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LendingTree.com Seeks New Creative

Online lender relaunching offering, site
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Seeking to redefine its brand, LendingTree.com is reaching beyond lead creative agency Mullen on its creative account, which the Boston shop has handled, on and off, for 12 years.

LendingTree is seeking a shop to redefine the brand as the company prepares to relaunch its offering and its website in the third quarter. “We’re in a category where we’re only going to succeed if we reinvent ourselves,” said Mona Marimow, LendingTree's svp of marketing.

The move comes more than a year after Marimow joined the online lender. Before that, Marimow managed the account at Mullen, where she was a group account director. The agency also handles offline media planning and buying. Last week the company briefed five agencies and final presentations will begin in late May. Marimow declined to name the contenders. 

Mullen isn’t participating in the process but will remain a roster shop for media and some creative, if needed, according to Marimow. LendingTree hopes to complete the search by mid-June.

The company’s peek outside is not unprecedented. In 2008, LendingTree shifted lead creative efforts to Euro RSCG. Mullen, however, later reclaimed the assignment.                                                                      

LendingTree’s media spending is a fraction of what it once was but last year still totaled about $20 million, according to Nielsen. That’s about the same as in 2009, but down from roughly $40 million in 2008, almost $50 million in 2007, and more than $75 million in 2006. Those figures don’t include online spending.

Going forward, LendingTree will increase its spending to more historical levels, said Marimow, though she didn’t specify a figure.

Mullen’s last brand campaign featured images of regular people in superhero costumes and the voice of Adam West, star of the 1960s TV series Batman. The work, which broke in 2009, positioned LendingTree as a consumer-friendly “financial dashboard for your life,” offering everything from loans to credit cards and money management advice. “You to the rescue” was the tagline.

Launched in 1996, LendingTree was acquired by Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp in 2003. IAC spun off the unit in 2008, with LendingTree becoming part of Tree.com, a portfolio of Web-based financial and real estate businesses that also includes GetSmart.com and RealEstate.com.