An Indian brand whose mascot was a very Western cowboy, Dipy’s captured young imaginations. Prabhakar Mundkur looks back
It’s November 1977 and I meet Dipy the Kid.
Life was getting difficult. My pocket money was Rs 120 per month. Actually, quite enough for a young lad to live by in November 1977, but not if you have to spend on cigarettes and the occasional drink. I was getting tired of living off my parents. Those days, when you wanted a job you took recourse to The Times of India’s job columns which were quite a few pages those days. The size of the ad gave a rough idea of how big or important the company was. I responded to a DCM ad, but the job was located in Kota, not very attractive for a boy used to living in Mumbai. Then there was the National Productivity Council (wonder if it still exists) and the job was in Delhi, which was better than Kota, but the thought of leaving Mumbai was making me weak-kneed.
And then as providence would have it, there was an ad from daCunha Associates, which boasted of great accounts like Amul Butter, Lakme, Herbertsons, Sandoz and many others – what the ad industry has always called “blue chip” clients. I distinctly reading those words in the ad. Unfortunately, they were asking for five years’ experience for an Account Executive. Since then of course the advertising industry has become very lenient with their titles. Today five years’ experience would qualify you to be some kind of Vice President. And an Account Executive with five years’ experience would definitely be called… Failure. The guy who hasn’t made it.
Anyway, I decided to be cheeky and applied to the ad. I said the only difference was that daCunha was looking for the five years backwards and I was looking for it forwards. “So Mr daCunha would you please consider me for the job because I am looking for 5 years’ experience too.” The cheekiness seemed to work with Sylvester daCunha, the Managing Director of daCunha Associates. I was called for an interview, which I suppose I passed with flying colours because I was asked to start the very next day.
Your first job in my ways is one of the most memorable events in your life and mine certainly was. When I reached the office, I was told that the agency had just won the Dipy’s account and Vanraj Bhatia was recording a jingle at Western Outdoor. They had trusted me with the supervision of the radio jingle because I was a musician. This was exciting. A little later I found myself at Western Outdoor, introducing myself to Vanraj Bhatia. I was later to learn what an illustrious musician he was.
Vanraj had studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Paris Conservatory after graduating from Elphinstone College in Mumbai. In 1960, he was appointed as Reader in Western musicology at the University of Delhi. I immediately felt a kinship with him because I myself had studied Grade VIII pianoforte at the Royal Schools of Music, London.
The jingle had already been composed. The band was about to play. I still remember the words of the jingle. Dipy dee, Dipy do, Dipy dum dum; Dipy me, Dipy you, Dipy yum yum yum. Very memorable. Paul McCartney once said that if you can whistle a tune after hearing it once it has to be a good tune. I would find myself humming and whistling the Dipy’s jingle. And then came the slug line “Yippee its Dipy’s.”.
I got back to the agency, thrilled to be working on such an exciting campaign. The mascot for the brand was a cowboy. Research had shown that cowboys were very popular especially in comics, the rage for young people those days. Not to mention books by Louis L’Amour.
And of course the Clint Eastwood films. Remember For a Few Dollar’s more?
Dipy the Kid, as he was called (reminiscent of Billy the Kid), was a lovable, fun kind of guy. And he appeared on most of our advertising. But the biggest draw was the Dipys BEST bus which went gaily about town with people’s eyes popping out because they had never seen a BEST bus in Mumbai so prettily painted. Needless to say, the launch of the brand was a big hit. We won Media Innovation of the Year for bus designs.
Of course, to many of you cowboys may seem as if they are from an era gone by. I am not so sure. I think cowboys just transformed themselves and changed location from the Wild West to outer space. What, after all, is Luke Skywalker but a cowboy in outer space?