Howard quits Halifax after bank decides his face no longer fits

After being propelled from a high street branch to billboards and television screens, Howard has left the bank that made him a household name.

To the few people who haven't seen his all-singing and dancing ads for Halifax, which frequently featured in "most annoying" polls, he is known as Howard Brown.

His star has has been on the wane for some time. Removed from televised ads in 2008, he has since been working as a sales ambassador. But the bank is, as of now, "in the process of developing the brand", and a new advertising agency has been hired, for whom the future is not Brown.

"There were options made available to him," according to the company, purported to be a role back in customer services, his home a decade ago, but Mr Brown has walked out instead, "to pursue a range of new opportunities within the media".

His telephone was switched off all day yesterday, and it is not immediately clear what this range of opportunities might be.

Halifax adverts aside, his media CV to date includes a Barry White cover reaching Number 13 in the charts, and a cameo in the 2003 Christmas special of The Office, appearing alongside David Brent in a nightclub promotion Blind Date game.

The previous decade has produced all manner of individuals who have tasted 15 minutes of fame before being left thirsty for more. But when the then fledgling advertising agency Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners took over the Halifax account in 2000 and created the "staff as stars" ads, the world was a simpler place. Big Brother was airing for the first time, and Simon Cowell was just another record executive.

Mr Brown beat thousands of Halifax staff who sang and danced in front of DLKW creative directors Malcolm Green and Gary Betts to land a role in the adverts.

He first appeared on Boxing Day 2000, promising, to the tune of Tom Jones' "Sex Bomb" to give Halifax customers "Extra! Extra! (I know you want more)."

The ads regularly feature prominently in polls of the most annoying adverts of all time, but were nonetheless remarkably successful, to the extent that Mr Brown became the subject of a waxwork in Madame Tussauds, an honour yet to be bestowed on the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

But, as the face of one Mr Brown (Gordon) became synonymous with the financial crisis, his chirpier namesake was considered an ill-fitting image for a time in which all round the world banks were offering anything but the "extra" he had once promised.