Amul’s India: The 50-year-campaign in fine print (IANS BOOKS)

New Delhi, June 15: The Onida devil has died and so has the Liril girl and Air India’s Maharaja, but the Amul girl has made it to 50 and is still dispensing with her signature “Utterly, Butterly, Delicious” one-liners to an ever-growing brood in the land of butter, milk and honey.

The little-girl innocence of the Amul girl, the immediate social relevance of the promos and the aesthetic combination of deft line drawing, cartooning and creative copywriting have helped the campaign outlive its rivals, says Rahul daCunha of daCunha Communications, which created the campaign in the mid-1960s.

The strength of the campaign is its tagline – “Utterly, Butterly, Delicious” that has penetrated almost every Indian urban household across economic and social divides over half a century.

The 50 years of the Amul girl, the making of the campaign and its social connect have been documented in a new book, “Amul’s India” (Harper Collins-India). The book was released in the capital earlier this week.

Says Verghese Kurien, the visionary founder of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation and the brain behind the brand Amul, in an interview in the book: “While the brand Amul was registered in 1957, it took nearly a decade for the campaign to take off. I never interfered with their (daCunha’s) work…The Amul girl has given the brand just the image we had in mind.”

Rahul daCunha, who inherited the Amul legacy from his father, Sylvester daCunha, says: “In the 1960s, my father got this idea about kids selling a product and he took a chance. It has been a great campaign and the Amul girl survived.”

The campaign does not sell the butter directly, daCunha said. “The strength of this campaign is that it places the brand inside the Indian mind and the popular psyche to say what the Indian mind is thinking,” the creative honcho explained.

“The campaign has acquired people’s ownership over the years. Once I put the Amul girl in an IPL cheerleader’s constume and we were flooded with hate mails. She is everyone’s daughter and the consumers are very orthodox. The character sells with eight billboard designs a week,” daCunha told IANS.

Three days ago, the Amul team received a call from a lawyer, a Reddy from Andhra Pradesh, asking to pull out a new Amul advertisment punning Lok Sabha MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, who is being tried for possessing illegal wealth, daCunha said.

“The lawyer said we were insulting all the Reddys. It is a common surname in Andhra Pradesh,” daCunha said.

The campaign has stirred several controversies because of its political colour.

“Cartoonists love working on political faces. Characters like Jayalalithaa and Mayawati make for excellent cartoons. Bollywood characters and cricketers are dull,” daCunha.

The only exception, perhaps, was explosive Pakistani batsman Zaheer Abbas, who was in blistering form during an India tour in the mid-1980s. The Amul hoarding read: “Zaheer, Ab Bas..Have some Amul butter.

Post-1991, the twin forces of political empowerment of a new class and the assertive expansion of the world inhabited by the middle class can be seen clearly through the prism of Amul ads. The portrayal of the politician as the villain begins to emerge with force around this time in the ads with references to a series of political scandals and controversies, the book says.

The advertisements drew on headline grabbers like Jayalalithaa going to jail, Kiran Bedi moved out of Tihar jail, the murky politics of Uttar Pradesh and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s fodder scam. Two of the Amul slogans that stand out are: “Party, Patni or Woh – I Love Amul”, referring to the leadership tangle in the Congress, and “Put her Back in Jail, Tihar: Amul Utterly But-Tihar-ly-Delicious”.

The growing popularity of this iconic campaign in the last decade can be attributed to the multiple platform it has been using – including the social media on the Internet.

“The number of media we go to… We can’t look at advertising as an outdoor activity any more. It is where the brand is, creator daCunha said.

“Khana Hazare?” Any takers?

IANS