ASB farewells Goldstein as 11-year ad campaign ends

By Susie Nordqvist

Actor Steve Mellor as ASB Bank's
Actor Steve Mellor as ASB Bank's

ASB has ditched its long-running brand ambassador.

Ira Goldstein will disappear from television screens next week, after the bank ended its relationship with the agency that created the campaign.

The carefully crafted, bumbling and fallible New York banker played by American actor Stephen Mellor and his grumpy boss have been entertaining audiences for more than a decade and their television ads for the bank have won many industry awards.

"Kiwis have taken Goldstein into their hearts and homes, and he has become an iconic figure in our country's advertising," ASB's general manager of brand and marketing Deborah Simpson said.

But with ASB having entered a new era, it was time to bring the Goldstein chapter of the bank's advertising history to a close, Simpson said.

"Goldstein, bless his cotton socks has been on our screens for 11 years and we were starting to see some wear out," she said.

While audiences would essentially be the judges of the new campaign when it kicks off later this year, Simpon said she was confident it would prove just as successful.

Droga5 has picked up the new advertising contract for ASB from TBWA.

Audiences will be able to find out what happens to Goldstein when the final advertisement airs between Sunday, September 26 and Friday, October 1, she said.

Fans of Goldstein have already turned to social networking site Facebook to express their disappointment at the move.

"I love Mr G I want to see him grow old and grey and have grand kids, axing him suxs and is a totally stupid- I will be changing banks," one member of the Save Ira Goldstein (ASB bank ad guy) page said.

"He has been good for the bank image and the ads have earned a place in NZ brand history. Shame on them!" another member said.

International brand strategist Brian Richards said criticism of the bank's move was to be expected given the character's popularity, however the decision to move away from the Goldstein brand was the right one.

"Brands are about ongoing conversations and I think the public tend to tire of things. I know there's a bit of a groundswell because they don't know what's coming next and really that's the challenge to the new agency to continue to capture people's interest in a new way."

Richards said the Goldstein ads were effective because they were an 'arm's length endorsement of ASB'.

"It has allowed the bank to tell a story about their brand without actually saying what they are in an overt sense."

"It was a very clever programme that probably started in a humble sort of a way and I'm sure they never thought it would attract that much attention."

However big brands needed to be careful they were not stuck in a time warp and ASB was right to make the change, he said.

Massey University's associate head of the school of communication, journalism and Marketing in Albany, Dr Andrew Murphy said the campaign was getting outdated.

"The comment a number of people have made to me is that they thought the use of Goldstein as a front piece for ASB gave the impression it was an American bank. It was a conversation between two Americans about New Zealand and suggested the bank itself had American connections and that is one of the reasons why I think they dropped the campaign," he said.

Goldstein has been a highly visible representative and icon for ASB, but had done little to fortify its New Zealand credentials, he said.

"Any concept eventually loses its breakthrough ability, and ASB have obviously decided this has been reached with Goldstein," he said.

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