Freddy Birdy

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Freddy Birdy
Claim To Fame

The year was 2001, I walked into Mudra house, literally a house at the corner of Safdarjung Enclave. I was fresh out of college, carrying exactly 5 sheets in my hand, my ads from a brief internship at Capital Advertising.

The HR head told me to wait, Freddy Birdy would be meeting me soon, she said. The way she said it was chilling.  I had heard and followed a lot about Freddy as part of my 'homework'.

He had been the copywriter of the year for the last 10 years and almost everybody, even if they were remotely associated with advertising, would enlarge their eyes a great deal when taking his name. My palms were sweaty as I heard the HR lady coming to get me.

I stood up nervously.  She walked in with this very simple looking young gentleman, he said hi to me and shook my hand.

Since I had no clue about what Freddy looked like (missed that in the 'homework'), and since I had painted this monstrous picture in my head thanks to all those enlarged-eye reactions, i didn't realise that it was Freddy himself.

Freddy is such a simple and humble person that he just sat there and very casually started chatting with me.

But I still had no clue I was talking to Freddy.

So when he asked to see my work, I thought, well obviously Freddy wont directly see my work, someone else will and then probably decide if its good enough for him to see it.

So Freddy (who I don't know is Freddy) goes through my work, says, "nice," "nice," "nice" smiles at me warmly and says, "Ok can you come in from Monday?" and I start beaming and say ok, but as he walks out,  I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get to meet Freddy. Anyways, I will meet him eventually, I think.

As I get up, the HR lady walks in excitedly, and tells me "Do you know what just happened, you got hired by FREDDY BIRDY!!!"

It took me a few days to realize what had happened. I kept replaying the meeting in my head, wondering if I had been respectful enough, intelligent enough, sharp enough. How could a guy that massive be so simple, so humble?

And its a question I asked myself for the next two years that I worked with Freddy and I really ask myself that even today.

Freddy is a magician. He can string together a bunch of simple words in a way that looks really easy but its something a good writer wont be able to manage in 50 attempts.

I used to work on the Hindustan Motors account in his team and I remember going to him with beautifully written bodycopy (beautifully written according to me, because I spent the whole night perfecting it for Freddy) and then he would say "Nice, but let's try it this way," and he would just change parts of it and take it to an unimaginable level.

The walls of Mudra, in those days, were adorned with the Freddy-Naved work. Beautifully written copy, beautifully art directed. A campaign they had done for spending time with the elderly, always made me choke up. A simple french fry dipped into ketchup making it look like a matchstick, made everyone laugh. Everything they did won, everything they did got everybody talking.

My claim to fame those days was that Freddy Birdy is my boss. Today it is that I was hired in advertising by Freddy Birdy.

Freddy was an unlike-a-boss boss.

I'm sure my level of writing must've made him cringe every now and then, but he was too much of a gentleman to show it. I remember, one Wday when i must've written something particularly crappy, he read it and very sweetly said, "why don't you take a few days off, maybe you need a holiday."


He appreciated what was good, improved what was bad and never made one feel small. As a writer he was too secure. And there was never any rumor of him stealing an idea, or claiming someone else's work to be his.

There was really no question of that because only Freddy can do what Freddy can do. And even if he wrote a small line, it had Freddy written all over it.

But nobody's world is perfect.

Soon there were some chatter about how hindi colloquial stuff was something you wouldn't expect a Freddy to write, he was too English for all this. And then the magician weaved 3 words together for a Polo mint film: "beta sweater pehno."

Senior Executive Creative Director
BBDO India
Comments (3)
Sandeep Vij And yes I was always petrified to walk into Freddy's room to brief him on a campaign.. always worried that he would tear the brief apart and say it doesn't work very well.. And walking out of Freddy's room after he had 'accepted' the brief, always had that relieved victorious silly grin on my face-:) Great days!
24 Nov 2016 Reply
Sandeep Vij One of the primary reasons why Mudra Delhi was on top of the pile in the nineties was because of the awesome ness of Freddy and Naved Akhtar. Anil Bhai would never have got what he did from Omnicom if it wasn't for this magical team. Salaam to an incredibly talented team.
24 Nov 2016 Reply
Prathap Suthan There have been very few writers like him. While we haven't ever worked together on anything, I was in Mudra Ahmedabad when he was in Mudra Delhi. And all I could ever hear from AGK at that point was Freddy and more Freddy. Well for some time, like every other self-respecting writer around, just hearing his name was enough fuel for me to push myself harder. Unknown to you, I wrote better because of you. Thanks for the craft. Keep writing!
22 Nov 2016 Reply

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