The Joneses, and the Real Estate Institute

I’ve just finished watching Sunday on TVNZ .

The first story was about the recent spat between the Joneses Real Estate company, and the REINZ (Real Estate Institute of New Zealand).

Chris Taylor of the Joneses talked about their flat fee structure. All of their agents are on salary so that, they say, effectively removes commissions from the incentive to sell a property. They charge a flat fee of $7,995 including GST to sell a property. Other agents can take around $15,000 to sell a $350K house, or $28,000 to sell a house worth $700K.

Chris made some good points – the one about an agent working hard in Invercargill to sell a $140K house and earning a $5K commission, compared to an agent working as hard in Auckland and getting 3 or 4 times that commission hit the nail on the head. As Sugar pointed out the agent in Invercargill probably has to work harder to sell the house because the market is smaller and there are less buyers.

We saw the wealthy agent selling $5 million apartments in Parnell, who assured Cameron Bennett that the commission wasn’t why he sold homes. He maintained he never thought about it, but then admitted that if he was on a salary (a la Joneses) that wouldn’t be very motivating for him. Cameron neglected to push home the point that he’d just told the viewer the commissions weren’t important.

What a real estate agent brings to the sale of a home is a list of potential buyers. I’m not convinced they offer much more than that anymore, since, for a modest sum I can go onto QV and find an up to date valuation for my property plus find out what all other properties in my area sold for.

The discrepancy between a Joneses agent and a commission agent was not made clear in the article. I don’t know how big the Joneses database of buyers is or how long they take to sell homes compared with the others. I suspect that I’ll never truly know that information.

But if I am selling my home, and I can go for a $7,995 commission, which I only pay once I have sold my home then I guess it’s a good gamble, and worth the risk. Especially of I’m likely to save in the region of $21,000.

Fruit and Nut Scrolls

Sugar bought a cheap muffin recipe book a week or so back. I got stuck in and made these yummy Fruit and Nut Scrolls which were quickly devoured at a recent lunch.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 cups self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons caster sugar
  • 50g butter
  • 1.3 cups buttermilk

For the filling use:

  • 1/4 cup sultanas
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/4 chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup chopped seeded prunes
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 tbspns flaked almonds
  • 2 tbspns grated orange rind
  • 2 tbspns orange juice
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons rum or brandy
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

For the glaze use:

  • 2 tblspns apricot jam
  • 2 teaspoons water

For the icing use:

  • 1/3 cup icing sugar mixture
  • 1 teaspoon hot water

Fruit and Nut scrolls1. Sift flour and sugar into large bowl, rub in butter. Stir in enough buttermilk to mix to a soft sticky dough.

2. Turn dough onto floured surface, knead until smooth. Roll dough to 26cm x 36cm rectangle, spread with filling. Roll dough firmly from long side, like a Swiss Roll. Cut roll into 2cm slices. Place slices, cut side up, about 3cm apart onto greased oven trays.

3. Bake in very hot oven about 15 minutes. Brush with hot apricot glaze, drizzle with icing when cold.

Filling: combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well.

Apricot Glaze: combine jam and water in small pan; simmer for few minutes or until glaze thickens slightly; strain.

Icing: combine icing sugar and water in small bowl, stir until smooth, pipe or drizzle over scrolls.


Ellen DeGeneres and the puppy

Half the world is starving, there’s a war in Iraq where people are dying, global warming threatens to sink the planet, and Ellen deGeneres weeps publicly about a puppy.

I could not believe what I was seeing! If I didn’t think she was already being over psychoanalysed then I’d say she needed some serious psychoanalysis.

To sit on the set of your own TV show and weep in front of millions of viewers – and then suffer the indignity of this ‘news’ event being sent around the world for countless other millions to share it as well is ludicrous.

Ellen adopted a puppy from a shelter. She took it home, after spending $3000 on therapy to aclimatise the cat to it’s presence, only to find it was $3000 wasted. So, she gave the puppy away.

Here’s where the problem lies. The small print says she’s not allowed to give the puppy away, and the shelter moves to remove the said canine.

The children from the puppy’s new home are devastated. Ellen is more devastated. The puppy doesn’t give a shit.

There is more psychoanalysis waiting for the children, for Ellen, and a for a host of overly sensitive puppy owners.

Watch the video and be amazed.

YouTube Ellen deGeneres

New Sony Bravia TVC

Well, that’s a bit spooky! Here I was talking about the Mondeo TVC and how I had thought it was an ad for Sony – only to find the latest offering from Sony on YouTube.

YouTube Sony Bravia

I reckon it’s pretty damn cool – it’s a ‘real’ stop animation and apparently used 2.5 tonnes of Play Doh.

Online or offline?

I’ve been reading a lot of articles in the last few days on the movement away from traditional advertising media (print and TV) into the online space.

It’s happening subtly – large companies are creating spaces that will appeal to their clients, and if they can create a community then the dollar benefits follow.

An example of this new trend is Nike+.Nike+

This beautifully crafted site is aimed at the runners amongst us (I’m not included) – you might have heard about the sensor that goes into Nike running shoes and links with your iPod allowing you to track your progress. When you arrive home you ‘dock your pod’ and download your efforts to the Nike+ site, thereby keeping a record of your efforts, and at the same time collaborating and sharing with other runners – building an online community locally and internationally.

This is advertising. It may not require a click on a banner, or a commitment to purchase – but the Nike swoosh is ever present nonetheless.

There are forums, challenges, questions, support, discussions about new products… runners can join distance clubs – 250, 1000, 2000, 4000, 6000 kms…you can run alone or set targets with other runners…and users can link to their favourite running music tracks via the iTunes store…

The smallest and less distinct link on the site is the store locator…the confidence from Nike is that if users come and engage and form a habit then sales will follow.

“It’s a very different way to connect with consumers,” says Trevor Edwards, Nike’s corporate vice president for global brand and category management. “People are coming into it on average three times a week. So we’re not having to go to them.”

Nike has reduced it’s traditional ad spend by 55% over the last ten years. And from 2003 to 2006 it increased its nonmedia ad spending 33%.

So will this trend happen in New Zealand as well? From a personal perspective I’m watching less and less TV, and reading fewer and fewer newspapers (that I can hold). So marketers will be looking at new ways to encourage me to spend. How they do that will need to be smarter than banners and text links. They need to discover, then pique my interests and get me to join a community of like minded individuals…from which they can sell – without looking like they are.

Social networking sites and advertising

I delivered a presentation last week in Auckland to clients of an advertising agency we partner with. Some of what we talked about was how businesses could use social networking sites to promote their brand.

We don’t know of any New Zealand businesses doing this but it’s commonplace in the USA. The way we could see it working is if a business has a character that is identified as part of their brand – for example Goldstein and ASB, or that big guy on Mega Mitre 10, or Rabogirl and RaboPlus – then these characters can set themselves up a MySpace or Facebook page.

The reach of this sort of targeting is immense and all it takes on the part of the business is time.

150,000 people a day are signing up to Facebook. MySpace has 200 million registered profiles, and 100 million unique visitors per month. These are global figures but you only need to extrapolate the figures for a New Zealand market to see that they are substantial.

Think about the benefits from having a business profile on a site like Facebook or MySpace – people will want to make and be friends with your ‘character’ – you can push product directly to them via blog posts and links within. You can let them download posters, or screensavers, or wallpaper. Users will feel like they have a relationship with your business, through your character.

As well as encouraging the relationship through your character you can push product or services to them as well.

Because the user often reveals a lot about themselves through their profile, advertising on the site can be more targeted to them. For example, for users living in New Zealand, ad content would be kept New Zealand centric, unless it was product (music for example) that could be bought from wherever in the world you lived.

At MySpace users of similar passions and interests were ‘captured’ and dumped into buckets of 3 million. Now they are in the process of breaking that 3 million into thousands of smaller buckets – in the process advertising becomes much more focussed and targeted.

If you’re feeling a bit depressed that your profile on your favourite social networking site is being used in such a way then there are two things you could try:

  • invent a totally imaginary character with interests totally opposite to what you actually like – that way you won’t be tempted to click on any of the advertising that gets associated with your profile
  • cancel your registration to Facebook, My Space, Bebo, YouTube, IYomu – start writing letters and posting them to your friends, or better still, phone them and have a conversation. Hell, even TXT them before you phone them to make sure they’re home.

Don’t forget, you might create the content, but it’s the advertisers who want to use your profile – to sell to.

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