ASB will become the foundational client of The Monkeys in the New Zealand market.
Following a pitching process commenced in mid-April, the bank this weekend confirmed the appointment of the Accenture-owned shop as its new agency of record.
ASB brand and marketing lead Shane Evans said the appointment would also see the bank work closely with Accenture Interactive's Australasian team.
Accenture Interactive is regarded as the largest digital agency in the world, with billings exceeding US$10 billion (NZ$14.26 billion).
The local team is still relatively small at around 30 staff, but the company has grown quickly in every market.
Evans says the business pitch from The Monkeys was driven entirely out of Sydney by the Australian team and that pitching was already well under way by the time news broke that former DDB boss Justin Mowday and chief creative officer Damon Stapleton would be setting up The Monkeys in New Zealand.
Evans explains that ASB will initially be working with a dedicated creative team in Australia.
"As Justin and Damon build out their team, we'll increasingly do more of our work locally. But for any big strategic jobs, there'll definitely be work across the whole Australasian team," says Evans.
The pitch for the ASB account is understood to have been a highly competitive affair with advertising suitors across Australia and New Zealand expressing interest in the account.
This comes as little surprise given that banks are some of the biggest spenders on advertising in the local market.
Nielsen data shows that ASB was the second-largest account among the major banks, spending a total of $26.7 million in 2020 - just shy of the $26.9m spent by ANZ.
Asked why he's opted for an unconventional partner, Evans explains that it comes down to the fact that the function of marketing has changed enormously from what it once was.
"We're looking to build the brand beyond communications," he says.
"We're looking for an additional set of skills. And when we went through that process, The Monkeys and Accenture Interactive stood alone through that process.
"What I like about The Monkeys is that they describe themselves as part business consultancy, part creative and part technology - which I think accurately sums up the modern chief marketing officer role."
The technology aspect is particularly important when it comes to financial institutions that run sophisticated automated marketing programmes as well as intricate apps and websites.
Finding this specific digital expertise, creative capability and business nous under one roof is no easy task in New Zealand.
In changing his marketing partner, Evans says he's looking to take the bank "one step ahead".
The appointment of the Accenture-owned agencies brings an end to the four-year partnership ASB had with Dentsu-owned With Collective.
"With Collective has done some tremendous work," Evans said.
"This decision however has been about looking at the broader set of skills required to take us forward and we felt The Monkeys and Accenture Interactive were the right fit."
ASB's appointment of With Collective in 2017 was a groundbreaking move for a major in its own right. Until then, ASB had worked with established agency forces like Saatchi & Saatchi.
With Collective was specifically formed within the Dentsu advertising group in order to service the hefty client.
A growing troop
Justin Mowday, chief executive at The Monkeys, has been on a hiring spree recently.
"We'll have a team of 30 to 35 within the next four weeks," he tells the Herald of the agency which is now only a couple of months old.
"Add this to the 30 we already have [at] Accenture Interactive, and you're talking about a team of well over 50 staff."
Mowday has taken an unconventional approach to the recruitment process by inviting people to express interest in working with the organisation regardless of their training or background.
"We're looking to have a diverse range of voices at the agency. This is important not only from a corporate responsibility point of view but is also good for business."
Mowday refers here to numerous academic studies which have shown that diverse thought improves business performance across a range of metrics.
Advertising has long struggled to break out of the mould that it is an industry dominated by young, white, middle-class workers.
Damon Stapleton, chief creative officer at The Monkeys, says that when you hire too many people who look and sound similar to you, it's easy to end up with a culture where everyone agrees and tough questions are rarely asked.
"The last thing you want is to create an environment where everyone is wearing the same spectacles and polo necks and nodding in agreement."
The Herald understands that many applicants from major ad agencies had also expressed interest in becoming part of the project.
"We're thinking about what the advertising will look like in five years. We just don't think it's going to be the same as it is today," says Stapleton.