Regardless of the outcome, the ultimate winner of the $50 million LendingTree.com review will be the Interpublic Group of Cos.
Three IPG-owned shops--Mullen in Wenham, Mass., The Lowe Group in New York and The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va.--this month will stage final presentations, according to a client executive.
The online loan facilitator allows consumers to name their terms to lenders, who then compete for their business on a variety of products, including mortgages, home equity lines of credit and charge cards.
Executives at Charlotte, N.C.-based LendingTree.com plan to announce a winner by Nov. 1.
Initially, some agencies steered clear of the review because of the large amount of spec work. The review is being conducted by AAR/Bob Wolf & Associates in New York.
Mullen and Martin report into IPG, a holding company, through Lowe. A client representative said it was a coincidence that all three finalists are IPG shops.
Martin representative Dean Jarrett scoffed at the notion that "IPG or Lowe Group has some master plan like a chess game or a conspiracy. We are fiercely independent. Every agency is doing [its] own thing, making [its] own way. Where IPG really comes into play as in a partnership is when we already have a client and there needs to be more of a globalist reach. It's a total coincidence. We believe the client picked the original list of agencies in the review regardless of the parent company."