ASB Bank has gone back to character-based branding "a-la Goldstein" - abandoning a short-lived campaign from agency Droga 5 which lasted less than one year.

New look ASB advertising launches this weekend with a 60-second commercial featuring delightfully batty British actor Brian Blessed, who featured in Blackadder, and has a reputation for "hearty king sized portrayals".

ASB will be hoping Blessed brings back past advertising glories.

Before the Droga 5 ad there was"Goldstein" the daffy American sent downunder to find out why our banks are so good.


That campaign from ad agency Whybin TBWA ran an astonishing 11 years, breaking records as New Zealand's most popular ad campaign. Before Goldstein there was "Robert The Robot" and before that Stanley the querulous baby. So Blessed sees a return to the days when the advertising is focused on a single character.

The new Brian Blessed campaign is the first fruit for a coalition between marketing director Roger Beaumont, and its new agency Saatchi & Saatchi. Beaumont said the choice of big booming Blessed was part of a traditional nuanced premise that New Zealanders undersell themselves. "The ads are quite mad," said Beaumont.

Blessed is not the typical young pretty character that feature in a lot of brand ads.

"No. but he is incredibly endearing - and he has a bit of retro cool attached to him," said Beaumont.

"What really convinced us about the direction of the campaign was the sense enthusiasm and fun."

Indeed, in a past commercial outing for Blessed he was the voice of the "TomTom" where he developed a cultish following.

"Brian's observations of New Zealand as a culture we are quite modest and understated and we need to bang the drum a little bit," Beaumont said.

"The Goldstein campaign proved New Zealanders really love external perspectives and people coming over and saying good things about us. It needed that to show a sense of under-statedness," he said.


"And Brian Blessed can but put a smile on your face that really resonates with the brand," Beaumont said. Beaumont does not want to debate the short lived experiment with Droga 5.

ASB was a cornerstone account and Droga 5 wound up after ASB moved to Saatchi & Saatchi.

"The previous team made a decision to move on from Goldstein and the old campaign was a reflection of where the brand was at after the global financial crisis. This is a broader brand campaign - it will give us a consistency of voice telling the ASB story and the way we celebrate success," Beaumont said.

Upheavals and changes were part of wider change in bank advertising with most banks changing partners at a time when the National Bank brand was being closed down.