Ut­terly But­ter­lyButt Pre­cious

The Amul mop­pet re­cently Turned 50. here’s A peek i nto her Adventures

WKND - - Advertising Meet The Icon - By Anamika chat­ter­jee

ifty years. Think of all that five decades in In­dia could pos­si­bly en­cap­su­late — 13 gov­ern­ments, 5 cens uses, 2 gen­er­a­tions, myr­iad emo­tions and the Amul girl. Mas­cot of a but­ter brand, the Amul girl ar­tic­u­lates what the na­tion re­ally wants to know. Keep­ing her ear to the ground, she mostly echoes the pub­lic sen­ti­ment on ev­ery is­sue — be it na­tional or in­ter­na­tional, pol­i­tics or pop cul­ture. The fear­less, nose­less, age­less nar­ra­tor of a chang­ing In­dia re­cently turned 50. Who are the cast of char­ac­ters lend­ing voice to the coun­try’s most talk­a­tive mop­pet? To find out, let us rewind to circa 1960s.

Be­fore Amul be­came the mar­ket leader for but­ter in In­dia, the brand that held the dis­tinc­tion was Pol­son. Owned by vi­sion­ary busi­ness­man Pe­stonji Edulji Dalal — whose nick­name was Polly — Pol­son of­fered an ad­di­tional in­cen­tive of gift coupons that came with each pack, which only added to its soar­ing pop­u­lar­ity among ur­ban In­dian house­holds. Its icon was a young, so­phis­ti­cated girl with blonde hair who would be seen but­ter­ing her toast. The catch­line was sim­ple: “Chil­dren Love Pol­son’s But­ter: Guard Their Health and Give Them The Best”. Amul, though formed two decades ago, had not man­aged to make a sim­i­lar im­pact. A rea­son why, in 1966, when Sylvester da Cunha’s com­pany Ad­ver­tis­ing and Sales Pro­mo­tion ( ASP) fi­nally won the ac­count for Amul, he and his art di­rec­tor Eus­tace Fer­nan­des re­alised the need to cre­ate an image for the brand so pow­er­ful, so elo­quent, that it could hope to de­throne Pol­son’s prim- and- proper girl.

Sylvester and Eus­tace brain­stormed with the team at ASP, and came up with an icon of a chubby girl who would wear a polka- dot­ted dress and wouldn't have a nose. She would be armed with a sharp tongue, mouthing puns that could re­late the trend of the time with the but­ter. In short, ev­ery­thing about

her would be ir­rev­er­ent as com­pared to the gen­tle Pol­son mas­cot. And that’s how the iconic Amul girl was born.

With the im­agery get­ting ev­ery­one’s vote of con­fi­dence, the chal­lenge was now to make an im­pact with the first ad. Dur­ing those days, a tele­vi­sion set wasn’t a com­mon sight in mid­dle class house­holds and print ads were too ex­pen­sive. Fi­nally, de­ci­sion was taken to put the Amul girl on a hoard­ing. One of the first ads placed her atop a horse ( to sig­nify the trend of horse rac­ing that was catch­ing up then) with a catch­line “Thor­ough­bread”.

An adorable mop­pet with sharp wit — the Amul girl had fi­nally ‘ ar­rived’.

Five decades later, breath­ing life into an age­less Amul girl to­day are three men who have spent con­sid­er­able part of their lives giv­ing her a voice and a pur­pose. Sylvester da Cunha’s son Rahul has been spear­head­ing the cam­paign since the early ’ 90s and has con­tin­ued to do so at a time when change has been the only con­stant in the coun­try. “My task is to nav­i­gate through is­sues. The main thing is to re­main rel­e­vant and con­tem­po­rary. What is mak­ing peo­ple an­gry? What are they re­act­ing to?”

Ev­ery Mon­day morn­ing, the da Cunha Com­mu­ni­ca­tions 1967 Amul's first top­i­cal comes out, which com­ments on the trend of the day: horse- rac­ing of­fice in Mum­bai bus­tles with en­ergy. That’s when Rahul and copy­writer Man­ish Jhaveri meet to dis­cuss a bas­ket of top­ics — both na­tional as well as in­ter­na­tional — that the Amul girl could talk about in the cam­paigns for the week. Once the idea re­ceives a nod from the team, Man­ish comes up with two or three po­ten­tial lines to go with the cam­paign be­fore hand­ing over the task of il­lus­trat­ing the graphic to Jayant Rane, who typ­i­cally takes two or three hours to draw the en­tire top­i­cal. Sounds de­cep­tively sim­ple, doesn’t it?

The time when Sylvester and his team took over the reins of Amul’s cam­paign was dif­fer­ent. As Rahul ob­serves, “Back in those days, things were steady and con­stant. We have en­tered an in­ter­est­ing time in the coun­try where to­day is ac­tu­ally com­pletely dif­fer­ent from to­mor­row.” The real chal­lenge for the team is to com­ment on so­cially, po­lit­i­cally am­bigu­ous is­sues in the age of so­cial me­dia where some sub­jects can lead to po­lar­is­ing, heated de­bates.

In the past, Amul has had its own share of con­tro­ver­sies. A few years ago, lead­ing In­dian news­pa­per Times of In­dia r e p o r t e d h o w t h e mult i n a t i o n a l c o n g l o merat e Sa­hara threat­ened to sue Amul’s par­ent body Gu­jarat Co­op­er­a­tive Milk Mar­ket­ing Fed­er­a­tion for a top­i­cal that took a dig at the news of the com­pany al­legedly col­lect­ing INR 100,000 ($ 1500) from each of its em­ploy­ees in or­der to raise INR 5,000 crore ($ 750 mil­lion) to bail out its head Subrata Roy. Stand­ing next to two em­ploy­ees of Sa­hara beg­ging for money, the Amul girl was spot­ted with the catch­line “Be-

on a de­vel­op­ment, it can be quite good. They don’t need to con­stantly find some­thing clever to say; just an ob­ser­va­tion, clev­erly done, would be enough. The brand is un­shake­able now.”

Her ‘ jolly- good- fel­low’ image might have given the Amul girl some lee­way, but for copy­writer Man­ish Jhaveri, there are none. Tasked with the job of writ­ing clever, catchy lines on tricky is­sues, Man­ish of­ten finds him­self in search of bal­ance, even on is­sues where he may have a strong point of view. Ask him about the sin­gu­larly most chal­leng­ing as­sign­ment in re­cent times and he is ready with an an­swer. “De­mon­eti­sa­tion. When it was an­nounced, the views were too po­lar­is­ing. You couldn’t have been vit­ri­olic, nei­ther could you sup­port it.” Over the years, Man­ish has in­tro­duced Hinglish to the Amul girl’s vo­cab­u­lary, mak­ing her even more ac- 1992 The ad lam­poons the In­dian Air­line pi­lots' strike for an in­crease in pay ces­si­ble to the ur­ban In­dian mid­dle class that is as flu­ent in English as it is in Hindi.

So­cial me­dia has been an­other game changer. While it has helped the team gauge pub­lic sen­ti­ment more ac­cu­rately, it has also en­sured that the out­put is mul­ti­plied. Ear­lier, they would Com­ment­ing on the in­creas­ing in­volve­ment of the un­der­world in Bollywood When Aamir Khan had to pay for his re­marks on grow­ing in­tol­er­ance come up with nearly five top­i­cals a month, to­day they work on as many top­i­cals in a week. While Amul does have strong read­er­ship on­line, Rahul says print is as rel­e­vant to them now as ever. “Print is still pow­er­ful. There is a large part of In­dia — 40 to 50 per cent — that is non- dig­i­tal. Con­sumers largely watch tele­vi­sion or read news­pa­pers; it’s not a 100 per cent dig­i­tal coun­try. We get our older au­di­ences through the press, and younger au­di­ences through dig­i­tal.”

If there is one thing that has changed sig­nif­i­cantly with digi­ti­sa­tion, it is the art­work it­self. In the old days, a top­i­cal would be hand­painted from scratch. To­day, they are made dig­i­tally.

“Since ev­ery­thing was hand­painted ear­lier, the de­signs had to be kept sim­ple. Now, there is a greater em­pha­sis on de­tail­ing since these are dig­i­tal prints,” says Jayant Rane, the third and the old­est mem­ber of the team be­hind the cam­paign. Like Rahul and Man­ish, his mem-

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