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Seeing India through the eyes of Amul (pictorial)

August 22, 2008

The Amul advertisements are well-known in India not just for being the longest running ad campaign, but because of their humour (puns are its forte) and their penchant of picking up on current events to bring home a point. Many of them pun on Hindi/English words and while I will try to explain some if I can, I will not be able to do full justice as I am not an expert in Hindi. Here are some of my favourite Amul ads which appeared in the last year or so. They refer to important happenings in India during this time, and the links will lead to a more detailed explanation.

If we go back to January this year, there was the announcement of the impending launch of India’s smallest (and the world’s cheapest) car. The headline says whether you agree or not (referring to the controversy about whether the car was good for India or not) but the punch lies in the rhyming of the words, Nano and Maano (meaning to agree). As for the sub-head, well!!!

The slapping incident happened early on in the year…when Harabhajan Singh (cricketer nicknamed Bhajji) slapped his colleague Sreesanth. It created a huge ruckus and led to it Bhajji being banned from the IPL. For those not familiar with Indian food, Pau Bhaji is a popular Indian snack – basically a kind of sandwich with a potato filling. As for the sub-head, I love it!

The ad below is about India’s first woman President who was personally picked by Sonia Gandhi, the Congress President. But it sure wasn’t an easy choice at all, because there were accusations that a malleable President had been chosen for political benefits.

This one appeared when our hockey team failed to qualify for the Olympics. The head line here plays on the word Shock and Chak. Chak De (Go for it!) is a film about hockey and tells the story of how a not-so-good hockey team overcomes all odds to win the World Cup, and is apparently based on a true story. After the movie there was a lot of hype about it being a great morale booster for hockey in India, but finally, it all came to naught and set some heads rolling in the hockey federation of India.

How about this one!! Seriously!

Popular movies are used as a theme for the Amul ads quite often. This one is a song from the popular movie Jaane Tu…ya jaane na. Basically the song goes: Pappu can’t dance…saala! (Saala is a colloquial term used to address others and it can be used in an evil sense, but in this case it is not used that way). And the ad headline says, Pappu took a chance… khaaliya ! Khaaliya means “he ate it.”

The ad about Musharuff appeared during the time when Mush had briefly declared Emergency to gag Bhutto and Sharif, but it looks ominous now that Benazir Bhutto is dead and some people suspect that Musharuff had a hand in it. The pun here is on the word Musharaffat as Mu means “mouth” (didn’t get this fully) and sharafat means “decency” and kahan hai means “where has it gone”. Notice the sub-head! For those who don’t know, Amul’s tag line is utterly butterly delicious.

This appeared last year when there was a lot of hype about Mumbai being modelled on Shanghai but I think it’s relevant today because when it rains hard in Mumbai and coincides with the high tide, roads get flooded. Doobai, for those those don’t know Hindi, is a pun, doobna meaning to drown.

Related Reading: More about the Amul ad campaign here

More posts on Advertising
Misleading Ads
Successsful People in Advertising
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48 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2008 10:43 am

    I love the ad campaign and there are many others which I have enjoyed. I look forward to these ads whenever I go out.

    By the way, who likes Idea’s new ad campaign?

    I love it. :) – Nita.

  2. August 22, 2008 10:49 am

    Good eye on the Amul diverting advertizements. Indeed a cleft creativity there in their ads. But mere ads can not add value to their products unless they add value their products. For example, however I prefer Nestle or Britania Curds, not Amul Curds.

    I find Amul value for money but where the quality of their product is concerned, yes they can be better. – Nita.

  3. August 22, 2008 11:19 am

    ooh lovely .. is Amul marketing well in south India ? have never seen these many ads from amul ?

    I don’t think these ads are seen much in South India. Don’t know why. – Nita

    • Venkat permalink
      July 6, 2009 9:49 pm

      These do not appear in South India only because most of these are Hindi oriented and they either won’t be understood in SI or will not have any impact. I am from SI but understand Hindi very well, so it helps me but mostly it may not be understood at all in SI.

  4. August 22, 2008 11:22 am

    I love the amul ads anytime! arent they awesome! :) and you put a smile on my face by this post!

    thanks sakhi. – Nita.

  5. August 22, 2008 11:27 am

    This reminded me of my childhood. We used to love every ad of Amul.
    Well, I am still a child you know. :)
    So I still like them.

    Cheers
    One more page for bookmark :D

    Suda, I too am a child at heart. Why do you think I get along with you? :) – Nita.

  6. Aditi permalink
    August 22, 2008 11:41 am

    I hadn’t seen the joker one. Thanks for sharing ^__^

  7. August 22, 2008 11:49 am

    lol
    this is one of the longest most successful campaigns – most dependable campaigns for tongue and cheek humor
    no wonder amul is amongst the most well known of Indian brands

    Well, I think Amul has a lot of advantages in terms of sourcing so they manage to have a price advantage. As India is a price conscious market, Amul sells. – Nita.

  8. August 22, 2008 11:49 am

    The joker one is awesome. :)
    Amul ads used to be there in Magazines, but now I don’t see any. There are no billboards in Bangalore as well. In chennai I have seen many billboards (few years back).

    ‘Musharuff” I dont think he is rough ! :D

    Ah ah! Ruff and Tuff and Phut! – Nita.

  9. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 22, 2008 11:55 am

    Hi!

    I wonder if Amul has published a compilation of all the ads they have done over the years.

    Also, perhaps some visitors here would remember an even older, long-running campaign of Air India, with its mascot of the Maharaja, similarly picking up on current events. Most of them were more subtly witty than the Amul ads.

    But of course that was in an era when marketing and advertising were not as big as they are now, and even if they had been, the number of people who can connect with butter is any day several times higher than those who can relate to flying. I believe the first place Air India would put up a new ad was at a prominently displayed billboard at Kemps Corner. This was before the fly-over came up to dwarf that location.

    Shefaly has given you the link, actually it’s on their site but not all the ads are there. I checked for one I had seen here on the roads of mumbai, something about riots, but it’s not there. I remember the air india ads only vaguely. – Nita.

  10. August 22, 2008 12:26 pm

    Amul advertising is indeed clever. I love their Gouda cheese though its availability is rather limited. I think they need to improve their “processed” cheeses though most of them are like eating plastic. The cooking butter and the table butter are nice enough. Where would India be without Amul though!

    Gowda! I love it. Only problem is that it reminds me of deve gowda. But I still buy it! :) I get it from Shoprite here but that is the only place to get it. I share your opinion of Amul cheese generally. – Nita.

  11. August 22, 2008 12:59 pm

    @ Vivek

    All of Amul’s ads can be found here (one of the desirable side-effects of being a marketing MBA is to have instant recall of classics like this topical and many others):

    http://www.amul.com/hits.html

    … although I am surprised to find there are some ads you actually _like_ ;-)

    I know of the Maharaja ads too (same side-effect) but Amul beats them in longevity as well as the long-term brand positioning and delivered benefits. Most people don’t care for the Maharaja because you would be lucky to be treated better than cattle by Air India. Advertising cannot trump bad service.

  12. August 22, 2008 1:02 pm

    @ Nita: These ads are an advertising person’s dream in terms of longevity and recall. :-) Whether they actually affect sales positively, esp as people get more conscious of their cholesterol and weight, might be a different story altogether.

    What a fun post!

    thanks. well, over here people stuff themselves, but as for me, I gave up butter about a decade ago. I mean, I only stopped having it with bread. :) – Nita.

  13. August 22, 2008 1:07 pm

    @ Nita:

    This Mu Sharaffat kahan hai is priceless. ‘Sharafat’ as you know is the state of being ‘sharif’ or decent. So where is the decency? Ouch! ;-)

  14. August 22, 2008 1:16 pm

    we all love amul :) the taste of India….And now making the best ads of India :)

    :) – Nita.

  15. August 22, 2008 3:01 pm

    As interesting as the post were the comments. The Bhutto ad was indeed priceless. Thanks to our Business Honchesse for her comments, too.

    :) – Nita

  16. compulsivewriter permalink
    August 22, 2008 3:06 pm

    Advertising, I feel, is the modern day art that defines and documents our culture. The Amul ads do it the best! I loved this post Nita…as always :)

    thanks. :) – Nita

  17. August 22, 2008 3:22 pm

    wow ..awesome …i never saw these ads before.. :)
    but yeah i love the ads they put up in TV :)
    these ads are a relief amidst stupid ads like bingo

    I agree, nowadays you get some terrible ads. – Nita.

  18. August 22, 2008 3:34 pm

    @ R-Doc:

    I heard that!

  19. August 22, 2008 3:47 pm

    hahhahaha it may sound very juvenile… but according to me, this is one of your better posts!!! Loved it :D :D :D

    Let your child out!! :) – Nita.

  20. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 22, 2008 4:46 pm

    @ Shefaly

    Thanks for that link.

    Yes, there are some ads that I like — about 0.0001 % all that impinge upon my faculties — for their inherent wit, aesthetics, or some other attribute constituting a redeeming value.

    Of these (the ones I like), 99 % (i.e. just under 0.00001 % of all the ads inflicted in the uncouth manner heretofore described) are in the print medium, where they don’t arrogantly and rudely elbow their way into the presence our majesty’s august senses of perception. :-)

    Ads that interrupt civilised programming (the meaning of which term is axiomatic and does not warrant elucidation) on radio (readers unaware of this term may look it up on http://www.answers.com or any similar site) or TV are absolutely my bêtes noires, no matter how ‘good’ they be. Their only hope for redemption is to have themselves positioned before or after the substantive part of the said good programming, not in the middle of it. Any ad not fulfilling this requirement stands automatically condemned, notwithstanding its being possessed of any other merit (which, in any case, is unlikely). :-)

    Contrary to your speculation elsewhere in the present thread, I am certain that ads cannot, should not and dare not affect sales positively. If they did, it would be contrary to the core principles of civilisation.

  21. August 22, 2008 5:17 pm

    @ Vivek:

    Thanks for that exposition on ads.

    On the last paragraph, actually they _do_ affect sales and positively so. The extent of the effect is variable, depending on several factors.

    Whether they _should_ or not is your normative position on which I have no opinion. Whether they _dare_ or not is, I think, simply wishful thinking for which once again, I wish you luck. :-) You live amid a booming consumer market and the volume of ads – in numbers and in noise – will only increase as the competition for share of wallet grows.

  22. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 22, 2008 5:21 pm

    @ Shefaly:

    Let’s wait and watch. :-)

  23. August 22, 2008 6:11 pm

    @ Vivek:

    Are you sure you want to ‘wait and watch’? I thought you zapped/ Tivo-ed ads, instead of watching them.. ;-)

  24. August 22, 2008 6:47 pm

    Wonderful post..loved it cuz i love Amul butter ads. we have one billboard in city which features these and i always look out for the present week’s pun. But sometimes I think the pun is too much for the average Indian. I’m sure many people dont get it especially in small cities.

  25. wishtobeanon permalink
    August 22, 2008 6:54 pm

    Cute ads – seems original and creative too! Thanks for the humorous post.

  26. wishtobeanon permalink
    August 22, 2008 6:56 pm

    Liked the header image. Where is this place? Thanks.

  27. August 22, 2008 6:59 pm

    This is the outskirts of Chennai, a temple in Mammalapuram which I think you must have read the post on. this photo is a combination of 3 photos which I did in photoshop. the guy at the extreme right is my hubby. It’s the shore temple site, to be specific. the post is here.

  28. August 22, 2008 7:22 pm

    Oh, how I wish we had such clever, smart and funny ads here – these really must connect with viewers in India. Their reference to current affairs resonates in a smart way. G

  29. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 22, 2008 7:32 pm

    @ Shefaly:

    I can’t believe you really did not get
    What it was that I said let’s wait and watch. :-)

    About the last part of your comment, I
    Think it is very important to keep
    Oneself informed on things that one would bash.

  30. August 22, 2008 7:56 pm

    Amul ads are very creative. I’ve missed them ever since I was away from India. Thanks for compiling them up here. Loved every one of it.

  31. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 22, 2008 8:29 pm

    @ Rambodoc:

    I got a chuckle out of your coinage “our Business Honchesse”, but I think son altesse d’affaires would have been more classy — in keeping with la vie quotideinne. ;-)

  32. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 22, 2008 8:34 pm

    Postscript: Pardon the typo — it should have read quotidienne. Goes to show that even Nita’s new theme, with its large sized input font, is not entirely foolproof. But then fools can be quite ingenious. :-)

  33. August 22, 2008 9:44 pm

    @ Nita: On WP home page :-)

    @ Vivek: I am a strong proponent of knowing the perspectives we do not agree with. In my posts on Watson and Ahmadinejad and of late, on understanding evil, this is the position I write about.

    I do not however presume such a preference to be the case with everyone. So what can I say? ‘Welcome to the club with a very small membership!’ :-)

  34. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 22, 2008 9:57 pm

    @ Shefaly:

    Never thought of it as a ‘club’, but I think I know what you mean. It’s a big thing not to let others lay down the rules one lives by — it’s ambivalently called conformism. Of course it does not have to mean being different just for the sake of being different, that goes without saying.

  35. August 23, 2008 1:27 am

    Nita, I remember these ads driving me to distractionin the roads of Bangalore. Thanks for the reminder, the smile and the giggle.

  36. raghav in geisterstadt permalink
    August 23, 2008 4:43 am

    That was some funny cheese. Anyways, always loved amul products.

  37. B N Kartha permalink
    August 23, 2008 10:00 am

    I enjoyed every clip of Amul Ad above. Since moving over to Kochi from Delhi (from where I often used to visit Mumbai) I miss the Amul Ads. Both in Delhi and Mumbai huge hoardings used to appear whenever a big event occurs – apolitical or otherwise. I DO REALLY MISS THEM, KAROON KYA TAQDEER KA MARA HOON !!!

  38. August 23, 2008 11:17 am

    Amul always has wonderful artwork :)

  39. August 23, 2008 4:30 pm

    Brilliant! :)
    Bharat Dabholkar, the man behind many Amul ads always says that the tremendous creative freedom given to the agency by Dr.Kurien has been hugely responsible for the success of this concept.

  40. ulag permalink
    August 23, 2008 10:04 pm

    Amazing post Nita!!! Very original…if we probably make a list of all the amul ads in the past we would be able to determine what all were the popular issues of those times!!!

  41. August 24, 2008 10:44 pm

    Hey, you did not mention ” Rafa ka Lafa”, when Rafael defeated RFed in Wimby.

    that’s because I didn’t quite get it. – Nita.

  42. August 26, 2008 5:13 pm

    @ Nita:

    That ‘Rafa ka lafa’ is one of my favourites mainly because I love multilingual puns and jokes. The word ‘lafa’ is a Hindi colloquialism that means a loose slap. And it rhymes with Rafa (a pet name for Rafael Nadal; in fact his shoes have the words ‘Vamos Rafa’ on them, Spanish for ‘Go Rafa!’). The line ‘Rafa Ka Lafa’ was apt for the headline news of Rafa routing Federer in Wimbledon. I can never stop smiling at this one! :-)

    thanks for explaining in detail Shefaly. :) I can see now the cleverness of it. – Nita.

  43. August 28, 2008 1:21 pm

    Hi Nita, I have been a lurker on your blog for a while now and I must confess that I am in awe of your writing. Love your style, the amount of research you put into every post, and the insightful manner in which you discuss issues.

    I was a copywriter and now into freelancing. Just wanted to say that I love the Amul topical ads and your post brought a smile to my lips. :)

    always a great pleasure to meet a lurker! :) thanks for commenting! – nita.

  44. November 22, 2008 7:38 pm

    Am in pain from a dental surgery, and passing time with reading (and re-reading) your older posts.
    Love Amul ads. And this is hilarious set of Amul ads … love all your pictorial posts … and then I notice the name of the blog!
    Though I am not so good at it, I love taking pictures too, on the road also, now I know I am not the only one!!

    Ahh, so you noticed the photo angle! :) You are the first one to mention it, usually people interpret it in different ways, and I guess all interpretations are right. :) And get well soon! – Nita

  45. December 25, 2008 8:32 pm

    I remember the banners related to cricket.

    1. When Zaheer Abbas was unstoppable.

    Zaheer Ab Bas, Have some Amul.

    2. Miyandad

    Miya Dad do yaar!

    Amul Rocks!

  46. January 3, 2009 2:37 am

    Here’s an Amul butter Ad to celebrate JRD Tata’s solo flight from Karachi to Mumbai. This flight essentially started Tata Airlines which later became Air-India.

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