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26 Jul 2017

Amul Girl: One of the longest and cheapest ad campaigns

The legacy of the Amul Girl

When the Women in Blue lost the World Cup, Indians showered praises on the players.

One commenter was the Amul Girl, witty as ever. "Buttereen pradarshan," she lauded. "They blue our minds!"

Did you know Amul spends just 1% of its total turnover on the never-seen-before, larger-than-life marketing campaign?

Find out how the Amul Girl came to be the icon she is today.

In context

The legacy of the Amul Girl
A nudge from Dr Kurien, and an icon is born


A nudge from Dr Kurien, and an icon is born

Dr Verghese Kurien, head of India's White Revolution, launched Amul in 1957, but started advertising almost 10 years later with the help of Mumbai's DaCunha ad agency.

Then Sylvester daCunha, Eustace Fernandez and Usha Katrakanda put their heads together to come up with the image of the cheerful blue-haired girl in a polka dot dress praying: "Give us this day our daily bread with Amul Butter."


The 'Utterly Butterly' movement had begun

However, they realized they needed a fresh marketing campaign. Then came "Thoroughbred", the first topical ad: a jockey is seen holding a slice of bread during the 1966 horse race season.

The same year, Sylvester's wife Nina DaCunha framed the "Utterly Butterly" phrase: ironically, it was criticized because of lack of grammar.

Soon, DaCunha was releasing ads without awaiting company's permission: timeliness was key.

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And then, one hit after the other


And then, one hit after the other

Since then, Amul has churned out one hit after the other in politics, sports, festivals, films and more.

Some of the notable ones are the "We've always practised compulsory sterilization" (the mandatory sterilization during the 1908s Indira Gandhi regime); "Do buttered pilots need more bread? Don't stir, just spread" (on the 1992 Indian pilots' strike); and "Satyam, Sharam, Scandalam" (on the 2009 Satyam scam).


But there's no success without roadblocks

Unrestrained speech is sure to ruffle feathers. Amul has faced legal challenges on ads involving Jagmohan Dalmiya, British Airways and more, but never relented.

Once, when they drew her as a cheerleader, the public protested her dressed in a short skirt.

The company lives by Sylvester's advice: "don't get into too much trouble, but say things the way they need to be said."

The current team has brought in the necessary changes


The current team has brought in the necessary changes

In the early 1990s, Rahul daCunha took over the campaign from his father. He is assisted by copywriter Manish Jhaveri and illustrator Jayant Rane.

Their target is the fickle and up-to-date 16-25 year-olds who are immersed in smartphones and have really short attention spans.

From one monthly ad in the 60s, now it is five-six weekly ads. From hoardings, now it is social media.


And they have managed to retain the Amul Girl's spirit

In 2012, HarperCollins India published the first edition of "Amul's India" which compiled the brand's most iconic ads and articles by different celebs who featured in the campaign.

The team has passed on scrapbooks to successors to keep intact the Amul Girl's identity. Even today, every cartoon is hand-drawn.

Now ad agency FCB Ulka assists daCunha Communications and handles advertising for Amul's other products.

So what's next for India's iconic mascot?

The three flag-bearers of the ad campaign haven't yet thought of succession, but the company has grand plans for the Amul Girl: if it decides in favor, she might be seen on a range of items like key rings, fridge magnets and cups.

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