Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

A Zest for Creativity

Published 04 Jan, 2022 01:12pm
Javeed Wahedna (1952-2021) – an obituary.

My association with Javeed Wahedna goes back to the mid-1970s when as a brand manager at Unilever (then Lever Brothers), I got to know him and discovered his genius. I went to see him at R-Lintas (Unilever’s agency) in Karachi to discuss a creative brief for a print and poster campaign for a toothpaste we were preparing to launch.

We went over the brief. He asked a few questions and by the time I left his office an hour later, a couple of stunning layouts were ready, with amazing graphics and simple yet compelling copy. The finished artworks were on my desk the next morning, ready to be presented to my manager, who was equally impressed. “Quality work,” he commented.

Javeed migrated to Karachi with his family from Bombay in September 1970, much against his wishes. Leaving behind his childhood friends and familiar surroundings was painful for him, considering how sensitive a person he was. Yet, he knew that he had to quickly adjust to an environment he was unfamiliar with. Luckily, he had an uncle living in the city who became his friend and mentor.

His father had arrived in Karachi with limited funds, so Javeed knew it would not be easy to send him and his three siblings to school. Rather than seek financial help from his uncle, he decided to take up a job and attend college in the evenings. He believed that given his inborn artistic talent, he would be able to find a job at a reputable advertising agency. So, he walked into the R-Lintas office in Karachi and asked if they had an opening for a junior artist. Fortunately, they did. His work stood out and it soon caught the eye of C.A. Rauf, the owner.

At the same time, he joined St. Patrick’s College to complete his Bachelor’s degree in the evening and later attended the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) for his postgraduate diploma.

He met his future wife, Sabiha Baig, at R-Lintas. The agency was making a commercial for a Unilever brand and she had come for the initial screening. Javeed supervised the shoot but decided against recommending her for the commercial. This upset her a lot but he had other plans for her. A year later, he showed up at her home and when her father, Salim Baig, opened the gate, he introduced himself and asked if he could speak to his daughter. Taken by surprise but not reading too much into the request, he invited him in. Later, he called on Salim Baig at his office several times to talk about his work and plans and ultimately expressed his wish to marry his daughter. After making inquiries and speaking to several friends, Baig was convinced Javeed would make a good husband. Two years after their first meeting, Javeed and Sabiha were married.

The following year, he received a job offer from Ogilvy & Mather in Dubai. He decided to accept it and he and his wife moved to Dubai. Unfortunately, a year later, he suffered a heart attack. Although he recovered, he decided to return to Karachi and to R-Lintas.

Six years later, he left R-Lintas to establish his own advertising agency under the name of The Agency – a name perhaps deliberately chosen to make a statement to the competition. However, his objective was to stand out and be counted. This was fulfilled when he signed up with D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (DMB&B), a US-based advertising agency. In 1987, he renamed his agency as Wahedna D’Arcy.

As an outstanding advertising practitioner, he ensured his agency specialised in two areas – strategic planning and brand building. His agency was instrumental in building brands such as Tapal and Colgate-Palmolive’s Express Power. It also worked on the launch campaign of P&G's Always and FAW, a Chinese automobile brand.

Javeed’s health deteriorated significantly after his bypass in October 2004, following a major heart attack. Yet, he kept going to the agency and working on the creative for all his major accounts. Sabiha started to spend more time at the agency, gradually taking over key administrative responsibilities and financial management. Meanwhile the agency kept pitching for new accounts and hiring new people. The spirit of the agency was evident in a New Year ad posted on the agency’s Facebook page: And the Lord said, “Go forth and create. And we haven’t stopped since then."

In his tribute, Irfan Mustafa, a mutual friend said, “Aleel tha kamzoor tha magar thi ankhon mein chamak abhi. Hama tan gosh tha, pur josh tha, apnay aakhri lamhat mein bhi.”

Javeed Wahedna passed away on December 25, leaving behind his wife Sabiha, their daughter Sila Bandhani and many, many friends to remember him.