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Meet the New Airtel Girl: Sasha Chettri

By Aakriti Shrivastava , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | September 17, 2015
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How did a trainee copywriter land a nationwide TV campaign? Meet the quintessential 'girl next door' who's convincing everybody to switch to 4G.

The petite, short-haired Sasha Chettri has become a crusader of sorts for 4G. She is all over the media - on TV, outdoor and online (including Airtel's website) - rattling off irresistible features of this new service by the telecom giant. Chettri has effortlessly taken on the 'Airtel Girl' tag, earlier held by Rakul Preet Singh who appeared in the memorable Airtel night plan campaign last year.

Sasha Chettri

Sasha Chettri

A graduate in advertising from Xavier's Institute of Communications (XIC) Mumbai, Chettri was a trainee copywriter. How did she end up appearing in ads, instead of making them? While she spent her initial 16 years in Dehradun, Chettri moved to Mumbai for higher education. While interning with Creativeland Asia she realised that copywriting was not her calling. She decided to pursue music, writing, composing and singing. While she performed her gigs, 'Ricksha Rani', as she is known in the circuit, also auditioned for ads keeping up with her interest in acting.

While she has been featured in an Amazon ad previously, this is her first campaign in a lead role. "I did not even want to audition, because I had cut my waist-length hair very short, and I didn't think they'd take me. Even when I was shortlisted, I thought it was a joke," she says.

Agnello Dias, chairman and co-founder, Taproot India, tells us why she was chosen. "For the role, we were looking for someone who was confident, could strike a conversation with anyone and did not look like a professional model." He informs that nothing specific was done to create Sasha's look in the TVCs. "We did not plan to take someone unconventional, but we liked the chemistry she had with the camera," he adds.

Airtel 4G campaign featuring Sasha Chettri

Sasha Chettri performing at a musical gig

Chettri says that she is "very similar" to her character in the ad, except that she is "not so sweet and nice."

Agnello Dias

Indranil Das Blah

Razneesh Ghai

She says the experience of working on the campaign was overwhelming and made her realise the effort it takes to shoot a 30-second ad. She also stars in the upcoming movie 'Katti Batti', where she plays the role of a musician. In addition to this, she is working on her music album, which is set to release in the next two months.

When asked how she's handling all the attention, she says, "People have started recognising me, so that is new... and creepy," she exclaims.

Indranil Das Blah, COO, Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions, thinks that it was a strategic decision to have Chettri as the lead. "While she may look a little unconventional, she fits the brand's image, being cute and pretty with a girl-next-door look," he says.

He continues, "Using her extensively in all of Airtel's branding has made her recognisable and built a connect with the brand. This is a smart way of having a brand ambassador who is recognised without paying for it."

When asked if her already formed association with Airtel may restrict her association with other brands, he says, "She is too young and raw for that. Other than telecom, most categories may want to use her because she is recognised, which may work well for them."

Razneesh Ghai, founder, Asylum Films, doesn't agree with Blah about Chettri being an 'unconventional choice'. "She fits the part like any other protagonist would. She's a sweet looking girl and just because she has short hair does not mean anything special. It's common to see women in short hair these days," he notes.

The extensive focus on the protagonist in the film is evident, he says, and not incidental. On the picturisation of the ads, he comments, "Visually, there is not much happening as the script does not allow it. I think we need to start moving away from cafes and living rooms in Indian advertising. Like Werner Herzog says, 'If we don't come up with new imagery, we will perish'."

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