Friday, February 13, 2015

Will "sadvertising" help Coldwell Banker sell real estate?

Following the flood of Super Bowl ads designed to make an emotional connection with prospects, someone clever has coined the phrase "sadvertising" to describe the genre.   I think it fits. 

Clearly the trend has not yet peaked.  Caldwell Bankers, a real estate firm, has announced a partnership with  Since 43 million US households have dogs they think it's a good fit.  (Irwin, 2015)

And of course the ad, which will run on the Academy Awards, is filled with sad doggies waiting at home for the return of their humans.  Awww. 

But will it sell real estate?  What do you think?

Irwin, T. (2015, February 11)  Coldwell Banker Supports Dog Rescue in Latest Campaign.   Retrieved February 13, 2015, from


  1. Sadvertising carefully manipulates your purchasing habits through the use of emotional content projected with meticulous, hidden calculations. Websites like “Unworthy” ( have capitalized and mastered the art of finding the most real, life-changing, share-worthy content on the web. However in 2015 this form of advertising is no longer held to a single website or a niche blog, but rather a majority of main stream commercial advertising seen on the T.V., internet, and alternative media.

    These social phenomena's have come to be with the giant shift of the marketing world as a whole, including the shift in content mandates, the embrace of neuroscience, and what we have learned in regards to the power of the unconscious in regards to life, liberty, and shopping habits.

    In this months issue of Entrepreneur Magazine an interview was held with Tom Cheesewright, Peter Diamandle, Bob Johansen, and Brian Solis, all distinguished innovators, C.E.O’s, and analysts who gave their opinions about the predicted change in business structure over next 5 years (2015 - 2020).

    One line stuck out to me from Bob Johansen, a employee for the nonprofit research organization Institute for the Future (Author of The Reciprocity Advantage; A New Way to Partner for Innovation and Growth with Karl Ronn), which he stated;

    “Business is moving from products, to services, to experience.”

    He predicts that over the next 5 years it will become harder and harder for smaller sized business to make money through traditional transactional businesses. In order to come out on top a company must find a way to break through this and focus on mutual-benefit partnering on a global scale which he refers to as “The Reciprocity Advantage” . This process is centered around finding a space in which you can comfortably innovate and finding a partner to help you do the things you cant do alone, experimenting to learn, and then scaling from said results.

    to be continued...

  2. This translates seamlessly into the world of advertising and how we will spread the messages from such developers. No longer can our are advertisement strategy be a single company trying to sell a specific product or service, but rather through efficient partnerships, we will be able to advertising an experience, a single moment in time that if purchased, a consumer can directly have & share.

    So how have advertisers cohesively developed & efficient spread their message, resulting emotional style of advertising? They have not achieved this by continuing the tradition of producing “content” or simply making “ads” but rather transformed into 21st century story tellers.

    Their stories, such as Caldwell Bankers partnership with, will air their ad a focus on unconscious emotional stimulation, a high level of pre/post production, and use strategically implemented devices so that the advertisement transcends into an experience of entertainment & editorial materials, rather than the interruption of the original content… so much so that consumers will actively seek out ways to share their message.

    I have not seen the advertisement, but I imagine they focus on both presenting a human-centric narrative & streamlining transparency attempting to result in a positive outcome in the equation of heart-versus-head argument. While many of these techniques are developments from advertising master minds such as Rosser Reeves from the 50’s, Bill Bernbachs in the 60’s with his cultural ads like the VW “think Small”, it is the new focus on the unconscious instead of the logical with the idea that

    “most of the business of life happens through our emotions, below the threshold of awareness” (Douglas Van Praet).

    Yes dogs are cute, and yes with 43 million US households that own dogs the target audience is a large barrel of fish to catch, but will it sell real estate?


    For a modern ad to be successful (and by successful I mean increase sales) a focus must be placed on the heart rather than the head. The central theme of a non-profit company, a company that provides a family a home, tied together through a human-dog relationship is one that thrives off emotional relevance, feeding off the part of the human psyche that seeks connection, not separation.

    The timeline of the ad will first bring comfort to the viewers, then happiness, and hopefully tears & laughter. Laughter… what is more heart wrenching & positively reinforced? Nothing… laughter is innate… it is a cross-cultural response that is forced out of the unconscious which is nearly impossible to fake or control!

    It is this release that allows viewers to accept the message as truth… as authentic. It is through this unconscious transference of positive emotional response that the viewers will use this Reality company because they feel the company will allow them to lead better lives, rather than allow them to consume a product… and may even adopt a dog (or two) while their at it :)


  3. It is apparent Coldwell Banker is needing to increase its revenues for the year 2015. With new competitors such as Zillow and Trulia eliminating the need for many brokers, the firm has decided to place value in the emotional connections between brokers and home owners- and these are emotions a computation machine can not simulate.

    The partnership with Adopt-A-Pet is an interesting approach and I feel it may not be as successful in driving sales (assuming this is the true goal) for a few reasons. The first issue I see is an assumption by Coldwell that home buyers are also actively looking for a dog. It would be logical that when a person buys a home, the last thing on their mind is the adoption of a new pet.

    Secondly, the tactics they are proposing to be carried out by sales agents are not directly tied with any sort of property advertising. A second assumption being made is that prospective adopters are also looking for a home- a relationship that has little to no correlation.

    While I do not think revenues will increase for Coldwell in the first few months, perhaps brand awareness will increase, thus leading to an increase in prospect homebuyers.

    Overall, this is an interesting approach, however, I do not think it will be as successful as planned and their ROI will be lacking.

    Bradley Cockrell

  4. Advertisers are desperate for us to emote – they want us to know that we care. This brings forth the witty idea of sadvertising and getting people to feel passionate about what we’re selling.

    I’m going to go on and say that this ad will work, however, Caldwell Banker may want to revise where and when they air it – Academy Awards may not be the right play here.

    Let me explain…

    Emotions are far more contagious than any another lever an advertiser can pull. A smile, tear, laugh, or cry will spread through a group of people far faster than anything else ever could.

    The emotional part of advertising is not tactical – it’s telling a story. For instance, if you were to watch an ad for Apple Computers, how many seconds would it take you to realize it was an ad for Apple? Not very long. On the other hand, if you were to watch an ad for Dell or Microsoft, how many seconds would it take you to figure out it was an ad for Dell or Microsoft? You may have to view the entire ad because Dell and Microsoft continue to keep changing their emotions and story telling.

    When advertisers use sadvertising, they’re really telling a story – their story. It’s what the viewer of the ad believes and then shares with others – the arch of the narrative. A brand cannot exist, unless the viewer is told a story about why that brand exists, and makes that emotional attachment.

    In the world of social media, emotion wins out in terms of getting people to ‘like’ or ‘share’ content. Someone sharing content is much more strong than just viewing it as an ad.

    Bringing in back to the Caldwell Banker ad, Caldwell Banker is not merely selling stuff, they’re selling the experience, emotion, and feeling of doing right – giving to a social cause. This is something we are seeing more and more in everyday commerce.

    In this particular instance, the masses do not matter to Caldwell Banker – the weird/tribal/niche do. This is why airing this ad when and where they’re airing it may not be the best tactic. Nowadays, people are only going to watch what they are emotionally interested in (people have less time and more options).

    The idea of “world-view” comes into play here: What people see, feel, and believe vs. what people want to see, feel, and believe. These advertisers and creatives must have developed a persona that outlined their ideal audience and the emotions and levers they wanted to pull. Therefor, the advertiser must ask “what world-view are we trying to resonate with? How do we bring that persona into the room and let that persona speak up as they design the ad”. If you can’t do this, you don’t have a story.

    Consumers are not blind to these so-called sadvertising tactics, but advertisers know this as well – but by having brands embrace social/good-cause issues, it can only be a good thing. A win-win situation.

    In sum, as we think about how to sell and why to sell things, we must think deeply about human desires and how these desires kick in.


  5. I think Coldwell Banker's Sadvertising use of Adopt-A-Pet helped them increase their sales in real estate effectively. The reasons I think this is because like the article, many families likes dogs and there are many that raise them as pets. Pictures of dogs with sad expressions that await their owners had hit an emotional string to many people, including me. These dogs become overtly happy when their owners return and had made me think of my own dog and as a result made me miss his presence. These kinds of emotions can be associated with many people and through it had left an impression in my mind. There are many advertisements that I pass without second thought but this particular one had me thinking of it over and over. Thus, it had me intrigued on whose company had made this advertisement and thus, Coldwell Banker had gained my opinion as a warm and trustworthy real estate company due to its affection towards pets.

    Ahreum Lee (Vivian)


  6. I think that sadvertisments are a great way of emotionally connecting to a consumer. Although emotional connections are important when selling products, sometimes just because the brand emotionally connects with the consumer via an advertisement, this does not necessarily lead to an increase in sales. In this case I do think that Caldwell Bankers will emotionally connect with their target audience. Most likely people who like pets or animal lovers. However, I do not think this will make people buy real estate. Something like the purchase of real estate is a major life decision and not an impulse purchase. There are many factors that contribute to the purchase of real estate and people must be more logical when making these decisions as opposed to emotional. Therefore I do not think this sadvertisement will successfully persuade people to choose Caldwell Bankers.

    I do think that this sadvertisment will successfully generate brand awareness although their end goal of selling real estate will fall short. In the end I think this will be a memorable advertisement but that is all. It will touch your heart not your head.

    Evelyn R.

  7. I’m sure that Sadvertising definitely works to the Coldwell bankers
    because the most important thing to advertise for the Real estate companies is to convey this message “ we are trustful”

    Of course not every realtor does like this, most realtors ( at least the realtors I have met) try to exaggerate the quality of the house or try to overstate the price of the house. And when I contacted to REMAX and CENTRY21, I realized that the lists they had were exactly same.

    When choosing a real estate company, emotion affects more because large amount of money goes around. If it’s more trustful, I am willing to pay more to the real estate company, because when buying a wrong house it will cost more.

    Stimulating people’s emotion with poor puppies is very good strategy to give impression that the Coldwell bankers is nice and kind.

  8. • This cooperation will help pets find their home easier and maybe faster because has a broader exposure to the audience through adverting.
    • Of course, in this campaign, more people will get to know Coldwell Banker and consider him as a nice, kind person who loves to help animals.
    • But, the audiences this campaign targets will most be the people who would like to adopt pets instead of who want to invest in real estate, so I think it will not work well. Those people who are interested in the campaign are cared about dogs. Even though Coldwell Banker builds a good reputation, the target audience will not interest in the real estate.

  9. "As part of Coldwell Banker’s "how to make home the best place to live" series, the campaign (includes TV commercial, social media, corporate website etc) subtly touches target audience's homesick feeling by arousing their compassion to homeless dogs/ dogs waiting for the master come home. It's pretty successful, by means of selling the concept "we help you to find a prefect home", without saying it directly but mirroring the mission to "we care how warm you home felt, and we suggest you to adopt a dog to make it a perfect home."

    As a co-op commercial with Adopt-A-Pet, it highlights the bright side "dog adoption can make your home full of love".

    Choosing media spots of the Academy Award but avoiding Super Bowl is also smart. Although both are marquee programs, while Super Bowl is good for guys to watch together, the Academy Award is more for family to watch together. And the Academy Award usually has some emotional touch moments, with which this commercial may echo. Even a non-target audience at the moment will get some brand awareness of Caldwell Bankers.

    The only defects is that the commercial uses human-dog relationship, which was also used in Budweiser ‘friends are waiting’(
    ) commercial last year. The resemblance may lead to brand mis-attribution."

    Best Regards,
    Cosette Lee(Mengying Li)

  10. Coldwell banker, in order to succeed, must execute this campaign without flaws and a broad national scope. The firm needs to realize that consumers are not buying houses, or selling homes because of their partnerships with the Non-profit. Even then, when searching for a realtor, I don’t think consumers are taking into consideration an agent’s alignment with animal welfare. To me, the money could have been spent partnering with a financial and real estate analysis institution that gives exclusive RE data to Coldwell Banker customers. This would seem to attract real money to the company, instead of just launching PR tactic that was un original and overplayed.