Mumbai: In a surprising development sure to send shockwaves through Indian advertising industry, Abhijit Avasthi, national creative director of O&M India, has put in his papers. Widely reckoned to be India’s most creative agency, O&M has over the last decade and a half become a global powerhouse of ideas, driven by Avasthi; national creative director Rajiv Rao and Avasthi’s uncle; Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, India and South Asia.
Pandey told that Rajiv Rao will take over and that more people in the system are likely to be given bigger responsibilities. Commenting on the departure of Avasthi, Pandey said, “In keeping with the spirit of the young people, he has chosen to do things on his own, and these are going to be projects that are not necessarily the agency kind of projects. So I’m happier that he is not joining a competitor. Rajiv, Abhijit and I have been partners in everything that we do and their contribution to the agency since the 2000s has been immense, not just in creative output but even in building teams.” Avasthi is closely associated with brands like Cadbury, Fevicol, Tata Sky and Asian Paints.
He headed the team that worked on the widely shared and viewed ‘Google Reunion’ film. He was ranked among the Top 5 Most Influential People in Indian Advertising according to the Brand Equity Agency Reckoner 2014. In spite of having two uncles in advertising — Piyush Pandey and ad filmmaker Prasoon Pandey — Avasthi took a rather circuitous route getting into the business.
He dabbled with working at a textile dye unit, a steel plant and selling saris and matchboxes before joining advertising in 1997. In his first year, he and partner Raj Kamble earned early acclaim at Enterprise Nexus for their work on Sesa Seat Yellow Pages which won at Cannes, Clio, D&AD and the New York Festivals. Having won over 350 creative trophies since, Avasthi is nevertheless among the handful of Indian creatives whose work is just as popular with clients and consumers as it is with award juries.
Among the many accomplishments to Avasthi’s credit is changing 5Star from a distant highfalutin chocolate that spoke about reaching for the stars to the current very successful wave of advertising featuring eccentric characters and situations. His other memorable campaigns are “wah Sunil babu” for Asian Paints, the Mentos “dimaag ki batti jala de” campaign and iconic films like the overloaded bus commercial for Fevicol. Through his tenure, Avasthi has always claimed to be extremely happy in advertising.
In an earlier interview, he had said, “The only reason I’ve stuck on is because I can’t think of any other job that has so much variety and where you get to laugh all day.” Industry buzz indicated that he was the hot contender for the top creative job at the agency. Speaking of the reasons for his departure, Avasthi indicates that he is thinking of a completely new venture. While declining to divulge details he says, “Right now it is a total blue sky as I evaluate and concretise my plans over the next few months.”
He has, however, confirmed he won’t be joining another agency. Avasthi’s departure comes in the wake of several Indian creatives leaving established agency setups to start creative shops of their own.