Blessed be the bank that celebrates success

ASB has a good pedigree when it comes to using likeable characters in its marketing. And, after seven months of planning with its agency Saatchi & Saatchi, it’s hoping it has created another one after foisting the bearded, booming Brian Blessed on the nation to help get New Zealanders to celebrate success, no matter how small that success might be. 

“The first thing we did was
to look at our people,” says Anna Curzon, ASB general manager, brand experience. “What is it about ASB that makes us ASB? And the feedback
that came through was that it has a positive, success-based mindset and that we
foster a culture of recognition. 
We’ve challenged conventions in the tech space and we’re focused
on the things that move us forward. And we do take time to recognise, celebrate success and give pats on the back … 
We have a very positive working culture [perhaps due to be even more positive when ASB moves into its swanky new building in the Wynyard Quarter soon], and we wanted to show that.”  


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boi3uhs3iJcCurzon says it did quite a bit of research with New Zealanders as well and the major insight was that Kiwis don’t celebrate success enough. The survey showed just three in ten have truly celebrated success over the last two years. And after the Rugby World Cup win,
17 percent said they were relieved rather than excited. Some of 
the feedback was ‘I feel proud, but I don’t want to show it’. So ASB, with Blessed commenting on our humility, is trying to change that. 

“Everyone’s trying to go forward and in the daily grind it’s sometimes hard to see the positives, so we’re trying to encourage them to to celebrate their successes, no matter how big or small. We’re giving people permission to celebrate the wins, whether it’s cleaning the laundry, paying off the home loan, or your DIY paint job … There’s never a bad time for a high five.” 

The ever-reliable Onion points out 72 percent of high fives are unwarranted and corporate high fives are usually pretty cringey, but, that aside, there is a noticeable difference in approach between this campaign and that of its major competitors’ recent work. While the other banks, particularly BNZ and Westpac, got deep and philosophical about money (even Kiwibank got serious for a while), this campaign is much more light-hearted. And this, Curzon says, fits with the brand’s history. 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSkOLer5DTY“Whether it’s Baby Stanley and Lucy Lawless, Robbie the Robot or Ira Goldstein, ASB has always used characters to tell our story. And Brian
is such a great vehicle into offering that insight into our New Zealand
culture and humanising banking,” Curzon says. 

As is often the way with New Zealand, and our unique combination of pride and self-doubt, it often takes a foreigner to tell us how good we are (see Vaughn
Davis’ blog on what he sees as the curse of ‘export quality’). ASB’s last
campaign by Droga5, Creating Futures, was unique in the sense that it didn’t have a central character to tell its stories. It
was also too friendly, with twee messages on branch doors and a bit of an ‘I’m’
overkill. The campaign certainly improved as time went by, particularly when Dame Judy Dench came onboard, but it certainly wouldn’t be classed as one of the
bank’s more memorable efforts. This one could be, however. Blessed is such an irrepressible force on screen and the humour works well.

Head of brand and campaigns Shane Evans says the first ad sets up the proposition, but this is a
long-term play, and a lot of planning has been put in to ensure the campaign, which was shot by Curious and Tracktor and also includes TV spots for the bank’s home loans, business, rural and mobile banking, goes the

So, another decade-long campaign then? 

“I’d be delighted if the campaign enjoyed the same success [as Goldstein],” says Curzon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMiLQwKLSQMBlessed, who has featured in a variety of stage and screen productions, including Blackadder, Flash Gordon and Robin Hood, has had a bit of a renaissance recently. His boisterous thespianism has made him into something of a cult figure, with a recent Facebook campaign to choose the voice of TomTom navigation system seeing him garner 25,000 votes. It also makes him very fertile territory for creatives,
and he is apparently just as enthusiastic in real life, so he will be popping
up elsewhere throughout the campaign (for example, when you log out of Facebook
banking, you get to see a congratulatory clip from the bearded wonder).

“We worked hard to thread these stories through traditional media into social media and provide people with a bit of light relief,” Evans says. And this stretches as far as cards with inspiring messages for rather mundane achievements like ‘I salute your paper-jam fixing prowess’ and strap-on beards imploring people to send in photos of themselves ‘getting their Brian on’.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH8nwzOwtoMWhile Blessed hadn’t ventured to New
Zealand before this shoot, he has had frequent connection with famous Kiwis throughout his
years. He
played the part of a Maori All Black in the making a TV drama back
in the day when Colin Meads’ All Blacks were touring England. The shoot took
place at Twickenham and involved Meads and some of the All Black squad itself.
He had to learn then lead the Haka—and he was so
battered and bruised by the action scenes to follow he nursed injuries for
weeks. And the high-octane Blessed version of the Haka, like the one he performed on Mt Everest, came out on several
occasions during the shoot. 

He was
also invited to host a BBC quiz programme, the subject matter being New
Zealand. After a night of trivia focused on famous Kiwis, he left the studio
and promptly bumped into Sir Edmund Hillary on the street. And, having
attempted to climb Everest unsuccessfully on three occasions, he struck up a
conversation and they spent the next few hours exchanging mountaineering stories.

As for Saatchi & Saatchi, which won ASB without a pitch, it’s another big, impressive campaign out the door. And Curzon says the agency is “definitely on the march”,
something she puts down to the new management team. 

“It’s really important that we’ve got a
partner that shares our values. And their philosophy of success is the same as
ours,” Curzon says. And while the agency probably didn’t have too many positive
vibes a few years back, the mojo definitely seems to have returned. 

Corey Chalmers and Gus Roberts, who have followed the ASB account around a bit, weren’t involved this time, with Slade Gill and Brad Collett (or Blade, as Curzon calls them) at the creative helm. 

Curzon says the marketing team has had support from the frontlines and from the board room on the campaign, and while Evans says chief executive Barbara Chapman has more than enough on her plate without worrying about the marketing, she has admitted she likes to keep an eye on her old department and he says there were “a few check-ins” along the way. 

Banks promoting happiness often seems
incongruous. Money is serious business, times have been pretty tough over the past few years and banks are regularly criticised for their high profits in this country. Its competitors have recently tried to get customers to think about how important money is, start serious conversations and do something to improve financial literacy, with differing degrees of success. But Curzon says “it’s very important
we thought about the conversations we wanted to have with our customers”. And it seems to be hoping those conversations will be be related to big beards, tweed suits and, as the print ad says, ‘the culmination of everyday wins, achieved by everyday effort’.  



Roger Beaumont, Executive General Manager, Marketing & Online
Anna Curzon, General Manager Brand Experience & Digital Channels
Shane Evans, Head of Brand & Campaigns
Rhys Sinnott, Senior Brand Manager
Debbie Lowe, Senior Campaigns Manager
Emma Lynch, Campaign Manager
Sharon Moffatt, Brand & Campaigns Planner
Donna Franks, Assistant Brand Manager

Account Service:

Philip O’Neil – Group Head ASB
Michael Wood – Account Director
Fee McLeod – Digital Account Director
Lynne Hunt – Digital Account Manager
John Maloyd – Digital Account Manager
Liz Jones – Account Manager

Antonio Navas – Executive Creative Director
Slade Gill – Creative Director
Brad Collett – Senior Art Director
Mike Davison – Head of Art
Nathan Cooper – Digital Creative Director

Haydn Thomsen – Digital Production Director
Lorraine Guerin – Senior Digital Producer
Luke Pittar – Senior Digital Creative
Anna Rose Kerr – Digital Creative
Neill McAlpine – Digital Creative
David Hunter – Digital Creative
Matt Skinner – Lead Developer
Ralf Klis – Developer
Jonathan Bardsley – Digital Designer

Murray Streets – Director Of Strategy
Peeyoosh Chandra – Digital Planning Director
Andrew Stephenson – Senior Brand Strategist

TV Production
Jane Oak – Head of Content
Pip Mayne – Agency Producer
Traktor – Director
Richard Ulfvengren – Executive Producer / Traktor
Stu Giles – Producer
NZ Production Company – Curious Films
DOP – John Toon
Production Designer – Neville Stevenson
Tim Mauger – Editor
Music – Peter Van der Flut
Audio Post – Liquid Studios

Paul Gibson – Production Manager
Heath Davy – Director of Operations

Emma Taylor-Warne – Creative Services Manager

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