Burnett Does It ‘The WaMu Way’

CHICAGO Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett depicts Washington Mutual using a captive focus group of stodgy, rich bankers to help guide its business decision in the agency’s first work for the client.

In television spots breaking today, the agency introduces the idea of the “banker’s pen,” where a pool of rich bankers is kept in the basement of a Washington Mutual branch. The idea is that the Seattle-based bank asks this group of bankers about various products that Washington Mutual will offer. “It’s simple,” says the WaMu spokesman in the ad. “If these stodgy old bankers think it’s wrong, then we know it’s right.”

The new spots introduce a free checking product, which offers free ATM cash withdrawals, a free overdraft waiver, free checks for life and cash back for debit card use. In the introductory spot, the bankers react derisively to the product. Another spot shows the bankers getting their exercise by chasing a dollar bill as it’s carted around by the spokescharacter, Bill. The campaign introduces “The WaMu way” as a tagline.

“It’s a hard-working spot because it also has to introduce the new product,” said Josh Denberg, group creative head at the Chicago agency. The characters will continue in subsequent spots as the creative team develops and deepens the concept, said Paul Hirsch, another group creative head.

Spending on the free checking effort was not disclosed, though the company said it expects to spend more than $100 million on all advertising this year.