Advertising & Practical Thinking

The advertising profession is cold and cruel. The power of practical thinking is a perfect antidote.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Penta Story.

Many people have asked about the name PentaTwo. Before there was PentaTwo, there was Penta (Penta Advertising, followed by Penta Corporation.) Here is the story…
In August 1971, a 23-year old young man came to the United States of America from India. He came to the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, for a graduate degree in Advertising. His undergraduate degree was in Textile Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
He was fortunate enough to attain a Fulbright Scholarship and a James Webb Young Fellowship; otherwise the journey would have never started. He was also lucky. His Fulbright scholarship required an orientation course at a US university. He was sent to the University of Hawaii (board and lodging provided, plus five dollars a day) via Hong Kong and Tokyo. He was also fortunate that he grew up in India, learning to speak English at a very tender age and was exposed to American and English literature and print publications, and was exposed to western music and movies (there was no TV during those days, and all radio listening was on short-wave frequencies.) Most people under the age of forty would not know what that means. Just like they would not know the origin of the abbreviation cc – carbon copy.
In December 1971, he was talking to two of his classmates (JW and RL) and said, “I am going to start an advertising agency.” RL replied, “You have a snowball’s chance in hell.” His reply, “I have never seen snow and do not want to see hell.” Since then he has seen a ton of snow, and experienced a lot of hell.
In April 1972, he did start an advertising agency and decided to call the agency “Penta Advertising.” JW and RL and two others helped him for three months. By August they all left for greener pastures, Madison Avenue NY, NY. His capital, $30.00 from his roommate! And, this was to pay Illinois Bell for a telephone line!
His first account was a bank. The work he did for the bank got observed by the bank’s board of directors and two of them called him to do the advertising for their local companies. The next call, in July1972, was from the campaign manager for a candidate running for the Illinois Senate!
By then, he was close to graduating, MS in Advertising. However, his visa would enable him to stay in the US only if he was a student. Fortune smiled on him again and he was the recipient of a University of Illinois Fellowship for a graduate degree in Radio and Television.
Literally leasing more time, he was working 16 hours a day on Penta and his second graduate degree.
During this period, he innovated (with help from his ex-roommate) a software program for optimizing local TV spot purchases. This helped Penta acquire regional accounts including Pepsi-Cola, Arby’s and SuperValu.
In 1975, he also started teaching advertising courses (Introduction to Advertising, Media, and Advertising Campaigns) at the University of Illinois, a stint that lasted for three years.
Penta, by 1985, grew to be an agency with over 35 people.
In 1991, hell started barking at him. Pepsi decided to close one of their four divisions, Pepsi USA. Penta’s second largest client. The same year, Penta’s largest client. Marine bank was acquired by BankOne (now Chase). That was the last nail on Penta’s coffin.
Penta was forced to declare corporate bankruptcy on December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day!)
He moved to Chicago in 1994, and started a marketing/advertising consultancy, under his name. He was one of the first to advocate Internet Marketing, and introduced this (at that time) phenomenon to Frankel, now known as ARC and a part of Publicis.
In 1988, he wrote a “white paper” on Knowledge Management in Advertising Agencies.
In 2005, he took a six month sabbatical to study the state of the advertising world. He created a term “The Choice Group.”
Since then, and still is, he has been a consultant for two global advertising agencies. He is also working with a start-up technology company that will revolutionize the world of sharing information and knowledge.
He re-branded himself as “PentaTwo.”
I am he. No, not the walrus.
I am Bala.
Now you know the story. At least part of it.
More later…

Monday, November 05, 2007


All of a sudden, green is becoming the most favorite color. The NBC logo designed in 1976 (from a Nebraska PBS station's logo) has changed from a multicolored logo (rainbow?) to a green-colored logo. Just noticed this as I was watching the Sunday Night NFL game. Green to represent the ecology? Green to represent the Fighting Irish? Sorry, NBC! You may be broadcasting the Notre Dame home games; however, this is the wrong year to support their color. Or are you going to be merging with BP?
You had a very unique multicolored logo. Unlike most logos that are in various hues of red, blue, or maybe yellow. Why the change?