Those were the days of telephone operators. So Binny Kapur, the charming lady with the husky voice and the loud lipstick, my colleague for many years at Ogilvy, Kolkata, put the call through. It was Jug Suraiya, journalist, friend and spouse of my former boss, who had recently moved to Delhi. Jug had figured The Statesman was a ship rapidly sinking into the Hooghly and had opted to board the cruise liner docked in Delhi, The Times of India.
He came straight to the issue. “Derek, these TOI folks, actually The Economic Times team in Bangalore, have asked me to put together an advertising and marketing quiz for ad agencies in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai,” Jug deadpanned on the trunk call. “Bunny [Jug’s wife] and I told them point blank: Not me. Get in touch with this chap, my friend, Derek O’Brien in Kolkata. He’s your man… Oh and by the way, not free… Charge the blighters your full fee.” That last bit was added almost in glee.
A few weeks, a couple of letters and half a dozen phone calls later we were all set to do the “Ad and Marketing Quiz” in the three southern cities. Dates were frozen: Chennai, okay. Hyderabad, okay… Oops. The date for the preliminary round in Bangalore clashed with the North Star Quiz (remember it?) I was committed to doing in another city.
Not a problem. The ET folks were comfortable with my father, Neil O’Brien, handling the opening day in Bangalore. The fees were fixed too: Rs 5,000 per show. (No, that’s not a typo. Those were my rates for a quiz show back in 1991!) As seasoned quizzers and a generation of corporate executives would have guessed by now, this is how the Brand Equity Quiz started.
Life has changed enormously in these past 23 years. Three years ago, I took a conscious decision to move away from live quiz shows. I had simply too much on my plate. So while I’m very involved in strategising, question setting, show design and backroom operations, the 2,400 live shows Derek O’Brien & Associates does every year are conducted by my able colleagues. The one quiz event for which I made an exception was the Brand Equity Quiz. This was special, it was very dear to my heart.
Now, close to its 25th birthday, the Brand Equity Quiz is being put to bed. It’s the company’s decision and I respect it. I can’t do the Brand Equity Quiz without Economic Times and Economic Times has promised it will not attempt to revive it without me. So maybe one day we’ll be back. For the moment, it’s time to say goodbye – and thank you for the memories.
Member of Parliament
Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha and National Spokesperson, Trinamool Congress