Tickle Reduces Contenders to 4 Finalists

LOS ANGELES Tickle, the online dating service, has narrowed its search for a creative agency to four finalists, confirmed Steven Comfort, vice president of marketing and sales.

The San Francisco-based company selected agencies with direct-response experience: WPP Group’s Wunderman, San Francisco, and A. Eicoff & Co., Chicago; and independents Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens, Arlington, Va., and SendTec, St. Petersburg, Fla. The client did not identify shops that were eliminated.

Comfort said final presentations are this week and that he expects to make a decision before year’s end. Media might not be assigned to an outside shop, Comfort said, depending upon plans presented.

He said the company spent $14 million advertising online this year, though TNS Media Intelligence/CMR tracked only $1 million through October. Comfort added that Tickle could spend $20 million or more next year in anticipation of “going offline” for the first time. He said the new work might include Tickle’s first broadcast ads.

Tickle, which started as Emode in 1999, claims 16 million members and is one of the 50 most visited Web sites, according to comScore Media Metrix.