Amul’s India,Published by Collins Business.
Price Rs. 299
A delightful little new book has arrived in the bookstores this week, “Amul’s India”.
It commemorates and celebrates the Amul moppet who adorns the Amul hoardings and continues to delight nearly 50 years after its first appearance in 1966. It is the longest running, successful advertising concept anywhere in the world. And it is also a campaign that depended mostly on outdoor hoardings.
The book, fittingly, begins with the story of Anand Co-operatives, followed by a brief interview with the iconic Dr. Verghese Kurien. Sylvester daCunha, Chairman of daCunha Communcations, who created the hoarding campaign, takes us through the early days when the delightful tagline “Utterly, butterly, Amul” was conceived and how the complete freedom given by the client, Dr. Kurien, went on to nurture creativity that at once delighted and provoked thought about unfolding events. The very first hoarding showing the impish Amul missy (designed by the then art director, Eustace Fernandez) on her knees offering bed-time prayers with a wink and a lick of lips, “Give us this day our daily bread: with Amul butter”, was an instant hit.
The outdoor campaign came up with classics such as the one on hartals in Calcutta those days which said, “Toast without Amul? Cholbe Na! Cholbe Na!”or the one about Hare Rama movement, which was much in the news, “Hurry Amul! Hurry Butter! Hurry, Hurry!” According to Sylvester daCunha, though the idea of building the campaign by plugging in to current affairs took off instantly, the logistics of handling client approvals, design, and distribution in time had to be handled. It was only because of the enlightened leadership of Dr. Kurien who gave the agency free hand that made the strategy work.
Santosh Desai, whose historical piece takes us through the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s, says: “For nearly fifty years now, the Amul billboard has watched over India, punctuating its progress with wry observation, heartfelt tribute, sly comment, and the occasional controversial slip. … Tracing Amul’s journey through the decades is in many ways akin to tracing India’s journey, albeit through a specific and special vantage point.”
Alpana Parida’s interview with Alyque Padamsee gives us insights on what it takes to build brands and come up with unique branding ideas. Padamsee laments the loss of great advertising ideas such as Onida’s “Devil” and Air India’s “Maharaja” in pursuit of change for change’s sake. He likens the Amul brand to Father Christmas. “He’s been the same for 300 years! If you have a brand soul, you can refresh it, but never lose it.” The agency also stuck to its decision to stay with the outdoor campaign as the major chunk of its media plan, despite the radically changed media scene. And it continues to work!
Alpana Parida of DY Works has written a piece analysing the symbolism of the brand, the girl in polka dotted frock, and the consistency of quality both Amul butter and its ad campaign have symbolised over the years.
“Amul’s India” gives us a peek into the brand-building process, the creative genius of those who spin the words and visuals around India’s unfolding history, and the ideal client-agency trust that made it all possible. There are interviews and pieces written by those who were and are involved with daCunha Communications, the ad agency, creative writers, graphics designers. There is a large collection of the hoardings, thematically organised and put in context by celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan, Rajdeep Sardesai, Shobhaa De, Sania Mirza, and Harsha Bhogle who pick out their favourites and treat us to many ad hoardings that we may have missed.
We also get to see artist Jayant Rane at work, read how the writer Manish Jhaveri, and the current Head of daCunha Communications, Rahul daCunha, see the campaign. And lastly, there is also a piece by Shyam Benegal on his association with Dr. Kurien and NDDB, and the making of the film “Manthan.” It has a selection of sober tributes the Amul girl pays to the greats who have passed on as well.
To top up, “Amul’s India” gives trivia such as: there are 90 Amul hoardings all over the country, the ad is carried simultaneously in 22 newspapers; in 2011, 120 hoardings were produced, once every three days!
The Amul butter campaign is a perfect example on many counts: it has the simplest uncluttered design, it has iconic graphics of the naughty little girl in polka dots, it says what it does in fewest words with humour but unfailingly linking the thought to the product, it is largely a hoardings campaign, brightening your day as you wait for the traffic light to change. Now, of course, it’s there on Facebook too and boasts of an ever-growing fan following.
The book, Parida tells us, could have been a coffee-table collection, which few would have afforded and fewer would get to see, but the team behind it decided to make it an accessible, low-priced, paperback that any fan could pick up. Like much else about the success story of Anand Milk Cooperatives that produce Amul products, the book manages a contradictory achievement: to be a rare treat that’s widely accessible.
For anyone who has been a fan of this campaign, “Amul’s India” is a collector’s item. True to spirit, this treasure published by Collins Business comes at a reasonable price of Rs. 299 and the sale proceeds go to honour deserving Class X and XII students in India under the Amul Vidyashree and Amul Vidyabhushan Award schemes.