To personify new client LendingTree, Merkley + Partners turned to a puppet.
In a new TV ad, "Lenny" is a green-faced, straight-shooting friend to Len, his human counterpart. As both sit before the desk of a bank-loan officer, Lenny cries "BS" after the lender tells them they "won't find a better offer anywhere."
"Ohhhhh," groans Lenny. "I smell BS." He then raises his voice to ask, "Hey, does anyone else here smell BS?"
Before his buddy can wave him off for being profane, Lenny explains that he's talking about "bank speak," before murmuring (in reference to the lender), "And frankly, he's full of it."
The ad then shifts to brand-pitch mode, albeit in the voice (and hands) of the puppet. Taking over the loan officer's PC, Lenny points at the screen with one of his four fingers, explaining that "you can compare up to five competitive mortgage offers. You get their rates, their fees and their customer ratings." The ad ends with the lender slipping back into bank speak, prompting Lenny to quip, "There's that smell again."
As a spokes-puppet, Lenny is likable and certainly different for the category, even though he's Muppet-like (a product of Jim Henson's Creature Shop, in fact) and therefore a bit juvenile-looking. How could a cute little guy that a toddler would hug be so wise in the adult world of mortgages?
That said, the lending-information business could use some personality, and Lenny is a fuzzy character with some edge. As Merkley CEO Alex Gellert explained, "He's sort of that buddy without a filter who keeps you honest." The Omnicom Group shop landed LendingTree's creative account in the fall.
"Bank Speak" broke Monday night. A second spot, "Boxers," in which Lenny gets a mortgage without even putting on pants, breaks next Monday.
Beyond TV spots, the new campaign, which is backed by more than $40 million in media spending, includes online, print, outdoor and radio ads and social media marketing. The brand's longtime tagline—"When banks compete, you win"—remains.
Doug Lebda: Founder, Chairman and CEO
Gabe Dalporto: Chief Marketing Officer and President, Mortgage
Fred Saunders: Senior Vice President, Marketing
Lauren Pilon: Senior Marketing Manager
Agency: Merkley + Partners
CEO: Alex Gellert
Chief Strategic Officer: Stacey Lesser
ECD: Andy Hirsch
Group Creative Directors: Simon Nickson, Drummond Berman
Director of Broadcast Production: Gary Grossman
Producer: Donovan Green
Group Account Director: Tom Lamb
Account Director: Dawn Williams
Asst. Acct. Executive: Aimee O'Rourke
Production Company: MJZ
Director: Phil Joanou
Editorial: Cutting Room
Editor: Mike Douglas
Visual Effects: Light of Day
Audio Post: Sonic Union
Mixer: Michael Marinelli