Tickle Makes a Match With SendTec

LOS ANGELES Tickle has chosen independent SendTec as its creative and media agency, confirmed Steven Comfort, vice president of marketing and sales at the online dating service. Comfort estimated that Tickle could spend $20 million in 2004 as it considers its first offline advertising.

The St. Petersburg, Fla., agency was in a final-four shootout Dec. 18-19 against three other direct-response marketing shops: WPP Group’s Wunderman, San Francisco; A. Eicoff & Co., Chicago; and independent Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens, Arlington, Va.

There was no incumbent. The San Francisco-based client created online campaigns in-house. Tickle, which started as Emode in 1999, claims 17 million members and is one of the top 50 Web sites in terms of visitors, according to comScore Media Metrix.

“We’re a big site, with millions of customers. [SendTec was] one of the only agencies we talked to who could handle the volume of business from the transactional standpoint,” said Comfort. “The movement from online to offline is the first the company has taken, and we’ll be learning along the way, but we plan to explore a lot of different types of media. This will be the first time we’ve experimented with broadcast, and that’s one of SendTec’s specialities.”

SendTec is the parent company of DirectNet Advertising, iFactz and Creative South. Its direct-reponse television clients include Europro, Intuit Quickbooks, Cosmetique, Hoveround and Rhino Linings. Paul Soltoff, CEO, said the agency has experienced double- and triple-digit growth (“and in tough times”) since its inception in 1997.

“We went after this account because we have a passion for the category,” said Soltoff. “We believe Tickle is going to be one of the major players in the industry. They are positioned to take a serious and complex task, and make it fun, simple, effective and safe.”