How the Amul Girl Became India’s Conscience

The iconic butter brand’s take defined how Indians consumed news. But with less room for political dissent, the Amul girl has been holding her tongue.

Sneha Mehta

July 28, 2021

How the Amul Girl Became India’s Conscience
Amul girl mascot

Dressed in a red polka-dotted frock and a matching bow atop her glossy blue hair, the Amul girl has been the cherubic face of India’s favorite butter for over half a century. More than a mascot, since her inception in 1966, she has been a witty commentator on news from around the world — be it Donald Trump’s latest gaffe, Amitabh Bachchan’s recovery from COVID, Game of Thrones, the cricket World Cup, Brexit, or an Indo-Pak border skirmish. “Have with Covfefe or Tvea?” one ad reads, referring to former Trump’s typo-laden viral tweet. The cheeky Amul girl jokes about and ties the news back to butter in a way few people, let alone brands, would ever dare. And people love her for it.

“Our intention is not to be malicious, but to make people smile,” said Rahul da Cunha, head of daCunha Communications, who took over the Amul Butter account from his father Sylvester in the early 1990s. “We try to reflect what people are thinking without passing judgment. The Amul girl is the nation’s conscience.”

But the world and the media landscape has changed since the first Amul girl campaign. Today, Amul creates a new “topical” every two days to keep up with rapidly changing news cycles and posts them on not only billboards and newspapers, but also social media. But new digital audiences and quick creative turnarounds have led to a few stumbles for the legacy brand, including Twitter briefly banning the brand’s account in June 2020 for posting a controversial ad. Amul’s take has become an inseparable part of how Indians consume the news, but with increasing stifling of political dissent, there are some topics that even the Amul girl, once the country’s conscience, knows better than to joke about.