"Trading Places" with Coldwell and Banker

Joel over at FOREM issued his take this. I read it. I agreed. I wanted to disagree. Because Coldwell Banker has stood out among big real estate brands lately for its excellent website and willingness to break away from convention.

So I toggled between the video and the website. Several times. Didn’t make a difference. Here’s why:

Web 2.0 is not about suspending belief. It’s about truth. It’s about real. And if you want to bend the frame a bit, make sure it’s funny — or human. This campaign doesn’t do it for me on either score.

This campaign forces me to suspend my belief and buy into the Mortimer and Randolph Duke like caricatures riffing about the Web on YouTube – two dead brokers from another era "getting" the whole Web thing while so many of their live agents still don’t. That struck me immediately. 

When Banker sidetracks about a staring contest, it’s just not funny to me. It seems uncharacteristic and as insensitive to current real estate realities as the Duke brothers were when they bet a dollar on Billy Ray Valentine’s life. I got the creeps actually especially because I know people in the Coldwell Banker organization and they are neither insensitive, pompous or creepy. This is just not the right image for Coldwell Banker.

I don’t want to be another voice jumping on the pot shot bandwagon and taking pennies out of the idea bucket without throwing some change back in. As someone who has written scripts for ads, here’s a few ideas I would storyboard that could work.

Coldwell and Banker. Their spirit truly lives on as humble guardians of the business they founded. Compassionate, self-effacing angels who choose to remain earthbound and keep an eye on the operation. They tidy the place up after dark. Check the marketing material. Keep the pencils sharp. Peek in on board meetings.

Banker likes hanging in the server room. He’s got HTML for Dummies open. Coldwell hangs in a guest cubicle. At a computer. He’s reading a blog. They might be 100 years old, but the spirit of innovation that founded that company lives on. Both go online together to search. ColdwellBanker.com of course. They love playing with the home value estimator. They not only approve, the results blow their minds. "If only we had things like this back when we were selling real estate, Coldwell says. Banker agrees. "And these too" he says as he flicks CB refrigerator magnets across the room and onto the PC tower in the adjacent cubicle.


A conference room. A transaction is taking place. Coldwell leans in over the buyer as they inspect the contract. The buyer looks up for a second, as if something is there. Banker also leans in. Over the agent. She is young. Dilligent as one could be. But she’s cool. Steady. Confident. The deal closes. Buyers leave. Followed by the agent. she turns and shuts the light. Just before she closes the door to the conference room, she turns back and looks into the room. To where the ghosts are. She can’t see the boys. But she knows they here. And she mouths "thank you". She knows they’re keeping a benevolent eye on her. And the company. And the customer.

Kudos to the CB team for taking a flyer. I think they missed the mark. But the campaign just started. There’s always tomorrow and a new idea.