The leading man in the Speight's adverts is still a bloke's bloke — but now he's a bloke with a vulnerable side.

Speight's has returned to its roots by reprising the "Good on ya mate" slogan which typified its Southern Man ads in the 1990s.

But in shedding its more recent "We Will" tagline and returning to familiar territory, the company has been careful not to slip back into an antiquated worldview.

While the old Speight's ads were celebrated in their time, their distinctly masculine humour doesn't quite fit with modern sensibilities.

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It would be hard to imagine a brand today getting away unscathed with an ad like the "Deer Stalkers' Ball", which featured two blokes trying to shut out a woman from a social activity.

The latest ad stays true to the brand's masculine heritage, but offers a far more contemporary interpretation of what it means to be a man in today's New Zealand.

It features a wide-eyed protagonist receiving dancing lessons from his burly mate in an engineering workshop. Rather than excluding women, the ad shows the effort a Kiwi bloke is willing to put in to ensure he doesn't disappoint his partner during their wedding dance.

"The ad keeps all the values of doing things for your mates, but not at the expense of anyone else," explains advertising executive Shane Bradnick.

He told the Herald his agency DDB, which also works on the Lotto ads, faced a significant challenge in evolving the representation of a Kiwi bloke without alienating the very blokes who have come to love the brand.

This challenge was largely set by Craig Baldie, the national marketing director at Speight's parent company Lion, who said that while Speight's was still relevant, it was in danger of being left behind as the nation changed.

While the old Speight's ads were celebrated in their time, their distinctly masculine humour doesn't quite fit with modern sensibilities. / Supplied by Speight's

"Masculinity is evolving, even in Heartland New Zealand," Baldie said.

"We undertook a broader look into how the cultural mores of New Zealand were changing because I was keen to see if Speight's reason for being was still as relevant as it once was. That study showed us it was, but it also told us that the message had to be served up in a different way than it was 20 years ago."

Baldie said companies — particularly those with a longer history — often err in either stubbornly ignoring social cues or try to emulate them in a way that's inconsistent with the brand's heritage.

The trick, he says, is finding a balance between the legacy of the brand and trends that might pull in a different direction.

By way of example, he points to the new Speight's ad, saying: "We haven't changed the types of guys that Speight's drinkers are. They're just expressing themselves differently."

Baldie said there was a level of masculine vulnerability and uncertainty that would never have worked in previous campaigns under the Speight's banner.

It's a sentiment perhaps best captured in the fearful eyes and awkward steps of the protagonist as he desperately tries to learn the dance steps.

Another significant change is that the brand message feels far less regional, with its relevance stretching well beyond the Southern Man's stomping ground.

"Everything feels familiar," Baldie said. "The engineering shop could've been in Gore or it could've been in South Auckland."

The full two-minute ad airs this Sunday on free-to-air television.