Select Resources to Guide Washington Mutual Search

NEW YORK Washington Mutual has confirmed placing its account in review, and sources said consultancy Select Resources International would oversee the process. [Adweek Online first reported the client was reaching out to agencies on Sept. 2].

The client spends more than $100 million annually on ads. Interpublic Group’s Sedgwick Rd. handles the main ad account for the Seattle-based banking client, but is not defending, the client said.

Asked if the company would hire a consultant to manage the process, client representative Mary Kelley said, “We will seek appropriate external advice as warranted.”

SRI in Santa Monica, Calif., could not immediately be reached for comment.

Both creative and media duties are up for grabs.

Though Sedgwick Rd., which handles both of those assignments, will not defend, sister IPG shop McCann Erickson will likely participate instead, said Kelley. (Sedgwick Rd. won the business in 2001 as an office of McCann.)

A representative at McCann in New York declined comment.

“Washington Mutual has grown to become one of the largest financial services companies in the nation, and we feel it is the right time to re-evaluate our advertising account and to put it up for review,” Kelley said. “Sedgwick Rd., our current advertising agency of record, has served our company well during an unprecedented period of growth and change, and we greatly appreciate all of their contributions to our success over the years.”

In recent weeks, one of Washington Mutual’s roster shops began reaching out to West Coast agencies, inquiring about potential conflicts and overall interest in the business should it go into play.

Omnicom Group’s Dieste Harmel & Partners in Dallas has handled Washington Mutual’s Hispanic advertising since 2003. WongDoody in Seattle is also on the roster.

Washington Mutual’s ad campaign is tagged “More human interest.” One recent spot showed “future” services the bank would offer including an inflatable “Insta Branch” that someone tries out at a party, causing havoc. A voiceover notes that until the “future” products are perfected, consumers are urged to “come to one of our existing branches to see how friendly our service can be.”

Past ads also focused on friendly service, depicting people so pleased with Washington Mutual’s offerings they were happy even under the worst conditions, such as having hot coffee scald them or getting into a car accident.

This story updates an item posted on Sept. 2 with the client’s confirmation and additional information about the review, such as the participation of consultancy SRI.