The revolution will be personalised: Kiwibank and Assignment showcase the switchers

It’s not often you see an ad that mentions the brand’s competitors more than the brand that paid for it. But that’s exactly what Kiwibank and its new agency Assignment Group have done with its ‘Every revolution needs a leader’ campaign, which puts the spotlight on some of the 800,000 New Zealanders who have switched to the bank since it kicked off 11 years ago.  

Kiwibank’s comms manager Bruce Thompson says the bank has always been a cheeky challenger brand. It’s done this from the start, with its first ad featuring cats (points for guessing what the fat cat with a green and yellow collar represented), its resistance, its smartcar mascot Raymond and now, the revolution. But the difference with this campaign is that a host of real Kiwibank customers felt comfortable enough to offer their support and stand up for the brand on TV (all those who featured in the ad were paid with Pressie Cards). 

Thompson says there is always a risk when mentioning a competitor’s brand in an ad, but it’s been done in a way that creates some intrigue and he doesn’t think there’s any danger that Kiwibank’s message will get lost in the melee. 

“And that’s because so many brands are mentioned. Viewers may say ‘what’s that all about?’ But then they figure it out, because all these people came from other banks to Kiwibank, so they start to wonder ‘why did they do that?”

As it says on the website: “Kiwibank didn’t set out to be a bank. We set out to change banking. To make it easier and more competitive for Kiwis like you, even if you don’t bank with us. Of course, we’d like to be your bank. But regardless, we’ve got your back.” 

That might seem like hyperbole, but Thompson says its arrival has forced the larger Aussie-owned banks to up their game. 

“We believe that Kiwibank offers something different from the Australian-owned banks. We’ve led our own revolution from within New Zealand and set up our own bank. And we know it’s worked because we’ve got over 800,000 customers and we were once again named the most trusted and best value banking brand [in the recent Reader’s Digest survey].”

So how is it different? He admits banking will always be banking and some core services will always need to be provided. But he says one of the reasons Kiwibank was set up was because surveys showed that banking was held in very low regard and customer service was considered to be very poor. 

“There was a gap there for someone to do something different. When the bank started it had better interest rates, lower fees and more locations.”

Initially, he says the big banks didn’t respond to its arrival, perhaps because it thought it would be a niche player. But eventually they started to realise they were losing customers and they knew where they were likely to be going, so Thompson says they dropped their rates and their approach to customer service. 

“We think we were a turning point,” he says. And while he couldn’t give details on exactly where all those customers came from (“we’ll take them from anywhere, to be honest”), he says you only have to look at the customer service figures when Kiwibank launched and Westpac and ANZ’s position at the bottom of the heap to see where most of them probably came from. Now he says those two banks have significantly improved their performance when it comes to customer service. 

As well as stealing customers, it has also aimed to simplify the switching process. Working with the NZ Banker’s Association, it did just that, but Thompson says there is still a perception among consumers that it’s too hard. Communicating that change is Kiwibank’s job (and it won a TVNZ-NZ Marketing Award for its efforts last year). And it’s something he says that’s “going to be an ongoing challenge, probably for as long as we exist”. 

The ad was directed by Gregor Nicholas (Flying Fish), who also directed Kiwibank’s last slightly controversial brand campaign celebrating the bank’s tenth birthday in April last year. The track featured is ‘Girlfriend’ from Streets of Laredo, a four-piece indie-folk band based in New York but hailing from New Zealand, and is published by Native Tongue. 

The TV campaign is accompanied by outdoor and ambient media, as well as digital advertising, and a strong internal campaign to get wider Kiwibank and NZ Post Store Network teams on board. 



Nicky Ashton – GM Marketing

Regan Savage – Head of Brand & Communications

Rose Moore – Campaign Manager

Kim Watson – Brand Activation Manager    

Assignment Group

Kim Thorpe

Howard Grieve

John Plimmer

Chris Bleakley

Martin Yeoman

Rebecca Toomer

Juliet Dreaver (TVP)


Lee Parkinson

Gerard Duignan

Ros Ross

Katherine Chin

Flying Fish

Director – Gregor Nicholas

Exec Producer – James Moore

Producer – Penelope Sinclair

DOP – John Toon

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