The duo, comprising daCunha Communications’ director Rahul daCunha and writer Manish Jhaveri, then march in with their one-liners to cartoonist Jayant Rane who brings the Amul Girl to life, with her trademark blue hair and red and white polka dot dress.
Every Sunday evening, an advertising duo in Mumbai discusses ideas over the phone, exchanging notes on the previous week’s headlines around politics, Bollywood, world news, pop culture, sports, and above all, gaffes made in the public eye by notorious personalities. Then, four of the most scintillating topics are selected for creating puns
and one-liners which the Amul Girl will entertain the nation with over the course of the coming week on prominent outdoor billboards — some of which are marquee Amul hoardings by now.
The duo, comprising daCunha Communications’ director Rahul daCunha and writer Manish Jhaveri, then march in with their one-liners to cartoonist Jayant Rane who brings the Amul Girl to life, with her trademark blue hair and red and white polka dot dress. “Yes, we release four hoardings a week. Last week, we discussed things like India’s new Cabinet announcement, the UEFA Champions League and the ICC World Cup, for example,” shares Rahul daCunha. While the Amul Girl was created in 1966 by Rahul’s father Sylvester daCunha, Rahul and his teammates recently celebrated 25 years of their own association with the mascot, carrying the legacy set by the previous generation forward.
“Unlike the Rasna Girl, the Lyril Girl or the Onida Devil, the Amul Girl hasn’t aged at all and continues to be contemporary,” says KV Sridhar, founder and CCO, HyperCollective. “The little girl impresses with her wit and charm, making negative issues also humour-worthy.”
But riding on relevant topics is fraught with its own set of issues. “I’m not a millennial, so the challenge is to always think like one and keep it relevant particularly to those born between 1991 and 2001,” shares daCunha. “Today, it’s all about preventing the Amul Girl from becoming sheer nostalgia.”
As an 18-year-old may be too busy looking at her phone rather than at an outdoor hoarding, Amul and daCunha are now catering to such audiences over the internet with memes and anecdotes on the brand’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. “Not every topical will go up on a hoarding, but every topical will go up on digital,” he says. “The hugeness of the internet means that what Aish, Kangana and Deepika wore to the Cannes is trending online, which makes for a topical for Amul instantly”. Besides, digital has the added advantage of real-time uploads and feedback while a matter is still fresh from the oven.
“Maybe when the Amul Girl first took shape in 1966, the concept of topicality was different. Now, topicality is what has happened half an hour ago,” says brand consultant Samit Sinha of The Alchemist Consulting. “So the only thing that has changed is refreshing the creative faster than before. The illustration doesn’t look dated; as long as the narrative continues to be current and contextual, the mascot isn’t in danger.”
Another area is segmentation. As there are “so many Indias within India”, daCunha constantly grapples with diverse audiences. Even in Mumbai, for example, the North Mumbai region is more celebrity obsessed than, say, the South Mumbai ‘Inox’ world, he says. “Then there is the Hindi belt in India which is politics obsessed, whereas the South market is made up of four different worlds.” So the challenge is to strike a balance across various urban markets. Capturing good outdoor sites in tier 2 and 3 markets is tricky, so these are better reached digitally, according to the agency.
As Amul’s muppet as much an Utterly, Butterly Deliciousadvertising tool as it is a reflection of society, she aims to be satirical yet innocent in her commentary, without polarising her audiences. But she has had her fair share of controversies (like the Jagmohan Dalmiya hoarding, or the more recent IPL ‘cheerleader dress’ one). “But when you make a campaign with such high frequency of topicality, it is natural to find some ads you will love, some you will accept and others you will not like,” notes Piyush Pandey, chief creative officer, worldwide, and executive chairman, India, Ogilvy.
Interestingly, daCunha and his team steer clear of commentary around religion, as that is a “lose-lose situation”. “When I was younger and had started work on Amul in 1993, I was far more fearless and was living in a less intolerant India,” says daCunha. “Today, extreme politics is tricky. We ensure the Amul Girl is never malicious. I want her to cheer and pacify people.” A big part of the Amul mascot’s journey is a brave client which supports the agency. “There is a famous proverb in cricket, that one of the best shots is leaving the ball alone and to not play it. Our client is like that,” daCunha says, “as we are spared the typical boardroom approvals and lengthy approval processes as we would lose precious time otherwise and the topicality would be lost.”
Apart from hoardings and digital media, the Amul Girl continues to believe in the power of newspaper advertising. However, balancing new-age mediums with fresh creatives tops the to-do list for daCunha Communications. But there is a large segment that roots for the traditional methods. “The digital age is such an urban phenomenon,” Pandey muses. “The day people stop going out of their homes and stepping onto roads is the day when the Amul Girl on a hoarding will become irrelevant!”