Century 21 Goes Back 'Big' to TV, Buys 2012 Super Bowl Spot

Shifts Strategy Adopted Two Years Ago to Put All Its Ad Money on Web

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Century 21, which two years ago pulled all national TV advertising, is going back on the air -- and in a big way, with a 2012 Super Bowl ad and sponsorship of a pregame show on NBC, the company told Ad Age.

The 30-second ad -- the marketer's first Super Bowl appearance -- will air in the third quarter and comes as part of a larger global rebranding effort that emphasizes agents.

The Super Bowl is "one of the biggest consumer events of the year," said Chief Marketing Officer Beverly Thorne. "We thought it was a great conversation piece. It's an important time in the home and that's where our business focuses on -- the home." The ad will cap off the company's yearlong celebration this year of its 40th anniversary.

The real-estate franchiser is the first marketer to publicly detail its Super Bowl ad plans. The company's commitment comes as tense labor negotiations have brought some doubt that the NFL season will even be played. But the uncertainty has apparently not slowed interest in the big game. NBC is seeking as much as $3.5 million for a 30-second spot for the game, which is set to be played in Indianapolis in February. The network has been in talks with potential advertisers since early fall, Ad Age reported last month.

For this year's game, Fox sought between $2.8 million and $3 million for an ad. Ms. Thorne declined to reveal specifics on Century 21's buy, other than to say that the marketer will appear once in-game and a total of 12 times when pre- and post-game shows are added in, plus a title sponsorship of a half-hour pre-game show. The company is protected if the season is canceled, she said.

The ad will be part of a larger campaign debuting on TV next week by independent shop Red Tettemer & Partners of Philadelphia that puts a renewed focus on Century 21's 121,000 agents across the globe. With a tagline of "Smarter, bolder, faster," one commercial describes agents as "filled to the brim with caring and patience and plain English translations."

"TV still resonates, and their agents love it, and it feels like it's a great way to connect their agents to their customers," said Steve O' Connell, executive creative director for Red Tettemer, which began working for Century 21 about five months ago. As for the Super Bowl, Century 21 "decided, 'If we're going to go back to TV, let's go back to TV big,'" he added.

The non-Super Bowl spots will air on TLC, which will also feature Century 21 in an episode of "Cake Boss" that will be tied to the 40th anniversary. Print and radio ads are also planned.

It's a big shift for the marketer, which in 2009 redirected its ad dollars to the web in hopes of catching the attention of the high percentage of buyers who search for homes on the internet, now estimated at more than 90%. The company's total measured media spending plummeted from $33.4 million in 2008 to $18.9 million in 2009 and $12 million last year, according to estimates from Kantar Media. (In 2008, the marketer spent $3.1 million on network TV and $6.5 million on cable TV, according to Kantar.)

Online efforts have included a paid-search campaign by MediaCom Interaction, as well as showcase positioning on real-estate-aggregator sites such as Realtor.com and HomeFinder.com. Ms. Thorne said Century 21 has not "backed off of our digital advertising at all." But she added that it was time to return to TV to raise awareness about agents with young-adult home buyers. "We know that the market knows who we are," she said. "We thought it was time to clarify what we are and what consumers feel about us. So it was time to go big into the consumer space with all media."

Century 21 provides marketing support for a system of about 8,500 independently owned broker offices in 73 countries and territories. The company's agency for social media and public relations is Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen, which oversees blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, as well as instructional videos that teach agents how to use the social media tools to connect with customers, including YouTube.

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