LendingTree Is Back in Review

Creative search is second in less than a year

LendingTree is at it again.

Less than a year after a protracted search for a new lead agency, the online player is reviewing its creative business once more. Company executives will meet with about a half dozen shops in the next few weeks and, based on those meetings, will select a handful of finalists, according to sources.

LendingTree, which acknowledged the review but had no immediate comment, plans to complete its latest search in July. The company's svp of marketing, Fred Saunders, is leading the process.

Media spending on the brand has declined significantly in the past four years, as the company spun itself off from IAC Corp. and sold its consumer mortgage division to Discover Financial Services. LendingTree now focuses on its original mission of using the Web to connect consumers with lenders rather than processing loans.

In 2007, media spending approached $50 million, but that figure slid to about $40 million in 2008 and even lower, to about $20 million in both 2009 and 2010, according to Nielsen. The total rose slightly last year to more than $22 million. Those figures, however, don’t include online outlays.

Last year’s search came down to Leo Burnett, 22squared and Young & Rubicam. After several rounds of presentations in a search that lasted more than six months, Y&R emerged as the winner. But marketing dollars failed to materialize, and the two were unable to finalize a contract, according to a source. As such, LendingTree has no lead agency at this point.

The company does have a media shop, however. In April, LendingTree hired Ocean Media to handle media planning and buying. Now the focus is on the creative business. Here’s hoping that the second time in less than a year is the charm.