Coldwell and Banker Back At Helm

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Uhh.. ok. Not really sure how to start this.

Coldwell Banker just gave us a preview of their new marketing campaign for Spring/Summer 2008.

First the positives.

No print. No outdoor. The campaign will revolve around TV spots and an integrated web-based campaign (microsite, search ads, sponsorship etc.). Certainly makes a lot of sense given the new marketing climate of today (see How to Get Local With Your Internet Advertising).

Now the stuff I don’t get.

Coldwell and Banker

The campaign revolves around two talking oil paintings of the company’s founders; Colbert Coldwell and Benjamin Arthur Banker. It makes heavy use of humor and Web 2.0 technology; video, blogging, mashups and social networking.

Humor

I applaud CB’s attempt to move beyond the “white picket fence and frolicking dog” imagery found in most real estate advertising. But is it off base? The question “Is humor appropriate given the current climate around real estate?” (which was raised in the conference call) is a tough one to answer.

Video

The new TV spots are viewable on CB’s YouTube Channel (see Creating a Real Estate Video Channel on YouTube). I’ve embedded one below so you can get a sense of the new campaign’s tone.

[youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=sFeaJz0DIuc[/youtube]

Blogging

The campaign’s microsite is based around a blog by the two founders. Corporate marketing blogs are a controversial topic. McDonald’s Fake Lincolnfry Blog got resoundly booed by most online observers when it launched. We’ll see if the blogosphere has evolved to the point where these blogs are more widely accepted today.

Mashups

The idea is that the oil paintings will be traveling to select events across the US. CB uses a Google Maps mashup to chronicle that trip.

I don’t know about this. Seems a little forced to me.

Social Networking

The Coldwell and Banker paintings both have profiles on Facebook which you can ‘friend’ and CB has its own Facebook page (see Advertising Your Real Estate Business on Facebook) too.

The rationale, from their press release:

Given that the founders were eager networkers even back in their day, consumers may also see them pop up on popular social networking sites.  Coldwell and Banker will use their profile pages to list their interests, share news on all the places they are visiting around the country, and keep their friends up to date on their “status.”  Extending past their presence online, Coldwell and Banker may even appear at select live events across the country.

Hey, props to CB for exploring this new space. They continue to be at the forefront of experimenting with new technologies (see Coldwell Banker Tours a Home In Cyberspace).

But here’s the crux of my problem with this campaign.

Web 2.0 is more than just technology. It’s an evolving medium that hinges honesty, authenticity and transparency. I question the use of inanimate objects (oil paintings of two dead founders) as the center point of their campaign.

To me it would have been far more effective to have used real people, real situations and real conversations rather than manufactured alternatives. Somehow (aside from the curiosity factor) I doubt oil paintings will resonate very deeply with most online consumers. And this seems like a big missed opportunity.

That said, what do FOREM readers think of the new campaign? Is on the mark? Or destined for failure?

Update: More from Inman News Blog.