Sympathy for the home buyer

The Canadian Real Estate Association hopes to get people to think twice before selling their homes without a pro.


The Canadian Real Estate Association wants viewers to open their hearts to the poor souls that don’t use the expertise required to navigate one of the most important purchases they’ll ever make. But they’re going to make you laugh first.

Continuing a theme that began last year in CREA’s SWAT spot, a couple is forced to check into a less-than-glamorous motel because of a mix-up with the closing date of their new home. When they reveal this was because they didn’t use a licensed realtor, the various undesirables who are also in the motel let out a prolonged “ooooh” as they feel the pain of the tragic mistake the couple has made.

Union handled the creative and media buy on the campaign, and the spot will be airing 30- and 60-second versions on TV, in cinema and as online pre-roll.

Randall McCauley, VP of government and public relations at the CREA, says the idea is to enforce that realtors provide a vital service during one of the most important purchases of someone’s life, even as a “cultural debate” about DIY continues to make people believe it is something they can do on their own with an internet connection.

While last year’s campaign gained some extra attention for featuring a “banned” version that could only be aired online, McCauley says the off-beat humour is what really made it stand out from the rest of the ads on TV.

“We could just say realtors are lovely people to help you through this moment in your life,” he says. “But that’s [not going to break through]. Being able to cut through the noise, connect to a cultural debate and make people smile to get them to listen to a significant message is hard to do, but I think we’ve done a pretty decent job, as evidenced by the response to last year’s ad.”

The campaign will also feature print, radio and additional digital elements. In the coming weeks, CREA will also be rolling out clips online that examine the inner monologue in the heads of each of the background characters in the spot, offering a chance to go into more detail about the individual services realtors offer.

“We’re trying to highlight each of the individual things a real estate agent does, like paperwork, zoning, knowing the ins and outs of neighborhoods,” says Subtej Nijjar, partner and president of Union. “Everybody in this journey has had a moment when they’ve tried to do something on their own. Highlighting some of the unknowns or innocent mistakes or misfortunes allows you, as a viewer, to empathize with something you or a friend might have gone through.”

Empathy has become the major theme of Union’s work with the CREA. Union has worked with the association for a number of years, but Nijjar says the response to last year’s spot presented an opportunity to create an ongoing theme in their work together.

“That ‘ooooh’ feels like a good, easy mnemonic we can try to create and own for Realtors,” he says. “When you hear that, it’s a device you can attribute to the campaign and evokes the sympathy you feel for somebody.”