Tracing four decades of India's advertising maestro, Piyush Pandey

As the advertising maverick switches to an advisory role at Ogilvy, take a look at the man behind the legend and his legacy. Traversing four decades of his professional career as well as childhood experiences -- dive deep into how a cricketer from Jaipur went on to become India’s adman.

Harshal Thakur
New Update
Piyush Pandey

A large chunk of India still refers to chocolate bars as “Cadbury”, making it one of those rare instances where a brand not only becomes synonymous with a commodity but ends up replacing its name. Such is the impact of Piyush Pandey, a man synonymous with Indian advertising who has popularised brands to the extent that they have become a part of India’s culture. 

As the adman of India takes on the role of Chief Advisor, making way for new leaders to take over at Ogilvy, it marks a monumental milestone in the history of Indian advertising.

Piyush Pandey - The Cricketer

Looking back at his life, one wonders why someone with so much passion for cricket would leave the sport and foray into the world of advertising. We can only assume what must have gone through Pandey’s ingenious mind when he changed his path. His father had always been worried about his future when he played cricket for his college. Realizing that cricketers didn’t have a steady source of income and the uncertainty that came with being a sportsperson then, his father would often ask him about how he would be able to sustain himself and what he would feed himself, sarcastically remarking “(Will you) Eat a bat?” He did surprise his parents when cricket opened new paths for him, getting him into college. Although he did not stop playing cricket, he sidelined it as a profession, perhaps recognizing his potential in advertising and realizing his creative abilities. Pandey’s genius is further highlighted by the fact that he managed to top his college in the first year while also playing First Division cricket, a rare feat. 

Trying his hands at different disciplines, he forayed into tea tasting with the help of his close friend and ex-cricketer Arun Lal, who had passed on Pandey’s CV to his employers in Kolkata. Perhaps the epiphany regarding his calling struck him when Lal told him during a casual conversation that he had seen some ads at their mutual friend Debnath Guha Roy’s place and that Pandey came up with ten lines every day in normal conversation that were better than those in the ads, telling him to give advertising a shot. 

Known for his ability to build and shape brand identities today, Pandey worked with brands that were relatively unknown or struggling and transformed them into household names with strong, positive associations. His work often reflects an understanding of Indian culture and values, making it relatable to a diverse and culturally rich audience. This cultural relevance, along with his flair for storytelling, has contributed to the success of numerous campaigns. 

When he entered the industry, the Indian advertising landscape was considerably different. Advertising was often formulaic and lacked the depth and creativity that Pandey would later inject into it. Advertising in India primarily focused on straightforward product attributes and functional benefits. It was a period marked by conventional advertising methods, and campaigns often revolved around jingles, slogans, and basic product features. The emotional resonance and storytelling elements that are now so integral to Indian advertising were, for the most part, missing.

He is referred to as “the adman” because of his remarkable and influential career in advertising and due to the impact he has had on the advertising world. 

A believer of establishing a connection with the audience, he says, "It doesn’t matter how many times the ad is being played but what matters is how many years the ad stays with you”

Humble Beginnings

Growing up in a household of 11, Pandey, his seven sisters, and one brother (most of whom went on to achieve great success in their creative pursuits) were always learning and imbibing knowledge of various disciplines. He has often said that his multicultural upbringing is greatly responsible for his creative knack and his growth as an individual.

His brother Prasoon Pandey is renowned in the advertising sphere as well, having directed several ad films and working as an agency creative director at Lintas. He now manages his own production house, Corcoise Films. 

After basking in the glory of playing the Ranji Trophy in his cricketing days to becoming a tea-taster, he finally settled on the idea of becoming an adman. Piyush Pandey started his career in advertising at Ogilvy & Mather as a trainee junior account executive and hasn’t looked back since.

During his first interview, he was asked by Ogilvy’s MD at the time, "You've been a cricketer; you have done so many things. What guarantee can you give me that you will be here after a year?" To which he boldly replied, "I can't give you any guarantee. But can you give me a guarantee that you'll keep me here after a year?” “He gave me the job, and it's been 41 years now.”

He joined Ogilvy in 1982, and his initial days were filled with new learnings and significant growth. Ranjan Kapur, who was the deputy Managing Director of Ogilvy & Mather India at that time, provided crucial guidance and support to Piyush during his early years at the agency. He is one of the early mentors in Pandey’s life that shaped him as a professional. Apart from Kapur, Madhukar Sabnavis, who later became the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy India, formed a creative partnership with Pandey and was a crucial influence. Together, they created some of the most memorable advertising campaigns in India.

Sunlight Detergent’s Print Ad featuring Supriya Pathak was the first ad Pandey ever wrote. 

Piyush Pandey first ad



Pandey's early foray into advertising involved working on campaigns for a range of clients from Bajaj and Pidilite to Cadbury. His initial client deals and milestones include working on the “Chal Meri Luna” campaign for Luna moped that became widely popular.

One of the biggest milestones of Pandey’s career has been the “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” campaign. While writing the lyrics, the brief given to Pandey was to watch the formation of clouds, which leads to rainfall, and narrate the story of life and togetherness. The lyrics he came up with were magical and are still etched in every Indian’s heart. 



One of his most recognizable campaigns came with Fevicol, and it became synonymous with creativity in advertising. The humorous and innovative Fevicol ads showcased the product's bonding strength in a humorous manner. The line “Fevicol Ka Mazboot Jod Hai Tootega Nahi” has achieved enormous popularity. These ads not only sold adhesive but also became cultural touchstones with their catchy jingles and unforgettable visuals. 



He wrote iconic lines for Cadbury Dairy Milk including the "Kuch Khaas Hai" campaign. These campaigns not only elevated Cadbury's brand but also became an integral part of Indian pop culture. Interestingly, the jingle for the ad was initially written in English but was later turned into Hindi. The iconic campaign was recently revamped with a twist. The gender roles from the original ad were reversed without changing the overall concept keeping the idea that made the ad resonate with so many people, in tact. 



The "Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai" campaign beautifully conveyed the idea that every home has a unique story to tell. Through a series of emotionally resonant ads, Pandey not only elevated the brand but also inspired people to turn their houses into homes filled with stories and memories. 



These campaigns not only garnered attention but also set a precedent for creative and emotionally resonant advertising in India. Pandey's innovative thinking, combined with his ability to understand and connect with the Indian consumer, laid the foundation for his illustrious career. 

He is known for bringing Hindi to public discourse with his catchy lines, which was not the case before. Earlier, ads would generally feature generic product descriptions in English that failed to connect with India’s populus. Pandey brought in that transformation with his innovative approach and creative finesse. 



Pandey has revolutionized the way ads in India are created and written. Incorporating emotional storytelling in his ads, he has written lines that not only resonate with the audience but stick with them long after. When one looks at the “Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai” campaign of Asian Paints, it doesn’t feel as if it is advocating for or selling the paint, rather, it personifies the idea of a home and its distinct characteristics, making them stand out and penetrate people’s minds. Similarly, Cadbury’s “Kuch Khaas Hai” campaign reflects the inherent uniqueness of each individual. It chooses to celebrate people and their quintessence, merging it organically with the brand’s identity, without explicitly selling the product. 

The campaigns written by Pandey do not simply ask for people to buy a product, they connect emotionally with the audience, swaying them with their stories, with heart. These lines or catchphrases etch their way to such an extent into the collective memory of the population that they end up surpassing the promotional efforts of the brands and become an entity in themselves.


The campaigns Pandey has worked on have represented a paradigm shift in Indian advertising, emphasising the power of storytelling, humour, and emotional connections. His work has helped advertisers realise that they could not only sell products but also shape culture and society through their messages. Pandey is also the author of two books: Pandeymonium and Open House with Piyush Pandey.

His career has been showered with numerous awards and accolades, including multiple Cannes Lions and the Lion of St. Mark. 

He leaves a legacy of campaigns for next-gen leaders at Ogilvy. Pandey has shaped India’s advertising landscape in a way that advertisers today look up to him and his iconic campaigns for inspiration. His ability to infuse emotion, humour, and authenticity into ad campaigns remains unparalleled. His work has transcended the realm of advertising becoming an integral part of our cultural fabric, with slogans and jingles that continue to echo in the hearts and minds of people across the nation.

Advertising cricket Ogilvy Pandeymonium Open House with Piyush Pandey adman iconic campaigns