Why Real Estate TV Ads Miss Their Mark

I know…  This type of post is usually reserved for Inna, but this time I’ve got to speak up.

Century21 ran four spots during the Super Bowl (here is one) this year and they’ve been the topic of conversation in Facebook’s various Real Estate marketing groups.  If I had to sum up the reaction from most Realtors® I’d say it was luke warm with a few liking their “tech forward” representation of Real Estate Professionals while most others either didn’t notice the spots or simply did not like them.  Some cite them as a vast improvement over last year’s Real Estate Super Bowl ad that I hear featured unicorns or some gimmicky equivalent.

I hated the ads.  Yep, I said “hated”.  It’s not because most seemed unfriendly to one group or another or because my 12 year old could have probably shot them better.  It’s because these ads committed the same wrongs we’ve watched play out in industry advertising for decades — choosing cheap jokes, pretty pictures and soothing voices to illustrate its self importance.  So I’m going to take a step back for a moment and acknowledge a great ad to explain what I mean.

You already know what I’m going to say…

Dodge’s “So God Made a Farmer” ad was brilliant!  (If you haven’t see it, watch it right now!)

Dodge managed to hit stop in the middle of the super bowl and take us on a passionate trip.  It wasn’t a trip to learn why they’re so great or a journey to discover why they have a superior product.  They showed us WHY they do what they do.  They connected us to why they believe their product to be so important and gave an abundantly respectful, 3.8 million dollar nod of acknowledgement to those they serve, and in so doing pledged to do more, and do it better, for longer and for less because they know who their customer is, and they know that that customer truly needs what they’re selling.

Dodge paid their respects to this important part of America.  They thanked them.  But they didn’t dishonor them by doing it badly, no.  They chose their words and imagery carefully, saying nothing about themselves.  It was pure, liquid good will and as far from a Farmer as I am, even I could appreciate the gesture.

Now back to reality.  The average farmer has many trucks, and while they surely want a good one, the choice of which one they buy will rarely make or break what they do.

Here’s what infuriates me about these Real Estate Ads

Let’s talk about the realities of a Real Estate transaction.  I know, I know…  As licensees most of you know more about it that I ever could, right?  I call BULLSHIT!
Real Estate transactions don’t start when a couple drive up to the Real Estate office in their two year old Camery, five months pregnant.  Here’s where they start:

  • They start the moment two people look into each other’s eyes and realize they want to spend the rest of their lives together.
  • They start the moment that just-granduated-college kid starts thinking about his future and realizes what a financial mess he’d left in his past.
  • They start when we finally get that promotion we’ve been working toward for a decade.
  • They start with the cursed blessing of the loss of a loved one that gives us that little financial bump we need to even be able to think about it.
  • They start with the birth of a child, the needs of an aging parent, the desire for a garden and so many other things.

Sure, that transaction starts for you when they click that “I want more information about this house” button on your website, but most of us have been working toward this moment for our entire lives.  Fixing things, then breaking them and fixing them again…  Loving and losing and laughing and crying and working and pushing and not sleeping (…breath…) not for the god damned home, but to build a life for ourselves that demands and deserves one!

So, when you look at it from your client’s perspective, you are sorta the last part of it, aren’t you?  Most people know how important a Real Estate Professional should be.  They know they’re better protected for having one.  They know it should make the process go more smoothly.  They know all these things.

The only people that don’t seem to know how important a Real Estate Professional is are, well, Real Estate Professionals.

So next time your brokerage wants to make a joke about what you do…  Next time the NAR wants to reduce the catalyst for the purchase of a home to “your kids will be smarter”…  The next time anyone makes light of the seriousness of the role you play in people’s lives…

You just don’t need this kind of help.

Sincerely, and respectfully,
Jon C. Hardison-
ha media group | Hardison & Associates, LLC.
Marketers of Real Estate Professionals who get it…

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21 Responses to Why Real Estate TV Ads Miss Their Mark
  1. Ilya Zobanov
    April 6, 2013 | 12:51 am

    Jon, good post! I’m thinking further – are RE franchises dying? (well, they are not, but) the longer I work in RE the more and more I realize people want to work with me because of… me, not the franchise I work for. I think you are right, the problem is they have 2 groups of clients: agents and home buyers/sellers. Half the time I don’t understand who C21 is advertising to – home buyers? agents? both? Lame. I just can’t understand why our industry can’t step up to a higher level of conduct, training, education and of course marketing.

  2. Andrew Mooers
    February 17, 2013 | 12:50 pm

    The reason for the disconnect is management in glass towers are removed, missing the day to day of what real estate agents in the trenches go through. The day in the life of a REALTOR…is not slick, spun, politically correct layered. It is raw, real, genuine and John, Jane Q Public can spot it quickly and connect when it happens. Because it is rare in the sea of propaganda hitting full throttle from all sides. Hearing a voice in the noise of the crowd, to stand out is an art form. It is honest. Showing someone gets it.

    • Jon Hardison
      February 17, 2013 | 1:10 pm

      Hi Andrew and thanx so much for stopping by. 🙂
      I half way agree with your point about a disconnect. It’s there, for sure, and it may even exist in exactly the way you’re saying, with REALTORs, but I find that far less of a problem than the apparent disconnect from their clients, which brings up a great point.

      I wonder how Brokerages really see their position in the business. Disregarding all the legalities, they’re actually pitching to two markets. Home Buyers and sellers are their clients but REALTORs are also their clients. I think this, in and of itself, presents certain challenges and probably contributes more to the problem than most think.

      I’ll stop here cuz I could go on and on about it. 🙂

      Thanx again for stoppin’ buy.

  3. Charles Stallions
    February 8, 2013 | 8:58 am

    As a Christian I am offended that you didn’t choose your words more carefully. Great post degraded by words usually reserved for the unintelligent and uninformed.

    • Jon Hardison
      February 8, 2013 | 9:55 am

      Thanx for your comment. I respect your choices and views and am sorry that I’ve offended you, but I too have made choices and have views. I make no illusions about who I am or what my company stands for and as I’d never question your choices — your beliefs, I’ll thank you not to question mine. ~Respectfully…

      • Karen Rice
        February 8, 2013 | 10:22 am

        As a Christian I’m offended by Christians who get offended by others….lol

        • Jon Hardison
          February 8, 2013 | 10:23 am

          Where’s the like button when you need it?

  4. Bob Zorechak
    February 7, 2013 | 12:32 pm

    Hi Jon,

    Well, I think it is appropriate to say that behind every great woman, there is always a great man! Very well articulated post.

    I saw recent data from none other than the NAR itself that the overwhelming majority of Buyers and Sellers pay little or no attention to the brand name of the brokerage. They rely more on the relationship, knowledge, integrity and trust of their individual agent.

    I believe the only reason why these ads even exist in the first place is to bolster the importance of the brand name of the corporation and justify the positions of all of the leaches who work in the larger corporate real estate office environments. I love it whenever I hear agents from these companies proclaim their unabashed exhuberence over these types of ads and how happy they are to be associated with such an organization. It never seems to dawn on them that the lousy splits and never ending fees they pay on each transaction go to pay for these useless commercials and line the pockets of hundreds of corporate do nothings. They just don’t get it.

    One last point, is it me or did I notice that the C-21 commercials featured their agents in that same “C-21 Gold” color shirts. If you recall from the old days, C-21 was known for having all of their agents where that stupid gold blazer in an attempt to differentiate themselves from the rest of the real estate drones they were competing with at the time.

    • Jon Hardison
      February 7, 2013 | 11:39 pm

      Hey Bob! Thanx for that. LOL! I’ll have to pass that credit back to Inna though. She’s the one that calmed me down and got me to be more reasonable about it.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Brand positioning. Truth is, that’s what the Dodge ad was. But jokes are a dangerous game when it comes to law, finance, credit, medicine and a great many other fields. It can be done, but is rarely done well.

      I’d just like to see someone… ANYONE acknowledge in a meaningful, not-self-serving way, that they understand what their consumers have gone through to make a home purchase possible, and to illustrate a desire to serve that is on par with that effort. Century 21’s ads managed to do the exact opposite for me, and in a lot of ways did a disservice to the many agents and brokers we’ve met over the years that we’ve seen do amazing things for people.

  5. jmac
    February 7, 2013 | 12:30 pm

    When viewing most real estate ads, I am reminded “the fish stinks from the head”. The trade (read lobbying) organization that represents Realtors has never focused on what really is involved in our industry. They are footloose and fancy free with the truth and spin news faster than one of those hopped up washing machines.

    You are one hundred percent correct about where and when the seed of home ownership is planted. It sure doesn’t happen when some jackass in a yellow blazer dazzles you with his ipad. It does not happen when you are surfing the net looking at homes.

    I love the ads. It makes my approach so much easier. My job is to assist, after the decision. I do not ever want to be the impetus for the decision. I would rather share that Ben Thompson plays with his son in the back yard of a home I helped him purchase. It is more important to me that Ali Hannif (almost ten years later) shares with anyone that when he was ready to purchase a home in this country, I helped. I did not create the need for them. The need was there. I helped. That is my job, to help.

    I may move a little slower, and I may throw more wet blankets on clients thoughts, but my job is to help them.

    I believe in home ownership. I have one. Home is the operative word. Shelter, safety, secure. Home.

    Let them continue. I will gladly do the same. They can take it there way and I will go mine.

    Jon, as a consumer, a husband, a dad, a neighbor and a just a guy, your opinion should count. You don’t have to sell houses to know why you want to own one.

    • Jon Hardison
      February 7, 2013 | 11:43 pm

      God love you John. President of the Vocal Minority. 😉

  6. Missy Caulk
    February 7, 2013 | 12:12 pm

    Jon, they should hire you, your list of:
    1)They start the moment two people look into each other’s eyes and realize they want to spend the rest of their lives together.
    2)They start the moment that just-granduated-college kid starts thinking about his future and realizes what a financial mess he’d left in his past.
    3)They start when we finally get that promotion we’ve been working toward for a decade.
    4)They start with the cursed blessing of the loss of a loved one that gives us that little financial bump we need to even be able to think about it.
    5)They start with the birth of a child, the needs of an aging parent, the desire for a garden and so many other things.

    I’ve always believed people buy emotionally…or most of us.

    • Jon Hardison
      February 7, 2013 | 11:52 pm

      It’s so nice to see your face. I always have looked forward to that brilliant smile in various streams. Where you been? I really hope all is well with you. Think of you often. 🙂

      Honestly, I wouldn’t take the gig. I’m far happier doing what I can one person at a time. I think Inna and I come off as being a little nuts sometimes because for us, it’s got to mean something at the end of the day.

      Besides, these ads made perfectly clear that they wouldn’t know the difference anyways. LOL.

      Seriously though, really good to see your face.

  7. Dave Tibbetts
    February 7, 2013 | 8:18 am

    I have to agree with Karen, I felt insulted by those ads. As someone who used to work at C21…I confidently say that they don’t “get it.” Sad, really.

    • Jon Hardison
      February 7, 2013 | 11:54 pm

      Me too, and it is.

    • Jonathan Benya
      April 16, 2013 | 6:37 pm


      People don’t buy a home casually, it’s not like choosing a favorite flavor of ice cream, and there are no return policies, so it’s kind of a big deal.

      The C21 ads made it seem trivial, and worse, made the assumption that the consumer understands or even cares about the difference between broker “A” and broker “B”. The fact is, the consumer doesn’t care, about any of that, they care about seeing the homes they like, if and when they’re ready. It’s sad to see how lousy the C21 ads were this year, and then how GOOD the Zillow ads have been by comparison.

  8. Irina Netchaev
    February 7, 2013 | 12:33 am

    I didn’t quite get the ads as well. You are so right on… The ad with the woman giving birth in the subway and calling out for a real estate agent was ridiculous. I guess a bit better than the CB ads with talking portrait heads that were run a few years back.

    All great points… there are so many powerful stories that can be told. Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

  9. Joe Spake
    February 6, 2013 | 10:50 pm

    The Dodge Ad told a story that touched everyone’s hearts. Unfortunately our industry has not been able to make the distinction between stories and lies.

    • Jon Hardison
      February 6, 2013 | 11:26 pm

      Hi Joe! Thanx for stoppin’ by. You know, I’d be more inclined to attribute it to “bottle position”. REPros live so close to the physical transaction itself it must be difficult, if not impossible for them to see beyond their own duties, and I almost can’t blame them for it. I guess I’m happier to imagine it being more a misunderstanding than a lie. I mean, let’s face it. There’s no shortage of agents out there pushing themselves off as Doctors or Lawyers. They know they’re supposed to be important. I just don’t think they remember why.

      The question the industry can answer is whether or not they understand the genesis of a home buyer. If they know enough to treat them with the care and respect they require and deserve, or if it is, in fact, all about an opportunistic hunter swooping in for the kill in the final hour like most RE marketing would suggest.

      So many are simply dishonoring themselves without even knowing it.

  10. Karen Rice
    February 6, 2013 | 10:20 pm

    EXCELLENT. I could not have said it better. The ads are actually insulting, IMHO.

    • Jon Hardison
      February 6, 2013 | 11:15 pm

      Hi Karen! I agree completely. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen another situation where an industry actively belittled itself into near irrelevance.

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