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Sylvester daCunha No More: Remembering the 'Amul Girl' Creator's Signature Ads

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

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Amul is likely the first name that comes to mind whenever someone talks about butter in India. The 77-year-old brand is synonymous with butter, and a lot of that has to do with the blue-haired girl with long lashes, in a polka-dotted dress.

For decades, the Amul Girl's charismatic appeal has made it to hoardings and page ones of daily newspapers. And we have one man to thank for that -- Sylvester daCunha.

On Tuesday, 20 June, daCunha -- whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand -- passed away in Mumbai. He was in his 80s.

daCunha not only helped the brand achieve great heights but also helped it stay relevant through the years by incorporating topical commentary in the Amul Girl ad campaign.

What is the Amul Girl campaign? How has it helped the brand? Which of its ads have been on point over the years? We take a closer look:

Sylvester daCunha No More: Remembering the 'Amul Girl' Creator's Signature Ads

  1. 1. The Amul Girl's Backstory

    It all started in the year 1966, when advertising agency ASP, headed by daCunha, clinched the account for Amul butter.

    As per The Asian Age, the advertisements run by the previous agency had been regular, routine corporate ads. That is until daCunha and his colleague, art director Eustace Fernandez, decided to shake things up.

    "Eustace Fernandez and I decided that we needed a girl who would worm her way into a housewife's heart. And who better than a little girl?" daCunha said, as per a report published in The Asian Age.

    And just like that, the Amul Girl became a part of not just the history of the brand but also that of India's.

    The first hoarding showcasing the Amul Girl came up in the summer of 1967. The Asian Age did a nostalgia piece in 1997, in which they had quoted Mumbai resident Sheela Mane, who had said, "It was the first Amul hoarding that was put up in Mumbai. People loved it. I remember it was our favourite topic of discussion for the next one week!"

    "Everywhere we went, somehow or the other the campaign always seemed to crop up in our conversation," Mane added. In 2016, the Amul Girl campaign completed 50 years since its launch. It was conceived in a bid to compete with the Polson Butter Girl – an ad campaign of another dairy company that was popular back then.

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    The Polson Butter ad. 

    Expand
  2. 2. The Never-Ending Relevance of the Amul Girl

    A brand doesn't stay relevant simply by having an icon or a logo. It needs to consistently cater to the audience. But how many times can you talk about the SAME butter?

    Therefore, a year after launching the Amul Girl ad campaign, daCunha decided to give these campaigns a solid concept and make them topical.

    “My dad realised that there was only so much one could say about food,” Rahul daCunha, Sylvester's son, said in an interview to ET magazine. Following this, the Amul Girl became a social observer, commenting on anything and everything under the sun.

    Expand
  3. 3. A Few Iconic (and Controversial) Amul Girl Ads

    One of the few initial topical campaigns that hit the market was in 1969, when the Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement was also burgeoning.

    And so, Amul's creative team comprising Sylvester daCunha, Mohammad Khan, and Usha Bandarkar, came up with the tag line: ‘Hurry Amul, Hurry Hurry.'

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    Amul's ad in 1969.

    (Photo Courtesy: onlykutts.com)

    In the early '70s, the dairy company also responded to the Naxalite movement in Calcutta (now Kolkata) with an Amul Girl ad saying, "Bread without Amul Butter, Cholbe na! Cholbe na! (won't do! won't do!)"

    Unlike other ads, this one was not well-received.

    Similarly, during an Indian Airlines strike, the company ran an ad saying, "Indian Airlines Won't Fly Without Amul."

    This one, too, did not go down well with the authorities who threatened to stop the supply of Amul butter on the aircrafts. Eventually, it had to pull down the ad, daCunha said.

    "Then there was an ad during the Ganpati Festival, which said, ‘Ganpati Bappa More Ghya’ (Ganpati Bappa take more). That hurt the religious sentiments of the Shiv Sena people and they said that if Amul didn’t do something about removing the ad, they would come and destroy the office. It is surprising how vigilant are political forces are in this country."
    Sylvester daCunha to The Asian Age

    Emergency was imposed in the country from 1975 - 1977. In 1976, Amul ran an ad with the tag line, "We have always practiced compulsory sterilisation" in reference to the forced sterilisation practices that took place under the Indira Gandhi regime.

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    Amul's ad during Emergency Rule in India.

    (Photo Courtesy: Amul)

    "We had options of being sweet and playing it safe, or making an impact. A fine balance had to be struck. We have a campaign that is strong enough to make a statement. I didn't want the hoarding to be pleasant or tame. They have to say something," Rahul daCunha said, when asked why they chose to make the Amul Girl so opinionated – even if it would land them in trouble.

    Here is a glimpse of some iconic Amul Girl ad campaign

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    Ad on Maintenance of Internal Security Act introduced during the Emergency in 1976.

    (Photo: Amul)

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    Amul's ad after India's first Test Tube babyin 1979.

    (Photo: Amul)

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    Amul's ad in 1982 after news of UK authorities conducting virginity tests on Indian women arriving at London’s airports. The ad was met with protests.

    (Photo: Amul)

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    Amul pacifies the protesters for the hoarding captioned "Indian virgin needs no urgin" which was put up earlier.

    (Photo: Amul)

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    Amul's ad from the 1982 when Margaret Thatcher of the Tory party became the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

    (Photo: Amul)

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    Amul's ad in 1997 about the uncertainty of the BJP forming a government.

    (Photo: Amul)

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    Amul's ad from 2005 on the controversy about Meerut City Police having roughed young couples sitting in a park in the name of checking indecency and eve-teasing.

    (Photo: Amul)

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    Amul's tribute to Sachin Tendulkar after he retired from One day International cricket in 2012.

    (Photo: Amul)

    Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

    Amul's ad in 2021 after Air India's  return to the Tatas after 68 years.

    (Photo: Amul)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

The Amul Girl's Backstory

It all started in the year 1966, when advertising agency ASP, headed by daCunha, clinched the account for Amul butter.

As per The Asian Age, the advertisements run by the previous agency had been regular, routine corporate ads. That is until daCunha and his colleague, art director Eustace Fernandez, decided to shake things up.

"Eustace Fernandez and I decided that we needed a girl who would worm her way into a housewife's heart. And who better than a little girl?" daCunha said, as per a report published in The Asian Age.

And just like that, the Amul Girl became a part of not just the history of the brand but also that of India's.

The first hoarding showcasing the Amul Girl came up in the summer of 1967. The Asian Age did a nostalgia piece in 1997, in which they had quoted Mumbai resident Sheela Mane, who had said, "It was the first Amul hoarding that was put up in Mumbai. People loved it. I remember it was our favourite topic of discussion for the next one week!"

"Everywhere we went, somehow or the other the campaign always seemed to crop up in our conversation," Mane added. In 2016, the Amul Girl campaign completed 50 years since its launch. It was conceived in a bid to compete with the Polson Butter Girl – an ad campaign of another dairy company that was popular back then.

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

The Polson Butter ad. 

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

The Never-Ending Relevance of the Amul Girl

A brand doesn't stay relevant simply by having an icon or a logo. It needs to consistently cater to the audience. But how many times can you talk about the SAME butter?

Therefore, a year after launching the Amul Girl ad campaign, daCunha decided to give these campaigns a solid concept and make them topical.

“My dad realised that there was only so much one could say about food,” Rahul daCunha, Sylvester's son, said in an interview to ET magazine. Following this, the Amul Girl became a social observer, commenting on anything and everything under the sun.

A Few Iconic (and Controversial) Amul Girl Ads

One of the few initial topical campaigns that hit the market was in 1969, when the Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement was also burgeoning.

And so, Amul's creative team comprising Sylvester daCunha, Mohammad Khan, and Usha Bandarkar, came up with the tag line: ‘Hurry Amul, Hurry Hurry.'

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Amul's ad in 1969.

(Photo Courtesy: onlykutts.com)

In the early '70s, the dairy company also responded to the Naxalite movement in Calcutta (now Kolkata) with an Amul Girl ad saying, "Bread without Amul Butter, Cholbe na! Cholbe na! (won't do! won't do!)"

Unlike other ads, this one was not well-received.

Similarly, during an Indian Airlines strike, the company ran an ad saying, "Indian Airlines Won't Fly Without Amul."

This one, too, did not go down well with the authorities who threatened to stop the supply of Amul butter on the aircrafts. Eventually, it had to pull down the ad, daCunha said.

"Then there was an ad during the Ganpati Festival, which said, ‘Ganpati Bappa More Ghya’ (Ganpati Bappa take more). That hurt the religious sentiments of the Shiv Sena people and they said that if Amul didn’t do something about removing the ad, they would come and destroy the office. It is surprising how vigilant are political forces are in this country."
Sylvester daCunha to The Asian Age

Emergency was imposed in the country from 1975 - 1977. In 1976, Amul ran an ad with the tag line, "We have always practiced compulsory sterilisation" in reference to the forced sterilisation practices that took place under the Indira Gandhi regime.

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Amul's ad during Emergency Rule in India.

(Photo Courtesy: Amul)

"We had options of being sweet and playing it safe, or making an impact. A fine balance had to be struck. We have a campaign that is strong enough to make a statement. I didn't want the hoarding to be pleasant or tame. They have to say something," Rahul daCunha said, when asked why they chose to make the Amul Girl so opinionated – even if it would land them in trouble.

Here is a glimpse of some iconic Amul Girl ad campaign

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Ad on Maintenance of Internal Security Act introduced during the Emergency in 1976.

(Photo: Amul)

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Amul's ad after India's first Test Tube babyin 1979.

(Photo: Amul)

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Amul's ad in 1982 after news of UK authorities conducting virginity tests on Indian women arriving at London’s airports. The ad was met with protests.

(Photo: Amul)

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Amul pacifies the protesters for the hoarding captioned "Indian virgin needs no urgin" which was put up earlier.

(Photo: Amul)

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Amul's ad from the 1982 when Margaret Thatcher of the Tory party became the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

(Photo: Amul)

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Amul's ad in 1997 about the uncertainty of the BJP forming a government.

(Photo: Amul)

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Amul's ad from 2005 on the controversy about Meerut City Police having roughed young couples sitting in a park in the name of checking indecency and eve-teasing.

(Photo: Amul)

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Amul's tribute to Sachin Tendulkar after he retired from One day International cricket in 2012.

(Photo: Amul)

Sylvester daCunha, whose idea it was to make this girl the face of the Amul brand, passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Amul's ad in 2021 after Air India's  return to the Tatas after 68 years.

(Photo: Amul)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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