Presenting the adventures of the Amul Girl, the most bankable brand mascot, a cultural phenomenon, and the adorable communicator of topical messages.
The adventures of the Amul Girl began in the sixties; during the time ads were either too corporate or featured celebrities. But Amul didn’t go either way.
It’s the summer of 1967, Sheela Mane, a 28-year old housewife, and a Charni Road resident, notices a crowd growing larger on the road while she’s out in the balcony drying clothes from her apartment on the second floor. She also sees her neighbors and grows curious.
A gathered crowd on the side of a Mumbai road usually means a mishap or a brawl. But Mane saw no signs of an accident. Instead, it was the first hoarding put up in Mumbai featuring the Amul girl.
Mane says, “People loved it. I remember it was our favorite topic of discussion for the next week!”. She recalls the campaign would crop in conversations everywhere they went and it was the talk of the town for a week.
The Story You Know
Amul Girl’s craze didn’t end at being the talk of the town for a week. She still remains as one of the most relevant and easily-recognizable even in today’s date. Amul has claimed its place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest-running ad campaign after completing 39 years of the Amul Girl campaign.
She is the face of the prime Amul product, Amul Butter – embedded in a simple but effective way to recognize the brand. Over the years Amul Girl has claimed an interminable spot in the Indian pop culture phenomenon.
From getting of the ground in the Sixties, reaching a peak at Eighties, till remaining buzzworthy in the twenty-first century, Amul Girl has adapted and traversed through the clocking cultures.
Amul’s sales figures jumped from 1000 tonnes a year in 1966 to 25000 tonnes a year in 1997. The brand credits this thrive to the little girl that climbed onto the hoardings and charmed one and all.
In an edited article by Mini Verma published in 1996, Sumona Verma mentioned she had been collecting Amul ads for over ten years to make an album to amuse her grandchildren. She says, “They are almost a part of our culture, aren’t they?”
The Amul Girl is also an inspiration and a source of adaptation for several illustrations, street art and cosplay in today’s pop culture and it seems the phenomenon has been passed down generations.
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The Girl You Don’t
The round-eyed, chubby-cheeked little girl, donning a white dress with red polka-dots and a tied up pony was created as a response to the rival brand Polson’s girl; the Amul Girl is the abstraction of Dr. Verghese Kurien, The Father Of White Revolution and the Founder-Chairman of Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation the co-operative body that manages Amul.
In 1966, during the time their account was handled by Advertising and Sales Promotion (ASP), Sylvester da Cunha, the then MD of the agency and art director Eustace Fernandez decided to create a girl who would appeal to and grab the attention of their primary target audience – Indian housewives.
Dr. Kurien had two directions for the creation of the mischievous little girl suggested as a mascot – it had to be easy to draw and be memorable.
In addition to the credit for the mascot and creative freedom, Dr. Kurien was known for his open way of functioning. In a conversation with Social Samosa, Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands once shared how in an encounter with the man of the hour early on in his career and it was nothing short of a learning experience.
“We were working on Amulya and discussing packaging options,” Sinha shared.” When we asked Dr. Kurien, which option he liked, he looked at us and shrugged saying you guys tell me. Those 30 seconds were mortifying. No one said anything. Out of sheer fear, I picked up one pack and he said this is it and walked out.”
Although, the topical tone that most of the Amul ads hadn’t been applied until 1969 when the Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement had just set about in the city and Amul released the ‘Hurry Amul, Hurry Hurry’ ad.
Hurr Amul, Hurry Hurry
In the 1980s, Kumar Morey, a cartoonist, and script-writer Bharat Dabholkar were associated with sketching the Amul ads. They credit Dr. Kurien for keeping a free atmosphere for the development of the Amul ads.
Despite facing political pressure at various instances DaCunha’s agency has managed to find the balance between playing it safe and making an impact and also standing up whenever required.
Since then Amul ads have captured the tone of relevance around the real-world happenings and portray opinions on several subjects as a social observer that may hold national or political importance. By adapting the topical tone the brand has become a part of larger public discussions but has also faced several controversies.
An Amul ad saying “Ganpati Bappa More Ghya” was immensely criticized by the Shiv Sena party. To the extent that they said they would come and destroy Amul’s office if the ad wasn’t removed.
Ganpati Bappa More Ghya
A 2001 campaign criticizing the Indian Airlines strike angered the authorities and was followed by a threat to stop supplying Amul butter on the plane if the ads were not taken down.
The ‘Satyam Sharam Scandalum’ ad criticizing the 2009 Satyam scam resulted in a formal letter by Satyam board threatening with the consequences: “all their employees would stop eating Amul butter!”
Satyam Sharam Scandalum
In July 2011 the ad ‘Maine Kyaa Khaya’ for Suresh Kalmadi found guilty over the 2010 Commonwealth Games scam, was pulled down by party Workers in Pune.
Maine Kyaa Khaya
In December 2011, an ad poking fun at Mamata Banerjee got Amul into trouble in Kolkata.
The ‘Freedom Of Choice Died in 2013’ ad, opposing the ruling of the Supreme Court criminalizing homosexuality was a strong opinion held and an important social issue Amul had stood up for, and was among the few brands that did.
Freedom Of Choice Died in 2013
Over the years, the advertising platforms have altered from OOH to social media, but the Amul Girl remains trendy.
Whether it’s Dhoni’s exhausted contract, the Royal Departure, coming out in support of the devastating state of Australia, or Indian Grandmaster winning World Women’s Rapid Chess Championship, the adventures of the Amul Girl continue……
The Royal Departure
Tell us your favorite Amul ad in the comments below.