ASB rebrands with the help of British actor Brian Blessed as it brings humour back to its adverts

ASB rebrands with the help of British actor Brian Blessed as it brings humour back to its adverts

By Gareth Vaughan

ASB today launches a major rebranding fronted by Brian Blessed, the larger-than-life British theatre, film and TV actor with a booming voice.

The bank is replacing its "creating futures" tag line with "succeed on", with ASB planning to push this "philosophy" for at least five years with humour returning to its ads for the first time since the long running Ira Goldstein campaign was pulled in 2010.

Shane Evans, ASB's head of brand and campaigns, told the rebrand has been in the works since Saatchi & Saatchi replaced Droga5 as ASB's advertising agency on July 1 last year. A team of 15-20 ASB staff has been involved.

The over-riding theme, which features in the initial ad being circulated online today and launching on TV from Sunday, encourages New Zealanders to step out from traditional kiwi humility, humbleness and a perceived reticence to celebrate. The theme was developed through discussions with both ASB staff, about their perceptions of the bank's culture, and with customers.

"It targets the sense that New Zealanders have so much to celebrate and often with the hard work and the daily grind we forget the little wins," said Anna Curzon, ASB's general manager for brand experience and digital channels. 

"At ASB we have always been really focused on identifying the little wins and celebrating those, and fostering that culture of self esteem and of recognition. Everyone really likes that pat on the back for doing a great job and we know the impact that can make to a business."

The rebrand is the first big, fresh advertising/branding push by ASB since its former marketing boss Barbara Chapman became CEO and managing director in April 2011 and Roger Beaumont was hired to the new role of executive general manager for marketing and online in October 2011. In late 2010 ASB ditched its popular Goldstein ads, which ran for 11-years, in favour of the creating futures campaign, which featured a controversial IVF ad that led to 39 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, although they weren't upheld. Chapman herself said she wouldn't have made the ad.

ASB's rebrand and renewed advertising push comes after figures released to by Nielsen AIS showed a huge annual drop in the bank's advertising spending last year. ASB spent NZ$14.7 million in 2012, down NZ$8.3 million, or 36%, from NZ$23 million in 2011.

Blessed 'not charging a superstar fee'

Using Blessed was Saatchi & Saatchi's idea based on wanting a foreigner who could observe New Zealanders' behaviour as an outsider and was well respected. Blessed's acting roles, dating back to the 1960s, have included appearances in Blackadder, Z-Cars, I Claudius, Flash Gordon, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and Cats. Staff at the ad agency apparently quickly settled on Blessed with his positivity, humour and genuineness being the key attractions.

Blessed was in New Zealand for about three weeks in November. ASB has a rolling contract with him with Evans saying his fee wasn't at a "superstar" level.

"We were very comfortable with what we negotiated and he was very, very good to work with," Evans said. Neither he nor Curzon would disclose how much ASB was spending on the rebrand.

Blessed was being used to launch the "succeed on philosophy" but he won't feature in all ASB's advertising over the next five years. He's seen as the "main vehicle to bring the brand philosophy to life".

Curzon said "succeed on" was two words you wouldn't normally see together, making it a memorable phrase.

"It does give that sense of momentum. Focus on what takes you forward, not what holds you back," said Curzon. "It could be seen as a play on soldier on. For us that encapsulated what we're trying to achieve with the philosophy. For us it's a long-term statement."

'Amplifying who we are'

She said the new adverts weren't targeting any specific age groups. Rather, they would "hone in" on financial challenges people face.

"People who are thinking about buying their own home or considering going overseas - that can often feel like such a big task and seem so far away," said Curzon. And what we want to say through this philosophy is actually 'just start on the little things and start celebrating those and before you know it you'll get to the big stuff. Don't feel so overwhelmed with this stuff because we're here to help with some tools to make it simple and easy for you'."

"We want to put some positive messages out there in a light-hearted way that will make people stop and think 'I had a good day today, I had a win'," Curzon added. "Rather than being a campaign, this is about amplifying who we are as a business, being very transparent about what our culture's like and positively sharing that with the community."

The "succeed on" ads to feature on billboards and in print will incorporate greater use of the colour black, alongside yellow, than has typically been seen from ASB in the past.

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I hope Mr Blessed brings back some humour to ASB because looking at their profit and their term deposit rates hasn't got me rolling around the floor with laughter.
They will need more than humour to retain me as a customer.