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In Amul’s revolutionary success that changed the fortunes of millions of rural masses, role of its popular advertising mascot-the polka dotted girl cannot be minimised. The ‘girl next door’ with cheese in her hand has entertained millions and even after five decades, the utterly-butterly Amul girl is intact. Her political satires putting forward problems of the masses have remained with time and peoples’ fondness for her grown stronger during all these years.
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‘The Wonder achiever’ hoardings were on display on July 17 this year, when United States’ Time magazine termed Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh as ‘the underachiever’ on its cover on a day before. and this was not the last, many more like ‘bake kha tiger’ on Salman Khan’s recent release ‘ek tha tiger’, ‘coalmaal’ on CAG’s recent report on coal scam have followed thereafter.

The polka dotted, round-eyed mascot of Amul has provided a running commentary on the state of affairs of the nation. The frequency of advertisements has also increased and has come up to three per week from one. The ‘Topicals’ as these advertisements are called have dash of humour in them and are mostly on any current topic that is affecting the common man. The approach of daCunha, the agency that has kept alive the longest running advertisement campaign in the Indian ad world’s history, has remained unchanged. The strategically placed hoardings have always displayed the issues of common interest and that is why, the girl is still a darling of people after 50 years.

So what has kept Amul’s mascot so popular among the masses? Adman K V Sridhar, national creative director at Leo Burnett shares his view, “Dr. Kurien’s white revolution caught the attention of the masses and now Amul is one of the most trusted brands and receives immense affection of the masses. And at the advertising front, their contemporary content on social issues has kept the masses engaged with the brand.”

The agency, since its first hoarding in 1966 has kept the momentum going by providing advertisements on issues that are affecting masses, albeit in a pithier and wittier way. The agency seems to have been racing to keep up with almost every major development that takes place in the country. Rahul daCunha, whose advertising firm daCunha communications handles this popular campaign says, “We are a creative team that have worked and ideated together for eighteen years. So we pretty much know how the other people think and this enables very quick output.”

In recent years, Amul ads have addressed various issues ranging from 2G and coal scam to more recent ones like grid failure in India. In the words of Dr. Prafulla Agnihotri, director of IIM Tiruchirappalli, “The polka dotted, witty and naughty Amul girl is immensely popular with the common man due to its unique relationship with them. The girl is adorable and has made her way, directly to the Indian kitchens.” The appearance of this girl makes her a girl next door and her commentary on social issues has kept her engaged with the masses.

Advertisements of Amul, featuring the mascot in various avatars have ensured that they have a bit of humour in them. The four members’ team at daCunha communications in Mumbai keeps a close tab on the developments of the day and selects the topic of importance after intensive discussion.

The brand has remained contemporary due to its take on day to day affairs of life. The ‘Coalmaal’ ad with a tagline ‘India digs it’ catches the attention of masses effortlessly and at the same time portrays concerns of the masses through it. The teams takes almost every issue into their consideration The pat of humour in any such ad is the signature style of this agency and one who reads it cannot resist a smile.

K V Sridhar, observes, “They keep re-inventing themselves and their take on the social issues have kept them so popular in past five decades.” The team behind this wonderful series of ads is surprisingly very small and consists of daCunha owner Rahul, writer Manish Jhaveri, illustrator Jayanth Rane and Shonali Khivasari, who handles the final packaging of each and every advertisement.  “Topicals (of Amul) are doing wonders. Unlike Amul, no other product has done that over relevant and socially intensive issues,” says Prof. Abraham Koshy of IIM Ahmadabad. According to Prof. Koshy, Amul’s advertisements are “simple but powerful” and are one of the “most impactful advertising campaigns” in India.  He feels that the brand mascot of Amul has been “gripping the imagination of the masses” and has been “consistently keeping the legacy.”

The polka dotted girl is the face of India’s most trusted dairy brand and this has become possible because of innovative and modern outlook of the daCunhas. Since its inception in 1966 by Sylvester daCunha, the hoardings of Amul have remained with time. The agency has taken issues of wider interest into consideration while conceptualising the next day’s ad.

The agency has addressed issues of diverse range that include everything from cricket to politics. Sachin Tendulkar’s entire life as a cricketer can be traced thorough a series of these advertisements. The popular Amul girl has adorned various avatars, including that of Congress’ president Sonia Gandhi, Trinamool Congress chief Mamta Banerjee, popular US television host Oprah Winfrey to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and all such avatars have brought smiles on millions of her fans in India.

“What has kept us popular is that we have stayed contemporary and fresh,” says Rahul daCunha. And his claims reflect in his work that has addressed every issue of national importance.  This witty humour and satires on political developments in the country, at times, have also brought ire of people and the agency has got its share of controversies as well. The agency faced the ire of Jagmohan Dalmia, when it created an ad that read, “Dalmiya mein kuch kala hai”. The ad was created when Dalmiya was caught on corruption charges and said to have threatened to take legal action against the agency. The agency faced criticism of the masses, when it put the girl in short skirt during the IPL season. But Rahul doesn’t seem to have been perturbed by such controversies as he says, “Yes we have often had controversies but nothing serious. India is a democracy after all.”

Except at few instances, people have enjoyed the topicals and one such example is that of Time magazines cover page that termed Prime Minister as underachiever. The next day, hoardings were put across the nation that read, ‘The wonder achiever’ and were liked by everyone and there were no controversies that hovered around it. Amul’s ageless girl is walking well with the time and is gaining popularity every passing day.

Amul and daCunha communications’ relationship is certainly a unique case in the world of advertising. At a time when, clients are ‘never-happy’ and always look for something innovative and new, this five decade old agency-client relationship can be a lesson for both- the corporate and ad agencies.

Rahul defines the relationship in these words, ‘Amul trusts us. The Amul-daCunha relationship dates nearly 50 years. That is an amazing record. Only with client- agency trust does great creative work emerge.” This kind of relationship is rare to find these days. It is interesting to know that Amul never interferes in the work of the agency. The trust that Amul has bestowed upon daCunha, has brought immense results in the form of new and innovative topicals everyday.

Prof Koshy looks at this unique relationship like this, “One interesting aspect of this relationship is that they give freedom to creative people. They let them do in what they are good at and that’s why, the relationship has remained intact during all these years.” In the impatient world, it is not easy to maintain the standards but the agency has done that without fail and has set an example for others to follow.

Dr. Prafulla Agnihotri feels that advertising agencies always need independence and those who have allowed it like Amul, the results are just too good. According to K V Sridhar, “Most often trusted brands are made by instinct of those who are associated with the product.” Now, for Amul, these advertisements are a tool to raise issues of social value and they keep appearing. Amul as a client, said to have never interfered in the working of the agency and these advertisements are made at agency’s headquarter in Mumbai and Amul officials don’t have any idea about it. They see the ads with others’ the very next day and this makes it one-of-a-kind case in the ad world.

Prof. Koshi observed that these days’ people don’t indulge in dialogues and expect instant results. They keep changing agencies, searching for better results but they forget that only those who understand the need can deliver the best. The longer the association, the better the results.
The polka dotted, Amul girl is everybody’s girl and that is why the agency has never attempted to give the girl a wardrobe makeover. Rahul vehemently refuses to give the girl any makeover by saying, “No, no wardrobe makeover, as Amitabh Bachchan said in our book, Amul’s India, “ if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.” The tremendous journey of Amul as a trusted dairy brand would not have been possible without this popular mascot. The popular ad series have supplemented the incomes of Amul manifolds and is still doing so. The long association of daCunhas with Amul also reflects peoples’ trust in the brand. It also sends a message that longer association with the masses through interactive advertising is more productive, provided that advertising agencies are given creative freedom.

The Changing Face of Rural India