Gerson da being no more. It belonged to an era when almost all ad agency leaders had a strong theatrical background. It helped. Clients were impressed by the way the ad agencies presented their ideas. They stuck to literally every word they had to say. But it is reckoned that Gerson was one of the first to recognize the existence of a new breed of brand [and marketing] Managers had to emerge. Hindustan Lever was hiring MBAs and they held key positions in Marketing. Lintas, the agency run by Gerson was literally an extension of HLL and Lintas became one of the first agencies to hire MBAs from senior IIMs.
Gerson handed the agency over to Alyque Padamsee and went to Brazil to try his hand at socializing (again very few advertising professionals tried those days).
He came back a few years later but didn’t sit idly by. He has co-founded a non-governmental organization that has valiantly tried to raise awareness among the citizens of Mumbai about their rights and the need to participate in the electoral process.
I never had the opportunity to work with Gerson or Lintas. I may have met him for the first time, in his gorgeous apartment filled with old-world writers overlooking the famous Raja Bhai Tower at the University of Mumbai in 2009. Bal Mundkur (the founder of Ulka and Gerson’s contemporary in advertising) dragged me to brainstorm with Gerson on his favorite project, a book on the history of Indian advertising.
I saw instant bonding between veterans. Pal decided he would focus on raising money for the book while Gerson offered to line up writers who would put forth their opinions on the growth of Indian advertising. Ad Katha book was launched at Ad Asia 2011.
When writing my book “Nawabs Nudes Noodles – India Through 50 Years of Advertising” the first person I came into contact with was Gerson Da Cunha. I must say I saw it as “Bhisma Pithama” for the Indian ad. He was happy to hear the idea for my book and generously shared the many anecdotes and groundbreaking advertising campaigns of which he was a part. I have cited it generously in my book; Especially the stories about Lever Bros. And the Dalda brand and how it was built.
Gerson da Cunha was also an icon of style. He pioneered the ‘Kurta-Bird’ look in Hindi advertisements. Several people followed in his footsteps including my first boss at Rediffusion Advertising ‘Vish’P S Viswanathan, who is also a former Lintas man.
Over the past decade, no advertising event in Mumbai would be complete without the kind presence of Gerson Da Cunha. He made it clear attending these events and always had a few words to share with old friends and fans. I remember him saying that he was totally amazed at the way the Indian advertising industry has flourished. I think the development of the industry owes a lot to visionary leaders like Gerson da Cunha. Social activist. A veteran in the theater. Marketing expert. Excellent speaker. clerk. Comprehensive advertising professional. style icon. A gentleman to the core.
Rest in peace Gerson.