There’s something about Sasha Chettri. The ubiquitous Airtel 4G girl, who climbed up to the No.1 and No.2 spots on the Mint-Ipsos-TVAdIndx survey for the month of March, with advertisements for the Airtel 4G network.
The campaign, which went on air during the ICC World T20 Cricket Cup, was launched with five films, each different in its visual beauty and location. The one that topped the ad survey was shot in Mashobra, near Shimla. Created by Taproot Dentsu India Communication Pvt. Ltd and shot by Equinox Films Pvt. Ltd, a Mumbai-based film production house, the whole idea of the campaign was to showcase Bharti Airtel as having the widest 4G network in the country, with unmatched coverage.
“The Airtel 4G girl has built a powerful 4G association with Airtel. For this campaign, we have taken a different spin on her character while driving home a strong network message,” says Agnello Dias of Taproot Dentsu.
Shifting gears from the earlier campaign, Chettri—who got trolled on Twitter for being “annoying” and “irritating” in her avatar as the Airtel 4G girl—takes a dig at herself, admitting that she has been boring people with her endless chatter. Her friends laugh indulgently as they tease her for indulging in “full-time yak-yak”.
The ad shows Chettri on a holiday with friends in Mashobra. As they admire the scenic expanse of the snow-capped mountains and comment on how far removed and peaceful it is, the silence is broken by the sound of cricket match commentary. They are shocked to see one of the locals watching the match on his smartphone, and are amazed that the network is operational in such a remote location.
The film production house picked this remote location for the scale and grandeur it communicated, says Nitin Parmar, who directed the film for Equinox. “We were looking for something that was on the edge of nowhere. And this place really was!” says Parmar, describing how the local guides had to create a trail, lit by battery-operated lanterns, to guide the crew of 150 to the location during the early hours of the morning. “We had to get there fairly early to ensure that we were ready to shoot in the morning light; it was really cold, and if you notice, the group is actually sitting around a bonfire because it was freezing there. Typically, one would hardly ever shoot a lit fire in the day, because it doesn’t show up on film. We intended to have them sit around a stove or something, but because the actors were so cold, we decided to light a bonfire instead.”
But the actors that did steal the show were the yaks in the background. “It was really tough getting the yaks up there. But once we did, everything was perfect! They really are interesting creatures! They don’t move at all! Probably because it’s so cold and they don’t want to expend any energy, but they literally wouldn’t move. Not even their head. Which was great, because no matter how many shots we did or how much the actors moved around, the yaks were in picture-perfect position in each and every shot!” says Parmar. “Amazing also because it is very challenging to shoot with animals, you need to be patient and wait endlessly for that perfect shot. But in this case, they were perfect!”
Raj Mathrani, Bharti Airtel’s chief brand officer, says: “The Airtel 4G campaign has exceeded our expectations since its launch. For the current campaign, we took a bold, tongue-in-cheek approach and gave a fresh twist to the Airtel 4G girl’s character to deliver a strong network message.”
Prathap Suthan, chief creative officer and managing partner, Bang In The Middle, says: “What a wonderful tourism ad. And what a lovely telecom ad. It does the job of demonstrating the wide reach of the network, and the fast speed at which 4G delivers. But that’s where it all ends for me. 4G is a myth. It has to be. Most of the time my phone shows 3G anyway, and during the rare times that it shows 4G, nothing quite changes. It’s the same speed. This comes through as the classic example of over-promising and under-delivering. It’s an effective way of eroding the equity of the brand.”