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F&B SPECIALS

Utterly, Butterly Amul girl turns 40
Saturday, 17 November, 2007, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ronita Torcato, Mumbai
as birthed by two dads, ha ha. Two ad men, to be specific. Eustace Fernandes, art director, and Sylvester da Cunha of Advertising and Sales Promotion Company (ASP) who decided a little girl could knock off Polson butter from the housewife's larder. But after all these years, Fernandes is miffed that all (well, almost all ) the credit for the moonfaced little girl in the polka dotted dress is being given to daCunha and Bharat Dabolkhar.

However, Sylvester daCunha has been giving due credit to EF in the print media, at least those sections, perused by this correspondent.

Fernandez has worked with disadvantaged children at Snehasadan for 45 years. So when Kurien Kurien, Group Head of the team working on the account at ASP , suggested a mascot for their new client, the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), Fernandez was quite clear about what he wanted to do.

As Fernandes, now 71 recalls, " Sylvester suggested blonde hair pigtails like a Dutch butter girl wearing clogs and a 3D image, but I wanted to draw a character that would be different and at the same time, someone that the underprivileged could look up to. I had only five markers and I used an orange face, blue hair, red polka -dots in the dress, black for the outlines and green for the headline…The utterly, butterly delicious line was a group effort. "

According to Fernandez, the team working on the Amul account at the time included Usha Katrak, Shyam Benegal, and Marie Pinto.

The ad was shown to Verghese Kurien, boss man at Amul who gave the go-ahead immediately. In October 1966, kiosks, hoardings and bus stands were festooned with the moppet on a horse. The tagline said, Thoroughbread, Utterly Butterly Delicious Amul." It was a smash hit. The rest is history.

Eustace worked on the account for three years till 1969 and has a plaster of paris model of the moppet alongside the print memorabilia.

Sylvester would take the little girl to da Cunha Communications, a new agency he founded.

The team working on the Amul campaign endeavoured to make it as topical as possible with a whole lot of puns. A whole lot of serious stuff was spoken in jest in their ads. Inspiration came from everywhere. Local and global politics, the idiot box, movies, celebs, kids, the economy, environment, festivals, the World Wide Web, urban lifestyles, music, sports, especially cricket and, current events.

Some memorable Amul slogans: One man. One vote. One butter, Tu cheez badi hai maska mast!, Roti ke neeche kya hai? `Cadbura' (when the worm-infested Cadbury chocolate controversy filled newsprint. Consumers dilemma to view or not to view pay TV channels on implementation of CAS.

Recalls Fernandez: "We even used movies like Goldfinger and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." The latest: Anhonee ko Dhoni karde, after India became T20 champions.

Theatre personality and Marathi manoos Bharat Dhabolkar penned the copy in Hinglish for 14 years. The nameless little girl would acquire a new wardrobe, changing from the short polka dotted frock into a saree, ghagara choli or even a pavada (long skirt). And she could be quite the actress, when the situation demanded it. Coy, shy, Husain favourite Madhuri, the Rangeela Urmila or simply her chubby cheeked fringed hair self. You could say Dabholkar "Indianised" the mascot as and when required. For instance, if the agency was doing a hoarding for Gujarat, the copy would be in Gujarati, a Tamil hoarding had to do for Chennai and a Marathi one for Pune. Today, Rahul who heads daCunha Communications and copywriter Manish Jhaveri are the creative heads behind the ads.

In 2004 the then Vice-President, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, conferred the "Dr Kurien Award" for 2001-02 on Sylvester daCunha at the 33rd Dairy Industry Conference "in recognition of creating unique brand images for Indian dairy products as well as keeping alive the Amul butter campaign for four decades." daCunha told the audience the creator was Eustace Fernandez.(Still aggrieved, Fernandez told this correspondent the award and the prize money should have come to him, not daCunha )

In time, the hoarding campaign was sent to the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running outdoor campaign. An 84 ad said, "Like the Union Budget, it pleases everyone."

But things were not always smooth sailing. Jagmohan Dalmiya threatened to sue after the 'Dal Miya kuch kaala?, campaign. The Indian Airlines once irked the authorities. IA's threat to stop supplying Amul butter on the plane led to the ad's suspension.

But then there was the time when the Amul girl was shown wearing the Gandhi cap, a symbol of independence. Another ad bit the dust. During the Ganpati festival, an ad said, Ganpati Bappa More Ghya (Ganpati Bappa take more)." The Shiv Sena was not amused. But when the Enron ads (Enr On Or Off) were running, Rebecca Mark wrote to Amul saying she liked them. Heroine Addiction, a reference to Hussain's affection for certain movie sirens had the artist requesting the daCunhas for a blow up of the ad.

Interestingly, neither Amul (nor the agency) seem to have considered the marketability of the mascot as a toy for kiddies. Something on the lines of the discounted or freebie collectibles offered by MacDonald's. In the US, the mascot might have spun off into a comic strip/ book, toon film, T-shirts, even dresses.

But thanks to the campaign, the mhaska went from strength to strength. Thirty years after its launch, Amul's sale figures jumped from 1000 tonnes a year in 1966 to over 25,000 tonnes a year in 1997. As far as I know no other brand has matched this achievement. But let it be said, the Parsi-owned Polson, headquartered in an office across the St George Hospital on P D"Mello Road, was our favourite. The family run Polson used to have a coupon scheme with nice little prizes for big consumers, like ahem, yours truly. But it was unable to counter the high-powered adspend. Amul succeeded in knocking it off the breakfast table and off the market. Today, despite the abundance of mhaskas churned out by multinationals, Amul wins hands down. Frequenting a bakery in Cowasji Patel street or an Irani restaurant for a steaming cup of chai and a bun pao or brun mhaska, we are inclined to say, Amul mhaska maar ke. Just in case.
 
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