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Real Estate Advertising: Too much “I”, not enough “YOU”!

There are some truly lousy real estate ads out there. Don’t even get me started on the NAR’s “It’s always a great time to buy a home”. That’s just stupid.

One of the problems I see with real estate advertising, in almost any form, is it’s just marketing drivel for the agent. Loaded up with “I’s” and “Me’s”, when it should be about what we can do for our clients — the “value proposition” we bring to the table.

Here’s a Century 21 ad that attempts to show what an agent can do. What it winds up doing is insulting people who chose to use the Internet for part of their home search.

Take a peek, it’s only 30 seconds…

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Here is a response to the above ad from the computers of world:
(WARNING: Contains one PG13 word)

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So think about your next pile of marketing material — be that traditional print, television, or Internet based. The days of marketing yourself are numbered. The real estate consumers of today want to know what you can do for them. And for Pete’s sake, insulting one of their primary means of gathering information is really a not-so-swift plan…

Written By

Jay is the Broker / Owner of Thompson's Realty in Phoenix, Arizona. A self-professed "Man with a blogging problem" he can be found across the Interweb, including at the Phoenix Real Estate Guy blog where he opines on all things real estate and tosses out random musings.



  1. Heather Elias

    March 16, 2008 at 6:08 am

    Jay…I love it!! Just what I needed to start my day…as I’m on my way to meet clients generated totally from my RE 2.0 efforts. 😉

  2. Matthew Rathbun

    March 16, 2008 at 6:28 am


    You got this completely right! NAR’s own stats say that 86% of consumers go the the internet to start their search. Only 5% are looking for a franchise and only 3% are looking for a practitioner. THEY ARE LOOKING OR THE HOUSE!

    When I was with Century21 I thought it was dumb, that while RE/MAX and Coldwell Banker had ads emphasizing on how easy it was to search for homes on their webpages, Century21 was spending my money advertising the stupid gold jackets.

    Gold jackets that were so successful that no one wanted to war them and the franchise dumped YEARS ago! They pitched the Gold Jackets while at the same time, the CEO of Realogy is saying that they are opening the site to all agents, because print media isn’t effective. It just seems like the “family” is all over the place.

    The video above is insulting and not true. Folks will see C21 as dated and not relevant to how they do business.

    Do you think C21 and NAR are using the same 1957 marketing firm?

  3. monika

    March 16, 2008 at 7:41 am

    OMG I love it!
    Wonder what the C-21 reaction will be?

  4. Matthew Rathbun

    March 16, 2008 at 8:01 am

    It also just dawned on me that C21 is using YouTube (uh hello 67% of all internet traffic is on YouTube) to denounce the usefulness of a computer/internet… Frankly I don’t need an agent to identify my buying signs. If my eyes “light up” than I know I want the house, what use do I have for an agent to identify what I’ve already realized.

  5. Linda

    March 16, 2008 at 8:07 am

    That’s hilarious!!

  6. Jay McGillicuddy

    March 16, 2008 at 8:08 am

    This is great as this was one of the reasons why we left C21 two years ago they were barely on the web. Non existent to put it mildly. I know each office is independently owned and operated so it is up to the individual office to maintain their web presence.

    If I was with C21 still I would be ashamed at this ad as it almost seems they are stepping backwards. i loved the computers rebuttal priceless,

  7. Blue Ridge Mountains Cabins For Sale

    March 16, 2008 at 8:09 am

    You give one alot to think about with this post.

  8. Dave Creaturo

    March 16, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Hi Jay

    I have to disagree with you on this issue. I just came from the Century 21 International convention in Orlando 3 weeks ago where they released their new Marketing plan. It’s the best I’ve ever seen.
    New tv ads, radio ads, print and special marketing programs (April open house). As for Internet presence they released the demo of their revamped website and it truly is first class, user friendly, and was truly built to become the leader in online real estate. Century 21 from what I have experiences is truly building for the future, GLOBALY while others are complaining about the market and closing their doors. I have all faith in C21

  9. Jonathan Dalton

    March 16, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Such a subtle entrance, Jay … welcome to the fold.

    Realizing the post touches on the bigger picture, you also hit upon one of the reasons I left C21 in favor of RE/MAX – one company embraces technology. The other tolerates it. Not much of a difficult choice, if you ask me. So much time is spent telling consumers “your computer can’t do this for you.” And, yes, there’s a lot that can’t be done on the computer. But the real message is “I can help you interpret the mountains of data you’re finding on your computer.” It’s a different role and part of the evolution of this business.

    P.S. That computerized voice reminds me a lot of the song “All My Shootings Are Drivebys” by MC Hawkins. But that’s neither here not there.

  10. Jay Thompson

    March 16, 2008 at 11:44 am

    You must have missed my first post JD…

  11. Russell Shaw

    March 16, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Jay, I could not tell which word (yes, that is just how jaded I’ve become) was supposed to be PG13. The C-21 link is now down. The empire fights back? 🙂

  12. monika

    March 16, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    I got it to work.

  13. Mariana Wagner

    March 16, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Jay – Thank you for the videos. (I am still looking for that pic of LL…)

    I teach new agents… and one of the mantras I try to embed (which is a derivative of a KW lesson) is:

    For every “I” statement you make, you need to follow it with at least 2 “YOU” statements. No one cares about you – just what you can do for them.

  14. Mike Farmer

    March 16, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    “You got this completely right! NAR’s own stats say that 86% of consumers go the the internet to start their search. Only 5% are looking for a franchise and only 3% are looking for a practitioner. THEY ARE LOOKING OR THE HOUSE!”

    Sometimes people don’t know what they’re looking for until they find it. I agree with Jay, except I would add to Matthew’s response that by inserting our SERVICE into the mix we help clients who are going from pretty house to pretty house, which is what I think Jay is talking about. It’s not about advertsing ME but rather my services — this is where I think Web 2.0 will make the difference — meeting clients online and saying “Let me introduce my services, perhaps I can make this process much more efficient and profitable.”

  15. Gatlinburg Real Estate | Annie Maloney

    March 16, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    I aslo attended the C21 convention in Orlando and there was a strong emphasis on marketing. Social Markerting, networking, internet presence, and they provided many seminars regarding these topics. They even had a few SEOs there to discuss optimization. The new websites that will be available to C21 agents is from but it is not totally available yet until next month. It is a definate step in the right direction. I think that the video was taken out of context. I believe that they (C21) are going to jump on the interent bandwagon and they support it. But, they also want to drive the point home that the personal relationship with a GOOD realtor with the C21 brand could never be replaced by a computer. So, I think that they are in favor and support both sides of the equation and maybe just didn’t do the best job conveying it.

  16. Blue Ridge Cabin Rentals

    March 17, 2008 at 5:22 am

    I was at the REMAX in Orlando and found it an inspiring group. They have much to be proud of and I felt empowered from the event. I saw young and old agenets from Hall of Famers to agents who did really well in a slow market. Their charity work was amazing. It was a good look at the status of REMAX in Florida.

  17. Late Night Austin Real Estate

    March 17, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    I think concentrating on “You” instead of “I” needs to be the goal whether on the internet or in person. Every time I interact with someone my goal is too offer something useful instead of just pushing my business card in their face. I think part of the problem with realtors national reputation is we place “I” instead of “you” by pushing people into becoming our clients instead of providing service where they feel a need to ask us for our services.

  18. Kirsty Dunphey

    March 19, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    What a bummer that this video’s been taken down!


  19. Bill Lublin

    March 19, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Jay: I’m so diappointed that you focused on one facet of a large national advertiisng campaign – and you missed the Internet Guru ad that they are also running in which they emphasize the tecnology tools available to the consumer through Century 21 – but with all due respect – Century 21 has been a strong advocate for technology for years they are not luddites- The brand offers a huge number of on-line courses for agents (FREE – no Fees ) as well as advanced web based programs to help agents build business plans, increase productivty, etc. (some do have nominal fees to cover materials which the student might need) and these are both self-paced courses as well as instructor lead courses where agents interact across the country in a single virtual class – The brand has (at no charge to the agents) e-greetings, electronic newsletters for its agents, a free website wizard to help new agents craft effective websites, large libraries of marketing materials on line as well as tons of presentations for all facets of the business – an terrific web presence (go to google and type in century 21 and remax and see which gets more search results) and a strong emphasis on all things technology – Not to mention the fact that they have lead-router – a powerful proprietary program that sends web inquiries directly to the agents phone or email and provides the agent with an easy visual method of determining if he or she is following up in a timely manner (based upon theri business rules) – and offered a national brand website that linked to the idx feeds of its franchisees (through searchrouter technology) way before any other brand did so – and is currently working on a new iteration ofthat with increased functionality -not too mention the mapping features that they pioneered or the you tube channel they are using to expose their open house event in April of this year –
    I wouldn’t want to get into a brand argument – that’s why there is chocolate and vanilla – and even strawberry ice cream – all good (and besides if we argued , I would be right and you would be wrong so the argument would be very short 🙂 ) But I think you unfairly pulled the ad apart without giving credence to the fact that when the consumer only needs a computer, and not the services or a skilled and informed professional, we’ll all be retired (or learning to say “Would you like fries with that?” However the computer response below was realy clever and funny – and sounds like she’s dating the buyer anyway! 🙂

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