The campaign also sidestep the elephant in the room: the current real estate fiasco. Charlie Young*, COO of the company, says that Coldwell didn't want to focus on a condition that it sees as cyclical.
"Real estate is a local issue. The headlines are more and more dire, but we recognize that real estate is highly local and not all areas are being impacted the same way," he says.
"Our biggest learning was that there is a dynamic at work between consumers wanting to be on their own and wanting to reach out for help," says Young, adding that there is "a new space between traditional real estate and online offerings. Coldwell Banker is positioned to offer that."
The campaign--via AOR Durham, N.C.-based Mckinney; Morristown, N.J.-based Kinesis, a digital agency; and New York-based PR shop Cooper Katz--includes an array of TV spots featuring animated portraits of the two founders. These are the actual portraits, on the wall at Coldwell Banker's corporate headquarters in Parsippany, N.J.--not actors portraying them. There is also a national PR effort, and a Web campaign focusing on social media.
The effort has oil portraits of the two founders of the company, Colbert Coldwell and Benjamin Arthur Banker, engaging in witty repartee about their quirks and business innovations over the years to make a point about the company's combination of Web services and agents. It also bows the tag, "We never stop moving."
Young says the humorous ads have not struck consumers in focus groups as insensitive to the current real estate environment. "In order to get them to pay attention, you need to entertain them," he says. "The humor resonates with consumers." He would not divulge spend, but said it would be in line with the $117 million the company spent on measured media last year.
Young adds that when the company began planning the campaign early last year, it believed that the explosion in Web-based real estate marketing was more of a challenge then the looming real estate crisis. "In the current landscape, there's a more important trend than today's market correction. There's a need to communicate in a new way about the real estate business."
"Our research showed that today's consumer is open to innovation and collaboration. They want access to information and tools, but also direct help and guidance. Young says the campaign, which targets younger consumers, is aiming to tout Coldwell as a "best of both worlds" solution offering both Web-based services and the human touch.
The online media mix will include paid search and sponsorship and heavy buys on social media sites and known "fishing holes." There will be no print or outdoor media buys for the effort, per Young.
Young says the campaign will also be on social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace as well as a microsite, Coldwellbanker.com/founders. The site has a blog in which the "founders" will chronicle their trip across the country. The company will physically carry the portraits to various locales in the as part of a grassroots effort. Young says other lighthearted elements include a competitive staring contest and something called "portrait Ping-Pong."
"What we presented is the longer view--there has been a shift in how consumers look at real estate, and this shift would have happened regardless of the market," says Young.
* Editor's note: This article has been amended since being posted.