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Real Estate’s Hail Mary Sales Pitch

In today’s real estate market, you don’t need a broker – you need a superhero.

At least, that’s the message of Century 21’s first-ever Super Bowl commercial. Their agents will successfully negotiate with buyers as picky as Donald Trump, according to the celebrity-studded ad, which premiered Sunday night. They’ll have absurdly lavish open houses that will impress even Deion Sanders. And, as a buyer, they’ll get your offer accepted at speeds faster than Apolo Ohno.

Is the housing market still so bad that the world’s largest real estate franchise has to sell the idea of selling a home? After all, homes and superstar agents used to market themselves and didn’t need a boost from a commercial. “It was a very surprising move,” says Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University.

Only a few years ago Century 21, like many other real estate brokerages, curbed its TV marketing to focus on digital ads, since about 90% of consumers start their home search online. The firm says its goal with the Super Bowl ad was to highlight the capabilities of Century 21 agents and to show that “the dream of homeownership remains strong,” says Bev Thorne, chief marketing office of Century 21. Calkins, who rates Super Bowl ads each year with a panel of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business students, says the ad – while largely positive – didn’t stand out from the pack. (The B-School students gave the spot a D grade.) And as of this afternoon, consumers rated the firm’s spot 29th out of 54 in the USA Today/Facebook Super Bowl Ad Meter.

Jack McCabe, a real estate consultant in Florida, wonders if the ad was more of a promotion tool to recruit and fire up real estate agents, than a way to woo consumers. “Right now the public perception of the status of Realtors may be at an all-time low,” he says. “I don’t think a Super Bowl commercial is going to change that.”


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About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.