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Not by numbers alone!

I entered journalism in 1962. It coincided with JWT establishing itself in Chennai. JWT had a formidable team with brilliant managers like Umesh Rao.

There were still the vestiges of the British dominated companies like Binny’s, Best & Co, Crompton Engineering, few consumer product companies like Pond’s and TI Cycles, Sundaram Industries and Ashok Leyland that had some structured and budgeted advertising accounts.

Apart from JWT, Bomas (later SH Benson and then O&M), F D Stewart and Efficient Publicities were the other active ad agencies. The Simpson Group, recording handsome expansion in the 1950s and 1960s, had its own house agency, the Madras Advertising Co.

There was no dearth of innovative strategies. Efficient Publicities retained two famous arartistes, Bapu and Gopulu and had Rangadurai (Randor Guy) and P S Ramamurti, litterateurs and scholars, as account executives.

Media managers were erudite and well-informed professionals: they actually read the newspapers and magazines! Took pains to study the content and recommended the inclusion of publications. (Quite different from today’s IT pundits, who seemed to go by the computer numbers presented by smart space buyers of mighty media businesses. They, hopefully, will be eaten by the new algorithms of IOT).

Remember the bitter price war between Hindustan Times and Times of India in Delhi when in the 1990s the papers slashed the cover price to a rupee (for 40 pages and more); when the raddi value was more than a rupee! And that led to venders ordering a large number of copies and directly sending the papers to raddiwalas! And the papers breezily claiming Hanuman jumps in their circulations!

There was a sharp rivalry between JWT and F D Stewart: R K Swamy was bold and brilliant in presenting campaigns involving big budgets.

F D Stewart’s S Parthasarathy had the advantage of being the brother of S Ranganathan, ICS who was the Secretary, Ministry of Commerce & Consumer Industries in New Delhi. Remember it was the licence-permit-quota era. Also, remember TVS just entering the production of auto components in a big way at Padi in the early 1960s?

Bold campaign plans…

The advertising pie was small but was growing and, understandably, there was intense competition to get an increasing share of this. Swamy and Parthasarathy fought for the BHEL-Tiruchi account. This public sector company was making waves in establishing itself as an engineering giant in Tiruchi under the lead of V Krishnamurthy along with a strong team of S V S Raghavan, M R Naidu, V R Deenadayalu… F D Stewart used to present a modest campaign with artworks of 15 cm x 2 col or 20 cm x 3 col advertisements. R K Swamy would present boldly 25cm x 8 col (half page in a daily) ads involving a large advertisement budget. Swamy could carry the day with his bold campaign plans and articulation! (Astrologers used to attribute it to his sixth finger!)

JWT expanded under Swamy. When Swamy was denied the Managing Director’s post, he quit and launched his own ad agency, R K Swamy Advertising. Several of the JWT accounts and senior executives moved along with him, and he built his empire in quick time around his family!

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