a father’s day ad

i don’t observe father’s day. my father passed away many years ago and back then, no one celebrated father’s day in india. and yet, every time the day comes around, i think of this ad by david abbott. so perfectly written, you think you wrote it yourself for your father. even though you didn’t celebrate the day and your father wasn’t around and you weren’t a young man of thirty eight; you were a woman.

come to think of it, i must have been around thirty eight when i saw this ad for the very first time. my boss used to look up to david abbott (who didn’t), he had a deep regard for this great copywriter, and often when chatting about copy, his name would come up and we’d be looking at his ads for the economist, sainsbury’s, volvo, and others. it was during one such session in my early days at nexus, that i think i saw this ad.

because i’ve known you all my life. from that very first line, i was hooked. no, i was lost. in the lucid beauty of the copywriter’s words. personal, simple, particular. what’s a rudge bicycle i wonder each time i read the ad as it goes line after line, a reason in each, leading all the way to why his dad deserved that bottle of chivas regal.

they say, this ad has no headline, yet to me, that first line sounded like the most perfect headline always. i usually find i need to swallow hard after reading it. or just keep quiet and let it flow in me a little. because i have known you all my life.

just now i was thinking, i wish that were true in the case of my father. then i thought, if it were him, would it be chivas regal? or would it be a box of venus pencils, perfectly sharpened? my father was a geologist and he was extremely particular about his pencils. he kept the tips long and sharp. i remember he arranged the pencils in a certain order in the top drawer of his desk. he’d sometimes tell us to go fetch a pencil from there. he would know exactly where each pencil was; the 2b, b, hb, and others. third from the left there’s a 2b pencil, he might say. or, right next to the two hb pencils you’ll find a 2b, get that.

i can see the drawer almost as i write, the pale brown wood, the dark bluish green pencils arranged on the right side, the clean simple room, and the neatness all around.

or maybe my father would enjoy a chivas regal.

david abbott passed away two years ago. this ad, when it came out in 1980 or thereabouts, was criticised by many as being too sentimental. it’s considered a classic ad today.

i still have no idea why i think of it every father’s day, considering i don’t celebrate it. i almost wrote a piece on it yesterday, then i held myself back. maybe because father’s day makes me miss a man who went away a long time ago. but then i saw rhea’s article today and gregory peck and i thought of my father. i must write about that ad, i thought.

i just found out, david abbott lost his father long before he was thirty eight, the age of the man in that ad. he was in university at the time, and it occurred to me, so was i.

because i wish i’d known you all my life.


because i’ve known you all my life.
because a red rudge bicycle once made me the happiest boy on the street.
because you let me play cricket on the lawn.
because you used to dance in the kitchen with a tea-towel round your waist.
because your cheque book was always busy on my behalf.
because our house was always full of books and laughter.
because of countless saturday mornings you gave up to watch a small boy play rugby.
because you never expected too much of me or let me get away with too little.
because of all the nights you sat working at your desk while i lay sleeping in my bed.
because you never embarrassed me by talking about the birds and the bees.
because i know there’s a faded newspaper clipping in your wallet about my scholarship.
because you always made me polish the heels of my shoes as brightly as the toes.
because you’ve remembered my birthday 38 times out of 38.
because you still hug me when we meet.
because you still buy my mother flowers.
because you are more than your fair share of grey hairs and i know who helped put them there.
because you are a marvelous grandfather.
because you made my wife feel one of the family.
because you wanted to go to mcdonalds the last time i bought you lunch.
because you’ve always been there when i’ve needed you.
because you let me make my own mistakes and never once said “i told you so.”
because you still pretend you only need glasses for reading.
because i don’t say thank you as often as i should.
because it’s father’s day.
because if you don’t deserve chivas regal, who does?


indrani’s index

visual courtesy uploader/copyright holder

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  • rhea sinha
    June 21, 2016 at 11:46 am

    that is a brilliant ad Indi di.. thank you for writing about it. brought tears to my eyes, those lines.

    • indrani robbins
      June 21, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      brilliant. some writing just makes you think of that word, doesn’t it? thanks so much for reading. david abbott is a great copywriter. they don’t have any space for this kind of writing any more. i had a few other favourites, will write about them as i go along. of course bill bernbach give me dhakdhak.

  • Rahab Ali Soni
    June 21, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Although I was a girl
    I still rode a bicycle
    I played all the girlie games
    And failed in my mathematics
    You frowned but never scolded me
    You understood what went into my head
    That numbers were not meant for me
    So you let me follow my fads
    My dreams were not what you wanted for me
    Yet you let me dream on
    You had your own principles
    But when it came to me they were gone
    You guided me my whole life
    But never let me see the hand that showed the way
    You taught me how to think for myself
    Make rules to live my life
    You may not have believed in all of them
    Yet you let me have a try

    I am today what you wanted me to be
    A woman of the world
    and I say I am what I am because you taught me well
    Your values are my values your principles are mine
    I know If you saw me today
    You surely would smile

    • indrani robbins
      June 21, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      beautiful, rahab. you wrote? good to see you here.