Who are those dancing cowboys?

Y'know, the undulating ones that keep popping up on Web site ads for Santa Monica-based LowerMyBills.com. The ones many of you think are silly and annoying - and which have drawn clicks by the millions. LowerMyBills, which is owned by Experian, spent $74.6 million on Web ads in the first 11 months of 2006. (Predictably, there's now a blog, lowermybillswatch.blogspot.com, that monitors and critiques the ads.) Matt R. Coffin, co-founder and CEO, tells the NYT that it's all about building a brand, even if it means being a little different. That's certainly true for those really strange Geico ads (the reflective cavemen might be pushing things). Curiously, LowerMyBills wouldn't offer specifics on how effective the ads are. From the NYT:

Internet companies like LowerMyBills are called lead generators because they take loan applications filled out by customers who click the ads and give them to actual lenders like Citibank, which pay them for the referrals. The company’s success hinges on buying lots of low-cost ad space on Web sites and then persuading users to click. But on Web bulletin boards, the ads are drawing a lot of criticism. In one discussion of the company, a user calling herself Jane Dough wrote, “Even if they had the best interest rate around, I would still find myself thinking, ‘But aren’t they the cheesy company with the stupid dancing people?’ ”

Jennifer Uhll, a 35-year-old graphic artist from Los Angeles who became creative director of LowerMyBills in 2005, first used the silhouettes in an ad featuring a woman blowing bubbles that represented the 50 states.

Four months later, another LowerMyBills ad with three prancing, high-kicking sheep under the headline “Mortgage Rates Hit Record Lows!” also performed well. So Ms. Uhll combined the two concepts, animating her silhouetted, pony-tailed woman with a swaying modern dance. Ms. Uhll said she is a dancer and took a variety of dancing classes for more than a decade. She is also a fan of the pet sequences in “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” which relates to the animal ads.

Backstory: Coffin raised $4 million in venture capital eight years ago to start LowerMyBills and wound up selling it to Experian for $400 million.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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