Horlicks sold, Piyush Pandey elevated, AI celebrated

The sale of Horlicks has evinced much media interest because HUL’s foods business has always been a bit of a laggard.

Published: 09th December 2018 10:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th December 2018 10:55 AM   |  A+A-

The last few days have been pretty busy. Lots of lofty headlines, led by the Rs 31,700 crore acquisition of GSK’s business by Unilever which now makes the legendary and iconic Horlicks brand part of the Lux-Surf-Rin-Bru-Knorr-Axe family; the elevation of cricketer-turned-copywriter Piyush Pandey as Chief Creative Officer (CCO) of Ogilvy Worldwide; and the sale at Sotheby’s of two Air India posters from the 1950s that fetched a record Rs10 lakh. 

The sale of Horlicks has evinced much media interest because HUL’s foods business has always been a bit of a laggard. Horlicks will be joined by Boost, Viva and Maltova, bringing in a basket of malted food drinks which will significantly enhance its food portfolio. Horlicks began its journey from Gloucestershire in England about 140 years ago when brothers William and James set up J&W Horlicks, called there malted milk drink ‘Diastoid’ and started to advertise it as ‘Horlick’s Infant and Invalids Food’. Horlicks has been around in India for well over 75 years (some say it came to India with the First World War veterans) and enjoys a nearly 50% share in its category.

Horlicks has been, and continues to be, ‘The Great Nourisher’ to millions of Indian families that rely on their morning cuppa of the white-soggy milk/ water additive for their life-long nutrition. The brand has been a special favorite in Bengal and Tamil Nadu despite being manufactured in Punjab. But sales have stagnated inspite of the launch of new flavours. 

Horlicks launched Juniors for toddlers, a Mother’s variant for breast-feeding moms, a bones-nutrition specialist for Women, tried a Protein+ for young adults, a Lite version for adults and has dabbled with Horlicks Growth+ and Horlicks Cardia+ to bring in more focused offerings. It has tried to launch biscuits, an energy bar, oats and even instant noodles to encash its brand franchise over larger consumer banks, but has had only lukewarm success. One will have to see what marketing genius Unilever manages to inject. 
The big breaking news in advertising last week was the announcement of Piyush Pandey as the global creative chief of Ogilvy. A big honor for Piyush, and surely the highest position occupied globally so far by an Indian creative person.

Pandey who played Ranji for Rajasthan, started life as an account executive but shifted to becoming a Hindi copywriter, and then eventually climbed to Ogilvy’s top creative job in India and finally became its agency head. Pandey, who with his brother Prasoon, was awarded the prestigious Lion of St Mark for outstanding contribution to creativity in communication at Cannes this summer, is a towering personality, with his handle-bar moustache and guttural guffaw adding to his colorful persona. Best known for Mile Sur Mera Tumhara and for his engaging Fevicol ads, he has his task cut out. Pandey is a big hitter, and I am sure he will score at the global level.

The most interesting advertising event of the past few days has surely been the auction of two Air India posters at Sotheby’s first India auction, dating back to 1953 (Prague) and 1956 (Paris). The posters were listed in the sale catalogue for an estimated Rs 60-90,000. The lot sold for Rs 8 lacs, plus 25% buyer’s premium … effectively Rs 10 lacs. The creator of the two posters, Nargis Wadia, the Grand Old Dame of Indian Advertising was there in the audience to clap and cheer as the bids closed, creating without doubt a record of sorts for advertising memorabilia in India!
(Sandeep Goyal is an advertising veteran)

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