As a lowly account executive at the bottom of the food chain 35 years ago, my constant horror was the prospect of dealing with this ponytailed creative genius who would punctually disappear for a drunken three-hour lunch just when one desperately needed that elusive layout for a meeting re-scheduled for the third time. The man was clearly a proud upholder of a time-honoured tradition in Indian advertising: that a creative person worth his salt just had to be difficult, disorderly and, generally, a bit deviant.
Of the many contributions that Aggi has made to Indian advertising, the one I’m probably most grateful for, is how he’s helped return a sense of normalcy to the persona of the creative person. In an industry where success is seen as a passport to pompousness, and prima donnas eat servicing types for breakfast, Aggi is the very picture of rootedness and humility. No creative tantrums, no fetish for microscopic logos, no sex scandals, not even a tattoo! (How the creative satraps of yore must hate him for single-handedly squeezing out all vestiges of glamour from the job!)
While Aggi is clearly blessed with a prodigious amount of creative talent (in fact I can’t think of any person who I’ve worked with in my long career who is inherently more talented), I think its his humility that is at the root of his mojo. Unlike most celebrated creative honchos who tend to imprint their own trademark style on whichever brand they handle, Aggi keeps suprising us with original solutions that don’t have a predictable signature. He keeps the advertised brand and its unique relationship with its consumer at the centre of his universe… and rather than assert his preferred style, conjures highly customised solutions that straddle a wide range of genres.
Just when we begin to think of Aggi as a ‘long copy guy’ with a preference for lyrical prose, he comes up with a sassy Born Glamorous for Bombay Times. Over the years, he’s made his mark with intense campaigns for brands such as Bajaj motorcycles and Mumbai Mirror; but every now and then we see from him a really light touch and great sense of humour, on campaigns like Nike (Goan track), TOI’s A Day in the Life of India, Pepsi ‘Change the Game’ and Mirror’s Double Dholki.
A key reason why clients love working with Aggi, is the ease with which he places himself in their shoes and thinks for the brand from first principles. This approach helped him find Airtel a whole new brand direction with Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai, an insightful campaign that put its finger on a significant new life truth defining India’s young.
In his bold journey, Aggi has found a kindred soul in Paddy, another versatile creative thinker who brings alive the ideas the duo come up with, with a diverse range of art solutions. Together they have created an agency that accurately reflects their values of consumer first and substance over style.
If today, Indian advertising is no longer seen as a shallow and somewhat pretentious industry on the periphery of showbiz, Agnello Dias can take a fair share of credit for its makeover.