In a bid to build market share, the nation's largest mortgage lender, Countrywide Credit Industries, has launched an ambitious television advertising campaign.
The spots now air in about one-third of the nation. They introduce Countrywide's new slogan, "Easy. Really," which refers to the speed and ease of getting a Countrywide home loan.
National marketing is unusual in the mortgage industry, which continues to be extremely fragmented. As the largest lender, Countrywide commands only 5% of the market.
But as the industry consolidates, the large players are jockeying for more share.
Countrywide usually buys more than half the loans it makes from mortgage brokers, who sell loans to lenders that pay the highest commissions.
The advertising campaign is intended to bolster the alternative retail channel, which is more profitable, according to Thomas O'Donnell, analyst at Smith Barney.
Company executives say they are not trying to edge out existing middlemen but just want to strengthen their tie to consumers.
"There is a very savvy consumer out there who knows exactly what the rate is tomorrow, and is doing a lot of their own shopping," said Andy Bielanski, managing director of marketing at Countrywide. "We want to make sure we get our fair share when it comes to that consumer."
Though Countrywide is the nation's largest mortgage lender, and one of only a handful of truly national lenders, most consumers do not know the company, Mr. Bielanski said.
"I think only people who write their checks to Countrywide every month know who we are," he said.
The campaign tries to capitalize on Countrywide's strength in automating the mortgage process. The message is that with Countrywide the consumer can avoid a lengthy and confusing ordeal in getting a home loan.
In a commodity business like mortgages, said Mr. O'Donnell of Smith Barney, companies need to differentiate themselves. If Countrywide can do that through better service, the strategy should pay off, he said.