By Shivaji Dasgupta
It would be terrifyingly impertinent to classify Piyush Pandey’s Open House as a book on advertising and marketing. Instead, it is best served as a masterclass in relationship management, of sincere value to everyone engaged in the game of meaningful leadership.Relationships that start with the unabashedly human and extend organically to complex business patterns, influencing how fortunes are nurtured and developed. The art of curating intra-agency tidings, made more challenging by the omnipresence of sensitive creative minds, including lessons in amplifying performers and neutralising incompetencies. Then, of course, the secret sauce for client bonding, with both actors and brands, thus leading to magical outcomes.
Most interestingly, the constantly evolving relationship with the author’s inner self (moustache included), as the universe altered dramatically over his compelling tenure, propelled by advances in technology and the perils of Covid.A well-entrenched truth in the advertising industry is Pandey’s unique acumen in building talent, not for petty self furtherance (common in the field) or even corporate talent enhancement, but for the larger goalpost of building an industry corpus. Which does mean that some of his proteges continue to thrive in Ogilvy, while an awesome set of significant others enrich competing organisations. In this context, he touches upon the much abused subject of ‘credit’ distribution, stating clearly that there can never be a solitary creator for great brand ideas. While naming his accomplices directly for a famous few, the practical perspective of media flaunting his name for ‘story-worthiness’ is suitably delinked from the team-driven operational process of campaign creation.
Make no mistake, this trait is not projective magnanimity, it is actually a demonstration of big picture leadership, when inarguably delivered for decades. Equally insightful is the equilibrium established in client relationships, the fine balancing of high-intensity delivery and energetic empathy, a lesson for all in the ever-expanding service economy. The precursor of sustainable emotion is invariably sincere performance, a combination of unimpeachable integrity and, of course, exceptional domain skills. Only when this is firmly established does the trust factor truly emerge, and what seems like effusive camaraderie to the naked eye, is actually the outcome of relentless toil. After a while, as in the formidable case of Pandey, the referrals appear organically, but excellence must be constantly unleashed in this hyper competitive world. On the subject of excellence as a nonstop journey, a fine illustration arrives from Pandey’s cricketing career, from his short-lived tenure as member of the Rajasthan state team. A poignantly self-addressed cause for abject failure was viewing the selection as a goal in finality, instead of a point in transition towards greater accomplishments. Herein, lies a reality way beyond advertising or cricket, or indeed, corporate expressways at large, and what is intensely remarkable is how a global success candidly confesses to debacles en route. This is rather unusual for Indian leaders, as our cultural moorings firmly distance us from human frailties, lest they discolour the gravitas of the much-vaunted designation.
Over the course of these interactive musings, the opinions on start-up culture and the impact of Covid and technology on creativity and working styles are stated in a rooted yet futuristic manner. He dismisses, thoughtfully, the notion that only tech-enabled new-age companies should be revered as start-ups, brand new business forays of established giants qualify equally and must be treated as such, from a branding lens. Equally evocatively, an effusive case is established for the comeback of physical interactions at work, the eerie efficiency of the zoom culture no match for the magical flesh and blood, however counter intuitive this may be for millennials and their impressionable employers. On the progression of advertising and digital conduits, the observations are imperiously sharp, but then that is par for the course, from a timeless maestro.
It can be ardently argued that Piyush Pandey is no longer just a luminary of the advertising universe; he is an inspiration for sustainable leadership in creative organisations, a genre that flourishes daily in this entrepreneurial deluge. Open House is a sublime combination of decisive human insight, prodigious business acumen and disarming candour that is bound to influence our worldview of relationships, across diverse playing fields.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is an independent brand consultant and writer)
Penguin Random House
Pp 224, Rs 699