"The intention of the new managing committee is to increase Ad Club memberships beyond the 5,000-mark":The Ad Club, Bombay president and FCB Ulka executive director MG Parameswaran

FCB Ulka executive vice president MG Parameswaran has donned the hat of the president of The Advertising Club, Bombay after the annual general body meeting on 27 June 2003. The man who started his career with advertising definitely has a passion for the creative arts - seen in the fact that books on photography dominate the book shelf in his office.

After completing his engineering at IIT Chennai in 1977, Parameswaran pursued his management studies at IIM Kolkata - he actually topped his class. He started his advertising career in Rediffussion; spent some time in Boots (handling OTC brands such as Coldarin and others such as Brufin). He joined UDI Yellow pages as the general manager sales and set up the national sales network. In 1989, he joined Ulka Chennai to head the southern operations. In 1994, he came back to Mumbai and manages half the western region business; oversees the southern operations; and handles new initiatives such as direct marketing, healthcare and brand consultancy.

Parameswaran speaks to's Ashwin Kotian about his plans to take the Ad Club, Bombay, to greater heights. Excerpts:



Tell us about your association with The Ad Club, Bombay?

Four years ago, Kaushik Roy (ex Mudra executive director and CCO; currently heading Reliance Infocomm corporate communications) invited me to become a member of the managing committee. At that time, I was involved with training sessions during those days.

This obsession started after I discovered through a survey of the Ad Club members that the club members were keen on participating in educational programmes. In fact, 150 people asked for training programmes and 25 of them offered to teach. That is how the concept of continuous education programmes evolved.

We managed to get some of the best brains in the country - such as Meera Patwardhan, Mukul Deoras, Ashoke Das, R Sridhar and Roger Pereira. We started off with three to four programmes but had difficulty in getting 15-16 participants. Now, all that has changed.



How have things changed now? How has the Ad Club, Bombay, evolved over the last few years?

During the span of the last six years, the Ad Club Bombay has evolved from a club that merely organises creative awards to an all-purpose one touching various advertising functions.

The success of functions/events such as Abbies, Effies, Emvies, Ad Reviews, Ad Quiz amongst others is testimony to this gradual change. After all, Mumbai is the advertising capital of India and it is important to ensure that the Ad Club, Bombay, is positioned as the premiere one in the country. The premises of the club have been renovated and the finances are in good shape (thanks to the efforts of Ashok Neherkar).

Even the evening programmes have grown in stature simply because the managing committee has been pretty selective about the kind of people who are invited; the venues; and the sponsors.

The Ad Club, Bombay is also actively involved in training members and other constituents. Nearly four years back, I was actively involved in the conceptualisation of educational programmes. At

present, we have six to eight workshops in important fields such as ideation, brand analysis, direct marketing and public relations. But, the total number of events is around 18 at present. The events are conducted in better venues.

In our exchange programmes, we make it a point to invite speakers of a particular calibre. We don't invite anyone who, we feel, will not add value. The faculty nomination is purely by invitation. Due to these efforts, we get a good response. it is not at all difficult to get 25 participants in the present scenario.

The inhouse journal Solus has been revived since the last two years and and eventually, the intention is to increase the number of issues available every year.



"My own wish list - to ensure that the new managing committee can give the Ad Club activities a slightly more learning orientation. The emphasis on knowledge has to increase"



What kind of targets has the new managing committee set for itself?

As the new managing committee takes over, our intention will be to continue the good job done by our illustrious predecessors. Under the able leadership of the immediate past president Pradeep Guha, the activities had been scaled up considerably. We shall maintain the tempo and our greatest challenge will be to continue delivering value to members.

My own wish list - to ensure that the new committee can give the Ad Club activities a slightly more learning orientation. The emphasis on knowledge has to increase. The Ad Club often gets identified with awards (which are important) but there is a need to work towards the improvement in professional advertising standards in addition to recognising excellence in all fields.

Of course, we conduct a lot of training programmes but there are opportunities to increase the sharing of skills. The Ad Club is a

reservoir of knowledge and its members are some of the best brains in the country, perhaps the world. The Ad Club has access to a lot of brilliant case studies. In the near future, we might publish them and offer an additional service to members.

Another dream is to organise a full day seminar on Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). We have some proposals but are waiting for the right sponsors to take up the cudgels. We can line up some of the best professionals in the world, if need be.



What about memberships? In between, the Ad Club memberships had dropped considerably?

Yes, some years back, the membership had dropped dramatically - to as low as 1,000 nos. We had to take corrective measures - conduct membership drives and promote the club aggressively. We managed to plug the gap. The number of members has also increased to around 2000 at present. The point is that people have to see value in joining and currently, they are seeing the value proposition.

Last year, we amended our Memorandum of Articles to allow corporate memberships. We are inviting more corporate members to become members of the club. Over the last two years, a increasing number of students from colleges and management institutions have enrolled. In the near future, as the activities increase, more and more students will definitely come forward to


We have also broadened the base to invite people from publications, airtime sellers and marketing professionals. We also expect people from production houses, processing houses, gift manufacturers, animation houses to be a part of the club.

The intention of the new managing committee is to increase Ad Club membership beyond the 5,000-mark.



"The intent is to get committee members who are passionate and willing to spend time - a 'day' in a month"



Does the Ad Club have proper representation from all quarters of the advertising and marketing business?

If you study the composition of the managing committee, you will find a fair mix of representatives. We have members from FCB Ulka, WPP Media, Advertising Avenues, Canco, O&M, Lowe, Euro RSCG, Mudra, SSC & B, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, Zee, Sony amongst others. The point is, The Ad Club, Bombay needs members and organisations that have access to adequate resources to support the club's activities.

There are people from the field of marketing - Bal Palekar from Eureka Forbes and Anil Chopra from Lakme. Clients are nominated to the juries of award functions and events. The last two Ad Reviews had been conducted by well known personalities who represented the "advertisers community".

The intent is to get committee members who are passionate and willing to commit time - at least a 'day' in a month. It is mandatory to attend monthly meetings; those haven't attended successive meetings in a row are asked to leave the managing committee. After all, it is a way of giving something back to the industry that feeds you.

We have been quite lucky that senior professionals have volunteered to be a part of the managing committee and spent quality time for all our past events. I often tell people that they can dedicate ourselves to the Ad Club by sparing one day or 24 hours every month for the club.

However, they need not spend an entire day but spread it over several days - perhaps in installments of hours. There have been times when members of the managing committee have dedicated after office hours for club related work. I reiterate that we need committed professionals with a desire to give back something to the industry.



How are you preparing for Ad Asia?

AdAsia is the biggest of all forthcoming events. In fact, after the Effies in August, we won't have any major event till AdAsia in November.

AdAsia is the continent's most prestigious ad event and India is getting a chance to host it after 21 years (the last was in 1982). AdAsia, arguably Asia's largest marketing, media and advertising event, is held every alternate year in the region. It attracts over 1,000 top managers from all the three disciplines.

The host nations have to bid for the rights and we made a successful bid four years ago at Pattaya. Recognising India's growing eminence in world advertising, the country has been chosen as the host for AdAsia 2003 - the venue being the picturesque pink city of Jaipur during 10-14 November 2003.

After winning the bid, we constituted an advisory board under the chairmanship of Vindi Banga (Hindustan Lever chairman) to formulate the basic direction and theme for AdAsia 2003. The board had eminent personalities such as Nandan Nilekani, Purush Grant, Anand Mahindra and Rajeev Chandrasekhar amongst others. The theme crystallised was "Break the rules!" and the idea was "Discontinuity may be the way forward". A special team comprising of senior committee members such as Pradeep Guha, Ramesh Narayan and Gautam Rakshit is overseeing the organisation. In fact, Ad Club will have a secretariat to help out with the organisation of Ad Asia.

The Ad Club, Bombay will be totally committed and dedicated to ensuring the success of this event. It is a matter of great pride that India will be the host country. The event will raise the profile of the Indian advertising industry.



As far as joining the Ad Club is concerned, what is your advice to the younger breed of A&M professionals?

The Ad Club, Bombay is a great institution to 'hang out'. It gives a great opportunity to the younger generation to interact with seniors and establish contact with them. If a young advertising professionals attends all the 18 events of the club, I guarantee that it will reflect in the person's performance at the end of that year.

Hypothetically, the cost of the membership is peanuts as compared to the amount of education, training that members get coupled with fun and excitement. So, please enroll in large numbers.



Do you watch television?

Primarily, I watch news channels such as CNBC, BBC,

CNN. I watch English soaps such as Seinfeld and shows

such as Jay Leno. I also watch Star Plus, Sun TV and

Zee English.



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