Twelve Questions with David Walden

David Walden, the man behind the ASB Bank's Goldstein, announced last week that he was stepping down from the advertising agency he founded 14 years ago, Whybin/TBWA, whose clients included ASB, Tourism New Zealand and ANZ.

Dave Walden says there's no such thing as a bad lunch. Photo / Greg Bowker
Dave Walden says there's no such thing as a bad lunch. Photo / Greg Bowker

1. Let's play word association: retirement.

Over. My. Dead. Body.

2. You sold more than 16,800 shares in Whybin TBWA last year. What did you do with all the money?

I bought a wee Dale Frank [Australian painter] and we went on holiday to Spain and France. I'm certainly not rolling in it but we won't starve.

3. When were the "good old days" of advertising?

The late 1970s and 80s were actually Mad Men territory. Some episodes are like watching my own home movies.

4. Was it as sexist as Mad Men?

Shit yes. It was terrible. Women were very much in the support roles only. Still, it was more fun to be a PA at an ad agency than a bank. You'd get taken to lunch if you were good looking.

5. What's the best long lunch you've had?

The ones that turned into dinner as well at the same restaurant. My best lunch would have been at the VBG when Roy Meares and I were both leaving in rather delicate circumstances (1995). The whole agency was there, about 100 people, and the staff had to borrow a wheelbarrow from the construction site downstairs and go down to Metropole to get more cold Champagne.

6. Worst lunch?

I've never had a bad lunch. There has been the odd punch-up but they're not bad. They're a side show. That being said, a lot of great work gets done over a long lunch. It's much less formal than coming up with ideas in a boardroom and if you get interesting minds around the table with food and that, it makes for freedom of thought that you don't get elsewhere.

7. Whose idea was the ASB Goldstein campaign and when did he start to irritate you?

It was a collective idea that emerged from one of the creatives who suggested we get someone from New York to come to New Zealand and find out what made ASB different to other banks. Then Scott Whybin said "yeah a bit like the movie Local Hero where a Yank is sent to Scotland to open an oil refinery, ends up falling in love with the place and misleads his boss as he in his heart does not think this pristine environment needs a refinery. We just made it fun and Kiwis loved a bank which had the balls to laugh at itself and was celebrating our country.

8. Yes, but what about the irritating bit?

Well, he didn't. If I had my way he would still be going. We had a five-year plan for Goldstein - he was going to marry someone from the bank and we also had him returning to the States and pining for New Zealand. But the GFC put big-budget campaigns on hold and there was a change of (ASB) CEO.

9. Your two adult children have both worked in advertising. Didn't you put them off it?

Apparently I made them watch commercials instead of cartoons.

10. Aren't kids today too savvy to be marketed at?

No, just look at the success of 2degrees, classic marketing done well and a million customers, lots of them young. You just have to keep it "real" as kids can sniff a phoney, and then they go on Facebook and tell all their mates. Advertising now is more accountable and much tougher because of the proliferation of different media vehicles. We (ad agencies) used to be in control - we'd send it out there and they had to watch. Now they (consumers) are in control. So everything has to be relevant and interesting.

11. What should be done with the 100 per cent Pure New Zealand slogan?

Keep it, it's gold. All the naysayers are wrong. It sums up the New Zealand experience beautifully and it's competitive and distinctive . We have to compete with countries who have much bigger budgets than NZ and we have to punch above our weight. It is the best slogan we could wish for and it was never meant to mean we were 100 per cent pure. Nothing is 100 per cent pure.

12. What will you do next?

I'm having lunch today with Ray Avery - I've just resigned from the Fred Hollows foundation and I'd love to help someone like Ray. There are a lot of people on boards now who have come from advertising and there is a lot to offer in that way around brands. People have said to me recently "everything will be okay in the end" but I believe that if it's not okay, it's not the end.

- NZ Herald

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