SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 13, 2006--Washington Mutual, Inc.
Humorous Approach Takes on 'Stodgy' Banking Industry
to Cries of 'Madness,' 'This is Outrageous'
"Madness!" "Outrageous!" "How's this help the rich?"
There hasn't been this much commotion in the marbled halls of
banking since the bars were removed from teller cages. What's got
old-fashioned bankers from NYC to LA chomping their cigars to a nub?
Washington Mutual's at it again.
The bank today launches a national advertising campaign supporting
a new free checking account that's got bankers (at least the ones in
the ads) fuming over the unprecedented bundle of free features.
The humorous TV and print ads poke fun at old-fashioned bankers
who just can't believe the new WaMu Free Checking(TM) account and the
benefits it offers -- features such as free ATM cash withdrawals, a
free overdraft (or non-sufficient funds) fee waiver each year, free
checks for life, cash back for debit card use, free outbound wires,
and low balance alerts. All of these and more are in addition to
features such as no minimum balance and no direct deposit requirements
to avoid a monthly fee already offered under WaMu's original Free
"Exactly how does that help the rich get richer?" retorts Mr.
Stodgy Banker in one ad while smoking his cigar and grasping his
champagne glass. He and a group of dismayed pinstriped cohorts are
humorously featured as a contrast to Washington Mutual's
consumer-friendly banking in the new advertising campaign developed by
Leo Burnett USA, based in Chicago.
"Our WaMu Free Checking(TM) account raises the bar for the banking
industry, and our new advertising campaign is a compelling, creative
way for us to let consumers know that we have a product uniquely
designed with their needs in mind," says Genevieve Smith, Washington
Mutual's chief marketing officer. "We are setting a new standard for
banking and delivering what consumers are asking for -- they tell us
'give me a break if I overdraw my account,' 'don't nickel and dime
me,' and 'reward me for my business.'"
Washington Mutual versus 'Stodgy Banker' Concept Hits the Mark
Smith adds, "The point of the stodgy banker creative is satirical
but direct, and it resonates extremely well with consumers. The
message is clear: if a group of stodgy bankers hates one of the new
free features of our WaMu Free Checking(TM) account, we like it and
The advertising campaign launches today in major daily newspapers
and on national television in major metropolitan markets throughout
the country where Washington Mutual has retail banking stores.
Washington Mutual declined to disclose the spending behind the new
campaign, but confirmed that its annual advertising budget alone
averages over $100 million a year.
"Washington Mutual is an industry challenger, a thought leader
with an entrepreneurial spirit, and as far away from stodgy as you can
get," states Rich Stoddart, president of Leo Burnett USA. "Our job was
to further leverage their consumer-friendly brand and differentiate
them in the market as the bank that truly serves the everyday
He further notes that the original concept of Washington Mutual
versus stodgy bankers clicked early during the ad agency review
process late last year. "What amazed us is that the Washington Mutual
team not only embraced this idea, but consistently pushed us to take
it even further. It's been an exhilarating ride made possible because
Washington Mutual truly believes that a core part of their reason for
being is to take a stand in one of the most staid industries in the
Ad Campaign Designed to Break Through the Clutter
The new national campaign represents Washington Mutual's largest
product launch ever, and the company is complementing it with
breakthrough local marketing events -- an approach Washington Mutual
has been noted for in the past. Integrated efforts include direct
mail, online advertising, subway and billboard signs, newspaper wraps
and guerilla marketing teams fanning out on street corners in major
markets to ramp up the buzz. The new ad campaign literally comes alive
today as actress/comedienne Aisha Tyler (former "Friends" actress and
"Talk Soup" host) takes to the streets of NYC to interview a pen of
stodgy bankers about the features of the new WaMu Free Checking(TM)
"The overall campaign launch is designed to break through the
clutter and reach out to consumers," said Chris Matthews, Washington
Mutual senior vice president of advertising and brand. "At the end of
the day, consumers are the ones who benefit from the convenience and
value never before seen in a free checking account."
The new TV spots were directed by Moxie Pictures' Martin Granger,
who is known for helming humorous commercials for clients including
Virgin Mobile, Dasani, Budweiser and Burger King. Ad creative can be
viewed at www.leoburnett.com/breaking/wamu.
About Leo Burnett, USA
Leo Burnett USA helps build many of the world's most valuable
brands, including McDonald's, Disney, Procter & Gamble, Marlboro,
Altoids, Kellogg and Nintendo. As the most awarded agency at the Effie
Awards for four straight years, Leo Burnett USA is the "Most Effective
Agency in America."
The country's second largest agency brand as ranked by Advertising
Age, Leo Burnett USA is the flagship office of Leo Burnett Worldwide,
Inc., a global network of over 200 operating units including a variety
of specialty marketing services and 94 full-service advertising
agencies in 82 countries. Leo Burnett Worldwide (www.leoburnett.com)
is a wholly owned subsidiary of Publicis Groupe (www.publicis.com).
About Washington Mutual
The new WaMu Free Checking(TM) account is offered by Washington
Mutual Bank and Washington Mutual Bank fsb. With a history dating back
to 1889, Washington Mutual, Inc. (NYSE:WM) is a leading provider of
financial services for consumers and small businesses. At December 31,
2005, Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries had assets of $343.12
billion. Washington Mutual currently operates more than 2,600 retail
banking, mortgage lending, commercial banking and financial services
offices throughout the nation. Washington Mutual's press releases are
available at http://newsroom.wamu.com.
The New WaMu Free Checking(TM) Account Features:
Free ATM Cash Withdrawals - Washington Mutual will not charge for
withdrawals from this account at non-Washington Mutual ATMs anywhere
in the world. (Non-refundable ATM operator and foreign currency
exchange fees may apply).
Free Checks for Life - Customers ordering their checks through
Washington Mutual can get them for free; select styles are available.
Free OD/NSF Fee (one per year) - One OD or NSF fee refund each
anniversary year; unused refunds can be carried over.
Free Gold Debit MasterCard with Rewards - The account comes with a
Gold Debit MasterCard and Washington Mutual will give a reward
(currently $0.03) for each Debit MasterCard purchase transaction (pin
or signature) during the prior year up to a $250 reward if the account
is open and in good standing on the anniversary date.
Free Outgoing Wire Transfers - Washington Mutual will not charge
for outbound international or domestic wire transfers. (Non-refundable
foreign currency exchange charges and intermediary and beneficiary
bank fees may apply.)
Free ID Theft Services - Customers will receive recovery
assistance if they ever become the victim of identity theft.
Free e-Alerts - Low balance, large withdrawal, and OD event
notification alerts sent by e-mail. (Enrollment in free online banking
service is required.)
Other features - No monthly fee. No minimum balance or direct
deposit requirement to avoid the monthly fee. Option of free check
return or check storage, free teller access, no per check charges,
free account access at more than 3,700 Washington Mutual ATMs
nationwide, free 24/7 telephone banking, free personal online banking
with Personal Bill Pay Service(R).
CONTACT: Washington Mutual, Inc.
Mary Kelley, 206-377-6878
Alan Magleby, 212-326-6019
SOURCE: Washington Mutual, Inc.