Mapping the Mascots | Verve Magazine
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Screen + Sound + Stage
September 02, 2014

Mapping the Mascots

Text by Priyanka Monga

Recalling the icons of humour and change through the decades, gifted to us by the world of advertising, Verve pens the tales of their breakthrough moments

  • Amul Butter Girl
  • Fido Dido, Sue Rose, Joanne Ferrone, Pepsi
  • Gattu, Asian Oil and Paint Company
  • Mascot Air India, Maharaja

The ’40s

At the fag-end of this decade when India was still known as the land of Maharajas abroad, a portly caricature hogged the limelight. The hospitable Maharajah mascot of Air India, who welcomed passengers onboard to royal treatment, was an instant fit for the country’s only international carrier. The mascot was created in 1946 by the then commercial director of Air India, Bobby Kooka and Umesh Rao, who was an artist with JWT (J. Walter Thompson). Though the Maharaja stood firmly with the airlines for years together through thick and thin, it was time for his makeover in 2007. The new naughty avatar retained its signature moustache but disguised itself sometimes in a sumo wrestler’s outfit or as a lover boy in Paris, in various ad campaigns. One of the most recognisable mascots in the world, the diminutive figure’s unmatched sense of subtle humour has won him accolades and awards.

The ’50s

A decade when the Indian advertising industry was taking baby steps towards creativity, an urchin with side swept hair holding a wet paint brush struck a chord with the masses. The caricature named Gattu conceived by the legendary RK Laxman in 1954 was the new brand mascot of the Asian Oil and Paint Company – a whooping turnover made the paint brand create a market identity. The impish face of the brand ascended to popularity over time. But after almost five decades, it was time to bid adieu to Gattu in 2002 as the brand’s agency Ogilvy & Mather re-invented their market image. The new look and market strategy of Asian Paints was ready to take on its own and Gattu remained a small graphic element on the paint packs for consumer reassurance.

The ’60s

Remember a little girl dressed in a polka dotted frock kneeling down with folded hands, praying with one eye closed and looking at the Amul butter pack with the open other? While the cartoon read: Give us this day our daily bread with Amul bread. This era saw the emergence of the most promising and much loved mascot in 1967 when her first appearance made an instant connect with the populace. Created in response to Amul’s rival brand Polson’s butter girl, it was an idea executed by Sylvester Da Cunha of ASP (ad agency) and its art director Eustace Fernandez. Known as the Amul Girl ever since, she has engaged in satirical and rib-tickling gags for more than 50 years now. With a book to her name, her running commentary spans a variety of subjects ranging from politics, movies to social issues. Here’s wishing her many more years of engaging sarcasm and wit.

The ’80s and ’90s

The late ’80s and early ’90s saw the rise of a fun doodle that went on to became the face of lemon fizz drink 7up by Pepsi Co, worldwide. Fido Dido was scribbled in a restaurant when its creators met for a drink. In 1987, Sue Rose doodled a figure on a napkin, while Joanne Ferrone named it. Fido was licensed to Pepsi Co later when it became a rage cartoon but gained popularity for 7up only in the ’90s. The mascot came to India in 1992 and Fido was suddenly the new cool. 7up became the preferred drink for the young and Bollywood actors were seen in advertisements next  to him. Soon it lost its fizz as Pepsi Co was not allowed by the cartoon character’s owners to mold Fido into an Indian context and the mascot was not used henceforth 1995. But in 2003, Pepsi Foods re-introduced it to India.

The 2000s

This was another period of innovation and risks as the advertising industry had new benchmarks by now. It all started from Vodafone buying the existing operations of Hutchinson Whampao and their famous pug (Hutch’s brand mascot) went missing. Entered stick-thin creatures sans expressions called Zoozoos for Vodafone, launched during the second season of the Indian Premier League in 2009. These animated-looking figures were humans dressed in zoozoo costumes and were created by ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, while the films were shot by Benguluru-based Nirvana Films in Cape Town. A roaring rage in the country for being smart, swift and hilarious, the zoozoo campaign was soon stopped observing an overdose by Vodafone in 2011 and made a comeback in 2013 and early this year again.

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