Print Page Close Window

Washington Mutual Launches National Advertising Campaign in Support of Its New WaMu Free Checking(TM) Account, Stirs Up the Industry

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 13, 2006--Washington Mutual, Inc. (NYSE:WM)

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 Checking account.

"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 consumers win."

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 consumer."

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 world."

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) account.

"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.
Media Contact:
Mary Kelley, 206-377-6878
mary.kelley@wamu.net
OR
Investor Contact:
Alan Magleby, 212-326-6019
alan.magleby@wamu.net

SOURCE: Washington Mutual, Inc.