DAN Interviews

Agnello Dias: DAN: An Airtel 4G ad without the 'Airtel girl'?

19 Nov 2019

The brand chose to talk about online video consumption in its new ad; which incidentally no longer features the short-haired "4G Girl" - Sasha Chhetri.

Ads for Airtel 4G became fairly formulaic at one point. The ads featured mobile phone users who were suffering from slow internet or a host of other network problems and found themselves surrounded in the magnetic (or not-so-magnetic) aura of Chhetri, who explains in detail the different ways a customer can benefit by using Airtel.

Taproot Dentsu is Airtel's creative agency for mainland campaigns and they are the agency has worked on this one too - Agnello Dias, the creative chairman of Dentsu Aegis Network India is responsible for the campaign. The insight that the ad focusses on is simple — the test of a reliable network lies with its ability to allow users to stream videos, sans interruptions. One of the ads in the campaign indicates that good call quality, sending quick SMSes, social media connectivity — all the talk points of yesteryear's telecom ads — are expectations that are being taken for granted. The brand's performance yardstick for this campaign is internet speed and a seamless streaming experience.

Dias, on the process of selecting a new face for the ad says - "Just like in the case of Sasha, Bhumika is a normal talent who came in through the normal audition process. I did shoot a scratch film with her and found her interesting.”

He also points out that this is not the first time Airtel has done an ad without Sasha Chettri. “In the past too, campaigns like Open Network, Post Paid Promise, Airtel TV and Airtel X-Stream did not feature Sasha. So Sasha is very much a part of the airtel and the team uses her if and when it is felt she is apt for the proposition being communicated,” he says.

Agenllo Dias

When asked what was the brief from the client and Dias replies – “video watching is the litmus test of a good network. Airtel was clearly marked out as the network offering the best video experience by an independent global source – Open Signal. This was reason enough to communicate it in an affirmative manner without couching it in a needlessly creative disguise.”

Experts Speak

Rahul Jauhari, the joint president and chief creative officer at Rediffusion Y&R explains that frills aside, it’s important for a telecom brand to continuously focus on the network as it is the heart of the offering. He feels that the issue of 'trust' feels slightly forced but apart from that, Airtel's choice of video streaming without interruption is apt. “Video is the most consumed content online and most of the consumption happens on the mobile. Using this as a benchmarking device makes sense to me. It’s quite in line with what matters most to young consumers,” he says.

Rahul Jauhari

On a lighter note, he added that personally, he watched the film on his mobile with a fair bit of buffering.

Ruchita Zambre, group creative director at What's Your Problem — a creative agency — opines that its refreshing to see a new face for the brand. “Any brand that uses famous personalities, which Sasha had become eventually, (thanks to the reach of their earlier campaigns) runs the risk of overkill or becoming too frustrating for viewers to consume. It is the same format that has worked for them and thankfully someone has realised the need to change the face of the protagonist," she explains. She adds, “Like this campaign, over the last couple of years, Airtel has been focussing on establishing the reasons to choose Airtel over any other network.”

Ruchita Zambre

In Zambre’s opinion, the insight about consumer behaviour is bang on. “Not just the youth but everybody who owns a smartphone today, uses it as a mobile television that provides non-stop entertainment. Video consumption from content point of view has far more reach and possibility of going viral. Video content is an addiction today. But at the end of the day a talking head TVC (testimonial of sorts) is trying too hard to convince the audience. If the same was rendered in a creative or more believable narrative then, it could tick all the boxes for a really effective campaign," she mentions, signing off.

There was a point in time when Sasha Chhetri became synonymous with Airtel 4G. Here are some of Airtel's most popular ads, starring her. The first time she made a splash, her signature pixie haircut was discussed as much as the ad. It eventually became so popular that salons across India started offering it as a hairstyle.

Video - https://youtu.be/F4NhOd8FL68

Video - https://youtu.be/tkQLD7tVkkY

Video - https://youtu.be/xf2mL9M1Wa8

Video - https://youtu.be/a1Mj2Mf-ny8

Video - https://youtu.be/Lmak88j7744

Video - https://youtu.be/BE4PI-et1sI

Video - https://youtu.be/ugom7o5hmr8

Video - https://youtu.be/oX1ooB761WA