Roda Mehta: AAAI Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech


July 20, 2017

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Today, Roda Mehta will be presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI). Roda is an integral part of Ogilvy India’s history and one of the architects of the success and reputation we enjoy today Each of you should know her story and join us in congratulating an Ogilvy legend as the industry celebrates her.


Post an MBA from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute in 1971, Roda worked first for ICICI and then for HTA before moving to Ogilvy, Benson and Mather in 1975. She then had a successful 23-year stint with Ogilvy. During this period, Roda changed the face of media, both as a discipline for clients and as an industry, by bringing scientific thinking and professionalism into media planning and buying.

She is an Ogilvy Icon.

She was the youngest Board Member of Ogilvy, Benson and Mather in the early 80s. She brought media planning central to brand strategy and development. And evangelized it to give it the attention it deserved. She brought a business focus to media to make it more valuable and meaningful to clients and for it to be an Ogilvy differentiator. Media was not just about circulation and rates but connected back to sales. She was more than a media person, she was a strategic planner, and partnered many brand launches and campaigns through the 70s and the 80s, including the launch of Titan and the ‘Sometimes Cadbury’s can say it better than words’ campaign.

She is a Media Icon.

She drove professionalism into the media business and brought the science of ‘frequency and reach’ into the art of media strategies. She made it data driven. She envisioned the emergence and growth of Outdoor and Rural as specialist offerings and introduced them as units within the media department. She identified the importance of buying and, early in the 90s, developed it as a specialised skill. She drove media buying beyond just circulation and got print publications to re-tailor sizes for creative messaging and impact.

She is an Industry Icon.

She was on several industry committees including the Expert Committee on TV Marketing for Doordarshan & AIR, Advisory Board – Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (Govt, of India) and AAAI’s Media Disputes Committee and Economic Times Advisory Panel. She was Founder Member of the Market Research Society of India (MRSI) and Founder Member and Chairperson, Technical Committee, of the Media Research Users Council (MRUC). She chaired MRUC from 1994-96. She championed the cause of research as an essential tool for media. In the 80s, she partnered research agencies to develop and grow Readership Surveys.

In the 90s, this evolved to cover Television ratings as well, as the medium grew. These syndicated researches benefitted everyone in the industry. In the early 90s, she along with others in the industry convinced the Government of India and the Department of Education that the National Literacy Mission campaign should be created by a professional agency. And then alongside others in Ogilvy, including Piyush, created the ‘Chalo Padhayen, Kuch Kar Dikhayen’ campaign. It was perhaps a precursor to Government working with agencies for social change campaigns.

Finally, she inspired many women to come into the industry in the 70s and 80s and trained many people who went on to become leaders in advertising in the 90s and the new millennium.

Today, she works extensively with NGOs, including specific initiatives on educating the girl child. Her contribution to Ogilvy, Media and the Industry is undisputable. As Ranjan Kapur, Country Manager, WPP India puts it, “She was the Mother of Modern Media”.

May you all learn from her life and celebrate our history.


“Travelling with Roda on the National Literacy Mission campaign, I saw the sensitive side of the no nonsense person she is. Behind her tough and disciplined approach to work, is a soft and sensitive human being.’

Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman and Creative Director, Ogilvy South Asia

“Roda changed the face of Media Planning and Buying in India. She drove professionalism into the media business and brought the science of ‘reach and frequency’ into the art of buying. She made media a data driven business in an era that was technology deficient and most work had to be done manually. It was back breaking work but she never let up. She championed the cause of research as an essential tool for media and personally saw to it that media research became the backbone of media decisions in the entire industry. Roda also envisioned the importance of Outdoor and Rural and introduced them as separate units of the media department at Ogilvy in the early 90s at a time when its competitors were still playing catch up. Her contributions are endless and Ogilvy owes her a debt of immense gratitude. We were tiny players then, facing huge media companies, but she made us feel like giants. She can truly claim the title of being the Mother of Modern Media.”

Ranjan Kapur, Country Manager, WPP India

“Roda was one of India’s first media professionals. An articulatc and clear thinking lady who made media a science and gave the media function legitimacy. Thanks to individuals like her, media became critical in the Indian advertising industry. However, her contribution went much beyond media she was a great Strategic Planner (much before the term was invented for Advertising) as well as a great business partner. She was honest, forthright, ethical and one always learnt when interacting with her.”

Bharat Puri, MD, Pidilite Industries Limited

‘Roda Mehta… whose one guest lecture was enough to convince me to spend nearly five years at the start of my career under her wing at Ogilvy, Benson and Mather. A pioneer with the guts and gumption to dominate several boardrooms of men, she laid the ground for professional media planning based on data in this country, and introduced many women to the profession.”

Lynn D’Souza, Founder, Social Access


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