Famous advertising personalities in India

Famous advertising personalities in India


Marketing & Advertising in  post independence India



In independent India, the advertising & marketing industry had gone through sea changes. Leading anthropologist Mr William Mazzarella from the University of Chicago who had conducted an extensive research on Indian advertising says that advertising to diverse Indian audience is always a big challenge and enormous task always. Continue reading  … Famous advertising personalities in India.

Marketing & Advertising

He divided the process of advertising growth in pre-independence India into four distinct phases.

1947 – 1960: The industry operated more as an outpost of the British era and the advertising was limited to the factual presentation of the product/brand/company with least emphasise on creativity.

Marketing & Advertising

1960 – 1980: A new age in advertising emerged which saw an effort to enhance the creativity and establishing an indigenous Indian professional identity in the overall advertising process.

1980 -2000:  An effort was made by the brand manager towards creating process/channels with an objective to have a wider impact across the country

It also witnessed an effective and balanced synthesis of the marketing mechanism with high degree and out of the box creativity, both in terms of visuals and copy.

Marketing & Advertising

This is the period when the Indian market and consumers both got exposed to modern advertising style and methodologies.

This was the time when the transformation of consumer psychology and behaviour also undergone changes in terms of aspiration values especially for the middle class and upper middle class living in metro and tier one cities.

Getting rich and enjoying a good life became the new mantra of social existence for the urban Indian. With enhanced income and purchasing power, the status-conscious Indian middle class and upper middle class now seek to buy good quality branded products and spend a good amount of money on lifestyle, food and entertainment.

Famous Advertising Personalities in India.

Indian advertising also has evolved in itself during this period, reflecting the positive changes in the country’s economy as well as the Indian society. This was the time Indian advertising industry also witnessed its own renaissance and the famous advertising personalities in India.

They were the first generation of Ad Gurus who ruled and gave the leadership to the Indian marketing and advertising profession and laid the foundation for new age advertising. Likes of Frank Simoes, Aleqe Padamsee, Mani Iyer, R K Swamy, Mike Khanna, Ravi Gupta, Tara Sinha, Arrow Sinha Roy … were truly the pioneers in the profession.

In this blog-post, I have made an effort to present a few of them after doing an extensive research. The idea was to provide a comprehensive centralized information about them( advertising stalwarts of yesteryears ) to today’s new generation of ad executives, students and entrepreneurs so that they all can draw inspiration from them.

I may have missed out on a few of them in my blog- post as there is no organized information available.  The Personalities (appearing in my blog –post) are featured in random and not in order of merits.




Image source: Alchetron.com

Born in Mumbai during the period of British Raj, Frank Simoes was a very respected name in Indian media and advertising world.

As a writer, he began his journey with “ Times of India” and later joined “ Ogilvy & Mather”… his initial venture into the world of advertising and within a short span of time, he became the youngest board member in the agency.

But Nothing succeeds like success … and in 1967, he decided to venture on his own and that was how “ Frank Simoes Advertising” was born, one of the first homegrown advertising agency, by an Indian entrepreneur.

One of the finest copywriter and creative man of his times, Frank successfully launched and built the brands like ” Raymonds”, “Taj Hotels” ” Liberty Shirts”, “BOAC’ to name a few.  The great Ad legend also created and coined the words “ Only Vimal”.. which later became the queen of textile brands in India and “Only Vimal” ad jingle was the all-time favourite humming tunes across the country.

Vimal brand campaign

Image courtesy: Midday.com

He was always a man of achievement who climbed all the mountains and conquered every summit. He received the famous Hall of Fame credits at the CAG – Creative Arts Guilds and the Advertising Club. His passion for writing and creativity was unparallel and he would always be cherished as one of the famous advertising personalities in India for times to come.

In the words of Mr Mohammed Khan, another contemporary legendary copywriter and advertising professional ( owner of Enterprise Nexus), “We had the opportunity of seeing his work for Raymond (Frank Simoes Advertising once handled the suiting brand).  Such superb work, way ahead of its time. I personally think Frank put Raymond on the top of the heap. Even his work for The Taj (Group of Hotels) was Spectacular”.

Advertising legend and writer  Frank Simoes passed away on Sunday, the August 25, the year 2002 following a cardiac arrest and Indian advertising lost a stalwart and a finest advertising man. 


Image source: Indian Speakers Bureau

Born in 1928 in an affluent business family in Mumbai, Alyque was a student of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai

His formal entry into the world of advertising at a very young age of 20 as a copywriter and since then there was no looking back. His complete advertising career spanning over 5 decades.

For 14 years he was the chief executive officer of Lintas India and built the agency as amongst the top advertising agency in the country. Later he became regional coordinator of Lintas South Asia and his name commands a respect in marketing   & advertising profession.

In the Indian advertising world, Alyque is always considered to be the “Brand Father “of many a brand and Guru to much successful advertising professional and entrepreneur and one of the famous advertising personalities in India.

 Alyque as a brand father

Liril Advertisement

Image Source: Jhonny’s blog

Alyque has created and built approx 100 Indian brands during his entire career and made them a household name. He created brand personalities like “Cherry Charlie” for Cherry Blossom shoe polish, ” Lalitaji” for Surf, ” MRF Muscle Man” for MRF tyres, “Kamasutra Couple”, “ Hamara Bajaj” and the famous “Liril Girl” in the Liril Campaign at the background of a waterfall… to name a few.

His famous “Liril campaign” was undertaken after extensive research of 18 long months and the brand recall was so strong that even today, when we say Liril, people from all walks of life in India fondly recall theTVC, waterfall, the girl, her spontaneity and energy.

They hum the jingle then and there. And these are the roots of Liril’s creative positioning, brand salience and success. They don’t change with the passage of time.

Lintas Surf Campaign

At present he is the CEO of AP Advertising Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, a company which is into image and communication consultancy, providing consultancy to a no of blue-chip companies as creative advisor.

He was conferred with “ Padmashri” award by The President of India in the year 2000. And the Advertising club of Mumbai honoured him with the title of “Advertising Man of the Century”.

Alyque is the only Indian who was voted into International Clio Hall of Fame, (the Oscars of World Advertising) and his book “ Double Life” is a recommended as the reference book in many a business school.

In his own words “A good advertisement is one that brings good sales, just as a good doctor is one that cures ailments. An ad must be designed to sell. The key lies in attracting attention within the first five seconds of the ad it must make you lean forward and pique your interest in the benefits of the product.”

Alyque as a Theatre Man

One of the pioneers in English Theatre in India, he has around 76 classic productions to his credit. He has produced classics like “Evita”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “ Tuglaq” lately “Broken Images” to name a few.  He is the recipient of the lifetime achievement award for Theatre by Sangeet Natak Academy  Tagore Ratna award in the year 2012.

His portrayal of “Muhammad Ali Jinnah” in the film made by Sir Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi” is always cherished by all.

Information Source: Wikipedia|  Simply Life India Speakers Bureau.

R K. Swamy


Image Courtesy: Hindu Business line

Born in Kumbakonam, a temple town in the state of Tamilnadu, His family migrated to Bombay, soon after owing to a few compulsions.

On completion of his high schooling, in Bombay ( Mumbai), circumstances compelled him to take up a job with   J.Walter Thompson as a translator at the agencies office in the city.

That’s how  R K Swamy made a beginning of his advertising career and there was no looking back since then.

Down the road, he was instrumental in setting up the “ Hindustan Thompson Associates” … Indian associate of J Walter Thompson.

During his times and initiative the south Indian City “ Madras ( Chennai today), became an important hub in the Indian advertising map. His values, vision and contribution mean a lot to Indian advertising. To him, Advertising was always serious business both at the realm of science and a highly creative profession as well.

In quest of exploring the unexplored frontiers in the Indian market, he was the pioneer of public sector ( governmental undertakings) advertising. With the passage of time, he managed to convince these ” rule book driven PSU’s”  and changed their age-old perception that advertising is waste.

Mr Swamy had worked with major PSU’s as the advertising consultant. To name a few, LIC, ONGC, BHEL, MMTC, AIR INDIA … etc and because of his initiative this sector opened up new dynamics and horizon to Indian advertising business.

Along with Alyque Padamsee of Lintas India and Mani Iyer of Ogilvy & Mather, Mr RK Swamy was regarded as one of the  “ Trimurthies” of Indian advertising. Mr R K Swamy’s name would also go down to history as one of the famous advertising personalities in India.

He left HTA  in 1973 and ventured on his own with RK Swamy Advertising Associates and later International partner BBDO joined in and lead to the formation of today’s RK Swamy BBDO, headed by his son Shekhar Swamy, an agency of class and professional repute in Indian advertising.

Besides the advertising business, Mr Rk Swamy also extended his leadership to the industry and always at the helm of affairs with industry bodies and apex councils like ” Audit Bureau of Circulation” and “Advertising Agencies Association of India”.

All India Management Association ( AIMA), New Delhi had constituted ( in 2009) ” the AIMA-RK Swamy High-Performance Brand Award” in his honour which is a mega annual award ceremony in Indian advertising today.

June 5th 2003, died at the age of 80 in Chennai  and  the doyen of Indian advertising bid a farewell to all of us

SR Mani Ayer


Image Courtesy: Campaign India

Born on September 5, 1935, Mani Ayer was one of our advertising legend from  Indian advertising industry.

He joined Ogilvy (then SH Benson) in 1958 as a copywriter and spent his 36 years of career with the agency with 2 years overseas posting in Australia. He came back to India and took over the reins of the agency as Managing Director, India.

He was the youngest MD in Ogilvy global network at a young age of 38.

Ayer was a complete team player and always lead the team from the front. Always reached out to his team at a time of crisis and cheered them on their

He was the man, instrumental in laying the modern foundation of the Agency in India. And Ogilvy reached its goal in terms of growth in the Indian market in multiple spheres, be it revenue, brand success …etc. He also brought the structured process & thinking in advertising and new business orientation into the profession.

Aiyer created a new philosophy of “ Putting the Customer First” and in the words of David Ogilvy, the father of advertising once described Ayer as “the most outstanding individual in the Ogilvy network”.

Mr Mani Ayer was someone with natural leadership and understanding of people’s power in the advertising profession. He had the finest eyes to look for talents and nurtured them to bring forth the best.

O & M Campaign

Talented ( Whose and Who of Indian advertising) professionals  like Piyush Pandey ( The present CEO of the agency) , Suresh Mullick (Mile Sur Mera tumhara fame)  , R Sridhar and Ranjan Kapur ( Succeeded When Mani Ayer stepped down in 1994) were all his  junior colleagues and team members   of his core team, which he built over the years.

In 1994, he called it a day as  Managing Director of Ogilvy India and moved to Chennai post his retirement. Among various other accolades that Mani Ayer won,  the most recent was being inducted to the Hall of Fame by AAAI.

On February 8th 2010, at the age of 75, advertising legend S.R Ayer, popularly known as ‘Mani’ Ayer, the former managing director of Ogilvy & Mather passed away and the Indian ad world was stunned at his demise.
Information Source. Exchange 4 media.com, Campaign India  & Wikipedia


Image Courtesy: AFAQS. COM

Mahinder K. Khanna was popularly called as “ Mike Khanna” in the Indian marketing & advertising world.

Recognized as one of the legends in Indian advertising history, he took over HTA’s ( Hindustan Thompson Associates) reins from another legendary man of Indian advertising industry Mr Subhas Ghoshal way back in 1984.

Mike joined HTA in 1970 and spent over 38 years with the company. Between 1984 and 2004, he was the Indian head of the company.

Though JWT was in India from the 1920’s but the golden era of the agency was during  Mr Mike Khanna’s association and it changed its identity as HTA ( Hindustan Thompson Associates).  Under his leadership HTA’s growth was phenomenal.

From being a creative agency, Mike’s interventions made it a marketing, planning and process driven agency in addition to its creative credentials and masterpiece, it produced.

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Mike was also an era in Indian advertising and he made several brand success stories with a host of brands from Hindustan Lever ( now Unilever), Hero, Pepsi and Air India .. to name a few. Besides making HTA into the single largest agency which built some of the leading brands of the country.

Air India Campaign

Image Courtesy: Abhisays.com

Widely acknowledged as one of the famous advertising personalities in India he always played an active role in industry affairs, such as the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

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He was also responsible to work out the integration of HTA with its Global parent JWT  thus paving the path forward to the internationalization of India’s advertising industry.

On June 7th  early morning, 2015, Mr Mike Khanna passed away, leaving a void in India’s advertising domain and will always be missed by the industry colleagues and professionals.

Information Source : Economic Times, JWT press archive, Campaign India.


Image Courtesy: The Economic Times

A mining engineer by background, Mr Ravi Gupta’s journey with advertising began in  1963 when he joined in Ulka Advertising.

He later moved to  agencies like Shilpi and interpub and followed by MCM ( Mass Communication & Marketing) as a general manager  and managing the national brands like Binaca Top, Silvikrin, Bush Radio and Godfrey Philips,

In 1977, he established his own venture “ Trikaya” with a handful of employees and by the 1990’s, it became one of the top 8 agencies in India.  It had a formal tie-up Grey International in 1988 and that’s how “ Trikaya Grey” came into the existence in India’s advertising business and became an adored identity in marketing &advertising world.

Trikaya got it’s first to break in 1981 with the “Thums Up” brand and the agency pioneered the corporate and lifestyle genres of advertising in India. The `Happy days are here again ..’ campaign was an instant success and even has a “recall” even today to the people belongs to that generation.

Thumps up advertisement

Image Source: Oldindiaads.com

Other well-known campaigns handled by Trikaya successfully are Arvind Mills, Dunlop- Spectrawide, Aristocrat and the Lalbhai group. The agency, under his leadership, introduced advertising for new product categories like moulded luggage (Aristocrat) and fire extinguishers (Ceasefire).

Trikaya’s campaigns were all synonymous for a high degree of  creativity in terms of visual and it’s treatment, photography, out of the box copy approach a catchy captions/tagline…. and it kept on sweeping the ” Advertising Awards” for creativity and the agency  was always noticed for its powerful ads which brought  originality.

Ravi Gupta was a great team player and his professional handling of his core creative team produced the wonders in Indian advertising. His personal achievement included “ A & M advertising man of the year in 1994 and also found a place Calcutta Ad Club’s Hall of Fame and would always be one of the famous advertising personalities in India.

May 3rd 1995, at the age of 59, Ravi Gupta passed away and left our material world and the industry was taken aback with the sad news of his death.

Information source : Indian Express, Economic Times.


Image Courtesy: India Today

Referred always like the “ Mother of Indian Advertising Industry” in the Indian advertising, marketing and business circle, Mrs Tara Sinha was a role model to many an Indian woman during her times. The advertising industry always considered as “ advertising Guru” and she herself is also synonymous as an era in Indian advertising.

She did her Senior Cambridge School Certificate – UK and CAM Diploma – Advertising Association/The Chartered Institute of Marketing, the UK at a time when even the basic schooling education for Indian women was a rarity.

Her illustrious advertising career made a beginning in London only with S H Benson. Later she initiated and was one of the Founder Director of Clarion Advertising Services Limited, which later on became Clarion-McCann Advertising Services Limited. Her hands-on marketing & advertising experience with Coca-Cola in USA and India ( 1973 -83) enriched her skills and knowledge and global perspective of a brand like Coka Cola.

Coca-Cola India

In 1983, she returned back in India to head the Clarion-McCann Advertising Services Limited. Owing to differences with the clarion board, she ventured on her own and started “ Tara Sinha Associates” in 1985. Later she also established ADMAR ( market research outfit) and Result Pvt. Ltd.( Direct Marketing Outfit).

McCann Erickson later joined in hands with TSA  and her agency became known as Tara Sinha McCann Erickson Pvt. Ltd. She continued as the president and CEO of Tara Sinha McCann Erickson Pvt. Ltd and chairperson of ADMAR and RESULTS  till 1995 and called it a day from active advertising profession.

These days, away from  active advertising,  She lives in Gurgaon and spends her time in a lot of developmental work

.Her professional membership currently includes the followings.

– Governing Council of India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

– The Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK.

– The Delhi Advertising Club, India.

INFORMATION SOURCE :  http://www.capitalleague.net & Financial Express.


Image Courtesy: Times of India

After completion of his education from St Xavier’s College, Kolkata Aurobindo ( popularly known as ” Arrow” ) started his advertising career with Ogilvy & Mather and between 1961 – 1971, he was with the agency and heading the account /client servicing management team.

This was the period when Indian advertising was passing through its second phase  (the early 1960s to 1980s) When Indian advertising slowly started focussing on creativity and indigenous Indian professional identity of the brand.

In 1971, he joined in Sista’s Advertising and heading the Agency as it’s executive director. A decade-long stint with Sista’s ( 1971 -80), he nurtured and developed the big brands like VIP, Leo Toys and Moderna Sitting System.

Leo Toys Advertisement

Image Courtesy: Oldindiaads.com

He left Sista’s to venture on his own and found Contour Advertising Pvt LTD with offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Dehradun. He was the chairman and managing director of Contour Advertising between 1980 – 1996.

Media &Advertising

Image Courtesy: Oldindiaads.com

Contour advertising, though a medium size agency created a  name in the market and bagged prized account like ONGC, Nuclear Power Corporation, New India Assurance, Precision fasteners … to name a few. Arrows understanding of marketing and advertising dynamics in India and his impeccable presentation style was adored by everyone in the industry circuit.

Arrow moved to Star India ( News Television India Ltd) as senior VP and he was with the TV channel between 1997 – 2000 and he decided to call it a day from active media and communication world.

On June 11th, 2013, Veteran advertising and media professional  Arrow Sinha Roy passed away in Mumbai.

Information Source: Mxmindia.co

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  2. Padamsee was the Chief Executive for 14 years who built Lintas India to be one of the top agencies in the country. Known as the Brand Father of Indian advertising, Padamsee has built over 100 brands. He is the only Indian to be voted into the International Clio Hall of Fame, the Oscars of World Advertising. Padamsee created Lalitaji for Surf, Cherry Charlie for Cherry Blossom Shoe Polish, the MRF Muscle Man, the Liril girl in the waterfall, Hamara Bajaj, the TV detective Karamchand, the Fair Handsome brand, etc.

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