Way back in March, Ad Age reported that Century 21 was planning to advertise in the Super Bowl for the first time ever -- and in a big way, with a 30-second spot in the third quarter, plus 11 pre-game ads, and a sponsorship of a half-hour block of the pregame show on NBC.
With the big game now less than two months away, we caught up with Beverly Thorne, the real estate franchiser's chief marketing officer, to get an update. It's a big move for Century 21, which as recently as 2009 had pulled all national TV ads, redirecting dollars to the web. The marketer went back on air this year with its new "Smarter, bolder, faster" "Smarter, bolder, faster" campaign that focuses on its agents and has been airing on cable's TLC. The campaign is expected to be the foundation for the Super Bowl work. The ads are being handled by independent shop Red Tettemer & Partners of Philadelphia, the marketer's creative and digital shop. Century 21's media-buying agency is WPP's Mediacom, while PR and social media are handled by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen.
Ad Age : Describe the Super Bowl ad and what you are trying to achieve.
Ms. Thorne: I can't and won't reveal the creative yet. We will reveal it before the game itself. But what I can tell you is , absolutely our creative is very focused heavily on the power, strength and knowledge of our agent, who is smarter, bolder, faster. So our agent will be front and center in our creative, no doubt about that .
Our objective in participating here clearly is to capitalize on the single largest sporting event, and I like to say cultural event, in the calendar year for most Americans. It's a big day. Everybody knows about it. And for most people, it takes place in their home ... and that , of course, is the focus of our very business and the services that a real estate agent provides.
Ad Age : Still, it seems like an odd time to spend a lot of money on real estate advertising -- in the middle of the winter, which is not exactly peak selling season. Why now? Is this more about impressing your agents than selling more homes?
Ms. Thorne: Actually, it's a perfect time. It is just before the spring selling season, and we think of it as a springboard. There will be 5 million [real estate] transactions, somewhere thereabouts, taking place during that following year. We have a lot of confidence in the notion that home ownership remains an extremely important element of the American economy and what better time to signal our confidence.
Ad Age : This is Century 21's first-ever Super Bowl ad. As you know, people expect a lot out of these ads. Are you feeling the pressure?
Ms. Thorne: I am very cognizant of how important it is . But the pressure I feel is , I feel a tremendous commitment and responsibility to my agents throughout the Century 21 system to properly showcase their capabilities to the nation.
Ad Age : You guys recently unveiled a new Facebook app that allows local brokers to grant access to listings through Facebook. Do you see this as eventually replacing traditional broker websites? Why move so aggressively to Facebook?
Ms. Thorne: You want to be present in those venues that your consumer is using, and clearly with over 800 million participants on Facebook, we have many, many consumers who are using that venue. So the No. 1 rule is , go where your target audience is , and that 's where our target audience is .
Ad Age : Do you have a formal contract with Facebook?
Ms. Thorne: I and a group of my team went out to California and visited with [Facebook]. We are exploring a lot of increased activity and engagement, but I think to be fair, the Facebook app that you saw is nothing more than a natural progression and utilization of a marketing vehicle that 's available to everyone. ... [The app], in particular, is not any unique contractual partnership. ... However, don't be surprised to see something like that from us.