WaMu Shifts $173 Million Account to TBWA

Leo Burnett Loses Creative, Media for Mortgage Giant Caught in Subprime Turmoil

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Mortgage giant Washington Mutual, hard hit by the subprime-lending crisis, has moved its $173 million creative and media account to TBWA/Chiat/Day from Leo Burnett, Chicago, the marketer announced today.
WaMu Barcode spot

Could the move to TBWA/Chiat/Day mean the end of humorous ads from WaMu like this Christopher Guest-directed spot where customers at 'regular' banks have bar codes stapled to their heads?

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The announcement came as the Seattle-based bank released its earnings report this morning. Washington Mutual already has indicated to Wall Street that it will report subprime and home-equity write-downs of nearly $1 billion, and its third-quarter net income is likely to have fallen by 75%.

End of humorous ads?
The shift could bring an end to the long-running, humorous creative Washington Mutual has used to build its brand. Publicis Groupe's Burnett won the business two years ago and continued in the bank's tradition of funny TV spots. The marketer's first campaign, from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Sedgwick Rd., Seattle, featured spots by director Christopher Guest. In one, a customer in a "regular" bank had a bar code stapled to his head. The teller then scanned the man's head.

The Burnett work centered on a group of old-money fat cats who are kept in a pen by a young Washington Mutual employee trying to get them to adjust to the bank's consumer-friendly ways. One spot, which ran in March, showed the men on top of a building about to jump. The spots stopped running following complaints from suicide-prevention groups.

In a statement, Genevieve Smith, the bank's chief marketing officer, said the agency change underscores the bank's goal "to be the nation's leading consumer and small-business bank" and that TBWA, part of Omnicom Group, was selected for its track record of developing "iconic" brands for clients.

For Burnett, the loss stomps out much of the momentum following its recent pickup of the Buick and GMC brands from longtime client General Motors, which had eased the sting of GM's decision to shift its long-held Cadillac business to Modernista a year earlier. WaMu was one of two accounts, with Samsung, that Burnett had won in late 2005 to help salve the agency's wound from losing the $1 billion U.S. Army account that year. Burnett continues to handle Walt Disney, McDonald's, Philip Morris, Allstate and GM, among others.

OMG picks up media buying
TBWA sibling OMG will replace Publicis' Starcom Worldwide on the media-buying part of the account, according to a company release.

The win comes at a good time for TBWA as it defends its $150 million Sony PlayStation video-game account. Other finalists in that review are Interpublic's Deutsch Los Angeles, Marina del Rey, Calif.; Publicis' Publicis in the West, Seattle; and independents RPA, Santa Monica, Calif., and Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco. Select Resources International, Santa Monica, Calif., is handling that review.

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Contributing: Jeremy Mullman
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