Neil French. King of good times.


Neil French. The most colorful advertising creative man the world has ever seen at least this part of the world. Pole dancers to sexist comments to brilliant writing to scam ads to bull fighting to cigars, he has given it all. Advertising’s very own bad boy quietly settled for a Dad’s post. I was fortunate enough to spend couple of days with this legend at Shanghai last year.

I have always admired his guts, audacity, cleverness and above all his craft, as an art director having worked with someone of the best Indian writers like Biwas Sen, Chax, Kersey Katrak, Mohammed Khan, Ivan Arthur, Balki and Agnello Dias, still feel some dissatisfaction of not working with Neil. At least I cherished the moments spent with him in China. I hate the sexist and blunt rude man in him at the same time love his simple frankness. He loves his live, work and women. His passion for writing and dismissiveness both are equally infectious if you listen to him long enough.

The time I spent with him was like a movie trailer , I witnessed him autographing on the breast of a young chinese ad professional to his Cigar chewing arrogant command for respect look to insights into his work to his obsession to play online monopoly to an anxious dad worried for his son being left alone at a friends place. I got to see the man up close delivering all emotions.

Talking about his sexist remarks on a fellow CD at WPP, which forced him to step down as worldwide creative director and have had the grace to accept that his sense of humour not going well with the community. Couple of years later found support in Asian creative icon Jureeporn who attributed her success to his encouragement of women creatives in Asia.

Two of my favorite campaigns:

XO Beer.

To prove a point to clients who think that print as a medium is not suited for FMCG and beer. So he went on to create a brand called “XO” which never existed in real life and even created fake packaging. He broke every beer advertising rule, no pouring shots, no drinking shots, no sexy women, no expensive cars, no mouth watering defrosted glass with froth. The campaign became a rage and people flocked to the shops and bars only to discover that the brand never existed and it was a private lesson taught in public. You need guts and audacity to think and implement a campaign like that. Hats off.

Chivas Regal.

When Johnny Walker was a market leader, Chivas considered to be cheap and therefore selling less in a status driven market. The obvious decision was to increase the price but along with it came a super confident tone of voice almost bordering on arrogance did the trick and Chivas became No:1. In case if have not read the line it says : “If you don’t recognise it, you’ve probably not ready for it” and what you see below is a bottle without the label.  Absolutely Audacious.

Lessons from this master’s life are: when you enjoy your life and live fearlessly you tend to come up with brillent ideas. True. when you are on a roll you tend to engage people in a more charming way than when you are down.

As they say “French” knows how to live life king size.

“Indian print slipped into coma a decade ago.”


Shocking but true. What is keeping print advertising art alive is the pro-active\pro-award work. Once most loved advertising medium is dying and helplessly staring into nothingness, hopelessly waiting for a miraculous recovery. Who can kindle the hope? Kindle? Or will the Apple’s of the world pad-up for the revival of written word?

Kindle and our very own Chetan Bhaghat are bringing readers back or if I may say so, bringing a newer generation of readers. My children never read “Tower of silence” or “Hobbit” or “Watership down”; they don’t look up to Ann Rand or Hermann Hesse. Only newspaper they are interested is Bombay Times.

Reading books or for that matter any printed word is becoming rarest of rare things to happen, if they do happen than, that’s the day papa’s like me celebrate. While multi-screen revolution and evolution may keep words alive and evolve, what about print advertising? Do we need to get satisfied with sale and escort services ads? Will the sleeping beauty called print resting in coma move any muscle someday? Or will it rest in the book of Eli?


Once brands and issues use to put forth compelling and persuasive arguments like the ones Agnello Dias does for “Aman ke Asha” or Mohammad Khan’s argument for a price hike of 50 paisa for Kingston cigarettes or Adrian Homes Insurance ads or Bill Bernbach’s logic for Jewish Rye. The art of writing persuasive copy is gone, most of the copy writing in print today is salesman copy written by writers with content copy mind-set.

Once a client and a media agency head in a drunken state told me that print can’t deliver emotions therefore we are using print as informative or reminder medium. Hence there are no theme ads scheduled. I almost cried “ Get your heads checked ***holes” like in dreams only I could hear my voice.

When Mohammad Khan advertised for “Vadilal” readers licked the pictures of the ice-cream, when Ajit Patel shot a Premier Padmini, thousands of cars rolled out of the shelves, Elsie Nanji went to jail for Action shoes. Passionate writers and art directors sold many emotions in print.

Chetan Bhaghat, Agnello Dias and Kindle’s of the world are the only hope to make printed word to talk again.