Updated: Aug 26
R. Sridhar gave me the happy task of creating our own newsletter and I loved it. I had a blast writing editorials and making my colleagues participate in a 'Brain Writing' exercise where each wrote a sentence or two or three then folded the paper so it couldn't be read and passed it on to the next person. The result was often hilarious and I featured one of these exercises in a newsletter.
The Unpublished David Ogilvy (Indian Edition) 1991
The third issue of our in-house newsletter, `Oh Dee aar!' (1991) was to be a tribute to David Ogilvy who was coming to India. I was wildly excited. I was going to set eyes on the Legend at last. I could boast about that to lesser mortals.
Sridhar suggested I do `The Unpublished David Ogilvy (Indian Edition). Imagine my disappointment when DO couldn't make it! But Oh Dee aar! did. Sridhar mailed the issue to him.
My editorial was titled:
The Legend Lives on
Besides the fact that I had been totally excited by Direct Response, what brought me to Ogilvy & Mather Direct was the name ‑ David Ogilvy.
Coming in through the doors, I would gaze at the photograph of David Ogilvy, wearing those characteristic red suspenders, chin in hand, face so pensive, so thoughtful.
I was awed by him and I still am. He has been advertising's greatest legend. His famous Rolls Royce ad gives me goose flesh. It also proves to writers in ivory towers that the product can be exciting in itself if you get the time to really look into it.
I watched him on video. I hung on to his every word. His chateau in Touffou seemed like something out of a fairy tale. I read about him. I liked what he said about creative people being in closer contact with their unconscious, with the world of the imagination.
And he'd lived in Lewis Carrol's house as a child! I envied him. I read Carrol's biography and was charmed by the house and its surroundings. No wonder Carrol wrote Alice in Wonderland!
So now when they tease me about being a `fantasy writer, I wave what David Ogilvy said in their faces.
We planned a video presentation for him. It was to be very funny, very unusual so it wouldn't pass like a ship into the night. Anuradha Das was going to eat. She likes that best. Another was to climb a tree and I was to float through the corridors, veiled, mysterious and immortal like Rider Haggard's `She'.
But how would we welcome the great man? We hit upon compiling this special supplement. So I wrote to all our offices, asking for anecdotes about DO. Now we know more about him. We know he is witty, humourous, adventurous and has great humility. Anyone who's good at his work ought to be proud of himself. However, it's very easy to acquire a superiority complex.
We hope he recovers soon and we do get a chance to meet him. Meanwhile, distance will not stop us from sending him this tribute.
On reading your note, I remembered that when I received Mr. David Ogilvy at VT Station on his previous visit, we had especially taken him in the same model of the Rolls Royce which had inspired his famous ad.
Mr. Bhogilal who is a connoisseur of antique cars in India was good enough to lend his car.
David Ogilvy was quite awed when he sat in it, and remarked that this must be perhaps the only Rolls Royce in India.
The immaculately dressed chauffeur, without blinking an eyelid, stated, "My boss has eighteen of them."
It was not surprising that Mr. Bogilal, even though he is not concerned with advertising in any way, was aware of that great advertisement, and took out `Confessions of an Advertising Man' from his library and requested me to get David Ogilvy's autograph. Mr. DAvid Ogilvy endorsed it with the quote:"From one
proud owner of a Rolls Royce to another!"
Yours sincerely, P. Balsara
`ONE TUNE'. What tune? A tune that will make everyone feel patriotic? Does your national anthem do that?
What tunes do Indian Army bands play on patriotic occasions?
How about the great Hymn to Joy at the end of the Beethoven 9th Symphony.
I don't think a new tune, composed for your film would make people feel patriotic.
As you say, this film is going to be hideously difficult to execute. Good luck!
The long article in `The Indian Post' about freedom increased my admiration for you, Suresh. But the writer spelled my name
When DO was here last he was very upset that in India office ‑ boys are referred to as `peons'. He told off our Delhi office manager for using the term, which he said was demeaning, anachronistic, and in very bad taste.
I heard about this and when I met DO I tried to explain that in India the word has a totally different meaning from the way he understood it. In Mexico, of course, a `peon' means a `bonded labourer' ‑ but in India a peon was originally a foot‑soldier in the East India Company's army. Hence it was a military rank (like Sepoy) ‑ and therefore not demeaning at all.
If I recall correctly, he merely "hmmmphed" at this information, and did not seem especially convinced.
Anvar Ali Khan
R. Sridhar has some interesting things to say about our Legend.
David Ogilvy was very proud of the fact that we in Bangalore read his books and Magic Lanterns. But it's not the same in some of our offices abroad. He made an extremely witty statement: "I suppose if you're in the Vatican, you don't have to read the Bible."
David Ogilvy's Charm
At a cocktail party, David Ogilvy was very impressed by a young man. On the way to a presentation he asked Sridharwho the young man was. Sridhar said, "You're about to meet his father".
Before the presentation could begin, David Ogilvy leaned forward eagerly at the table and told the client how impressed he was by a certain young man he'd met at a party. Then he looked at Sridhar and said ‑"And this man didn't even tell me he was your son."
The rest of the presentation was hunky dory.
About Azharuddin Who Got Out at 99
"Poor chap! They should have bowled him an easy one!"
When Introduced at a Party to a Client Who Made Potato Chips
"Are these your chips?"
(The answer was `yes')
"Because they damned well better be."
A trip to Kabini Jungle Lodge
On the way the driver got a taste of DO's ire: "Stop the car. If you drive this way I'd rather walk."
Minnie (my wife) and I accompanied DO on this trip. On a jeep ride through the forest we had a flat. It was dusk and the place was alive with strange noises. Our spare tyre was also flat! DO looked distinctly uncomfortable.
The game warden emerged with a large axe. We were certain it was to keep predators at bay. The excitement fizzled out when we realized that it was to cut a branch that had fallen across the road. Fortunately a passing jeep helped us out.
We went on a bird watching cruise in a coracle. DO spied a bird and exclaimed‑ "There's a kingfisher!" I turned to him and asked innocently: "But isn't that a beer?" DO gave me a mock murderous look.
My wife was playing mother hen and trying to keep DO out of trouble. DO was not supposed to smoke and Minnie ensured that cigarettes and DO didn't meet.
One evening she caught him red‑handed cadging cigarettes from a group of Swiss tourists. It turned out that two of them were neighbours down the road from his chalet in Switzerland. Talk about small worlds.
DR vs General
"Our generalists are entertaining and playing the fool. The DR boys are doing the selling."
After seeing the `Welcome David' banner on top of the office building in Madras ‑ "I take back what I said against billboards. There's one I do like."
David Ogilvy’s Letter to Me
Something wonderful happened to me with this issue of `Oh Dee aar!' I got up one morning, with a feeling of anticipation. I've got this gift of premonition which applies mainly to the mail. And there it was. At the office they handed me a very classy looking envelope with French stamps. No one could believe it. Neither could I. It was a letter from David Ogilvy! There was much shaking of hands, much congratulating. A letter from the great man was not a common happening. To tell the truth, it had been one of my dreams to get a letter from him. A letter that would say something nice about my work. This one, coming to think of it now, on the other hand, seemed to take a dig at me in more ways than one.
Chateau De Touffou France
What does Oh dee aar mean in English? "Oh Dear" pronounced by an Englishman with a hot‑ potato accent?
You write, "Didn't David Ogilvy say Creative people have more contact than most people do with the unconscious...? No he didn't. Or if he did, he has forgotton it. Where did you find it?
Bless you for your Indian edition of The Unpublished David Ogilvy.
I was terribly disappointed when I got to South Africa and could not visit India. I am not sure whether my passion for India, or for the inhabitants of the Ogilvy & Mather offices in India, or for the lady inhabtants of those offices. I love beauty more than anything else. (Is that a disease?)
It was kind of Mr. Bhogilal to send a Rolls Royce to meet me at the station. Don't tell him that I almost refused to get into it. I had never seen Indian poverty before and it struck me as obscene to ride through the streets in a Rolls.
People who live in India, ie Indians, seem to get used to the sight of poverty ‑ and to be blind to it.
I am proud ‑ deeply proud of our offices in India. They work hard, they are consumed with professional ambition, and they are brimming over with charm. So miraculously free of resentment towards the Brits who occupied their land until 1947. Recently I came across a letter written by my brother in Calcutta in 1931. He refers to Gandhi as a saint.
I enclose a page from my Confessions of an Advertising Man. Read the quotation from Aldous Huxley. It sums up my attitude to advertising.
Aldous Huxley, who once tried his hand at writing advertisements, concluded that `any trace of literariness in an advertisement is fatal to its success. Advertisement writers may not be lyrical, or obscure or in any way esoteric. They must be universally intelligible. A good advertisement has this in common with drama and oratory, that it must be immediately comprehensible and directly moving.
Charles Lamb and Byron also wrote advertisements. So did Bernard Shaw, Hemingway, Marquand, Sherwood Anderson and Faulkner ‑ none of them with any degree of success.
I don't know what Creativity means. It isn't in the big Oxford English Dictionary. It is a pretentious buzz word used by half‑ baked agency people who think that they are paid to show off their originality, but not to sell. I have never met an artist or a poet who uses the word in reference to his work.
Love to Sridhar and all the rest of you.
After the initial euphoria had subsided the following thoughts sprang up in my mind:
So DO was saying that I was a half‑baked copywriter who couldn't sell a thing through her fancy words!
Either I was a good fantasy writer or a good copywriter. I couldn't be both.
If I played about with the reader like cat with mouse, I wasn't gonna get him between my teeth. I had to be immediately transparent.
With due respect to David Ogilvy, I believe this cat and mouse game is really building intrigue. Lead him into your letter. Make him open that envelope.
I wrote back to him saying that of course there was Creativity in Advertising. What about his Man in the Hathaway Shirt? The eyepatch was the creative touch. I also sent him a photograph of myself. Pretty bold, I knew, and perhaps he'd find it cheeky enough to write back about. He didn't.
Was I embarassed when I discovered that the quote was indeed in `Confessions', but DO was merely professing agreement with what Frank Barron had said! But it wasn't so terrible. I was not the only one who misquoted the great legend. He's been aid to say to a copywriter ‑"You naughty girl, that's not exactly what I said, but it's good."
Winning the Nehru Children's Book Trust Award For Science Fiction
But I was going to show DO that I was different. A few months later, I won the Nehru Children's Book Trust award for my first novella in a national competition. A Science Fiction novella for teenagers. It was called UNDERSEA. The hero was a genetically engineered being who could live in and out of water. Under the sea, he made soul friends with dolphins, found sunken Atlantis inhabited by genetically engineered water beings like himself, went back in time to witness the discovery of fire, helped a dying old artist find Tir nan Og, the Land of Eternal Youth, so he could live long enough to complete his masterpiece, and encountered a yogi who ascended to the Thought Realm above the Bermuda Triangle (where so many ships and airplanes have vanished), to avert a nuclear war.
The book was set in a future world when land would be so scarce, human beings would have to take to the seas which would prove far less expensive and more practical than colonizing other planets.
I typed 27,000 words with a single finger on two ancient typewriters. Having been a short story writer, it seemed almost impossible to do a novel. But I had the good fortune to have a great tutor in The London School of Journalism, Dr. Hilary Johnson, an established writer of romance, who believed the future lay in the novel and I could do it. I planned the book as a series of stories linked by a few common characters and the theme of the hero longing to return to his geneticist `father. UNDERSEA won the second prize in the Children's Book Trust Competition. Minoo broke the news to me from Madras:
My dearest Anita,
Congrats! Congrats! Congrats! What an achievement. You're definitely on the road to fame and glory as a literary figure. I opened the Sunday Indian Express to make the discovery. Good for you. I can't wait to see the award, to see the book in print. You've got to autograph one copy for me. I may be able to auction it for some 6‑digit figure later on in life.
Lots of love, Minoo
I was thrilled. So was the office. Tina hugged me. Anu said I deserved it. Sridhar shook my hand and said I was getting famous. I threw a girlie champagne party to celebrate the award in my apartment with the gigantic terrace. The guys always seemed to spoil things anyway coming in late and drinking when we wanted to eat. The award was a certificate and Rs. 7000 as payment for copyright. They would publish UNDERSEA themselves. I never did see it in any bookstore or receive a copy of the book.
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 16 ‑ The Troubled Cyborg
A seagull screamed, its cry ending in a wail that sounded
almost human. He listened. There it was again as he waded onto the soft sand. More a wail than a scream. There were gaps in it, as though someone were pausing for breath. Startled, he looked about him, all his senses alert. Then he saw her.
She was huddled within a small cove at the foot of the cliffs. Her arms were around her shiny plastic knees and her head with its wild red hair was buried on them. Her yellow dress was a splash of brightness upon the pearly mistiness of the morning. he wailed again and lifted her head slowly. He saw the pulse beating in the hollow of her throat. Her large green eyes were blinded by tears.
"A cyborg," he thought, "a troubled cyborg."
She saw him. Her mouth opened in a startled "Oh!"
"I heard you cry," said Aditya, walking into the cove whose wet roof was encrusted with mussels. The sun broke through the mist.
"You bring the sun with you," she wiped her eyes,"maybe it's a good sign for me."
"Why were you crying?"
"Because I can't feel the sun on my skin anymore and the sand beneath my feet. I'm not real." Her voice shook.
"But you want to live longer, you want to be free of disease," he said gently.
"I didn't choose to. My people made me."
"I could show you how to feel the sun on your skin. Dolphins feel the sun even when they're several feet below the sea's surface. They call it dreaming with their skins."