the client is, so he knew whether to address him while standing, or seated.”

Padamsee also trained those working under him in the art of interacting with people. He would train his executives in things like who to address for what part of the presentation, and how to shift eye contact from one person to another. He also realised the power of film and television early on, convincing companies like Unilever to invest in television ads, at a time when print ads were the order of the day.

“He was the first creative person to recognise and fully realize the power of film in an era when press ads were the only competence of Indian creatives. He started as film chief, grew to creative head, and went on to become the first creative person to head a major advertising agency in India. Along the way, he masterminded more major campaigns, creating more mega brands than anybody else ever has,” says Chax who went on to start the agency Tidal7 and is currently its chief creative officer.

Pops recalls an important lesson he learnt from Padamsee, “I was always soft spoken and would agree to most things. He taught me the value of being tough and standing up (to clients or seniors) if I was convinced in my idea and believed in the work. He would not stand down if he was sure of the quality of the product he was delivering. He would either convince the client, or redo the entire thing. Compromise for the sake of pacifying (the client) was not his style.”

Chax recalls an incident when Padamsee was on the receiving end of this lesson. “Alyque had categorically banned any tables obstructing or visually messing up the main aisles running down each unit. For the first time in the history of Lintas my partner Pops and I hired two finishing artists, to put an end to the ridiculous practice of using talented visualisers to finish layouts. Since there was no other space available, we had two work stations put up outside our cabin, bang in the aisle. When Alyque raised hell, I told Admin to tell him I had insisted, since I wanted every last layout to be finished where we could personally keep an eye on it. End of discussion -- that was an argument Alyque would never ever contest.”

“There were jokes and wisecracks aplenty about God and his giant ego -- but he was a true Colossus who changed Indian advertising forever,” he adds.

First Published: Sat, November 17 2018. 19:08 IST