Summer read: In a hot and overcrowded housing market, real estate agents are having to get creative with their promotion to attract customers and beat their rivals. Michael Andrew ranked some of the most compelling and eccentric ads out there.
First published July 30, 2021.
They’re in every newspaper. They’re on every building. They’re on every bus, bus stop and billboard. Seemingly on every visible public-facing surface from Kaitaia to Bluff, real estate agents smile back at New Zealand. They’re always friendly, sometimes eccentric, and often huge – 10-foot-tall effigies looking down at us as we crawl along the motorways from home to work, from work to home, day after day after day.
That real estate agents have become Aotearoa’s most ubiquitous and recognisable celebrities is perhaps the most laughable (and disturbing) indictment of our bizarre zeitgeist. After all, is there anything that dominates the national conversation more in 2021 New Zealand than housing? It’s become an addiction, an obsession, the subject of our dreams and, increasingly, our nightmares.
But that intensity only means it’s a great time to be a real estate agent – the Wall St stock brokers of our time. The prominence and number of ads are enough to suggest there’s a lot of money being thrown around. And with the market booming, and more players entering the industry, the traditional advertising templates evidently are no longer enough – real estate agents and companies are having to get increasingly creative to beat their rivals to attract more customers. For that reason, we put out a call to New Zealanders to see what they thought were the best real estate ads around the country.
After assessing the entries on incredibly varied criteria, we’ve now tabulated the final results into a top 10 list. With that, I present to you the definitive ranking of the best real estate agent ads in New Zealand.
10. Rain Diao
If there was ever a real estate agent whose name perfectly aligned with his or her trade, it’s Rain Diao – otherwise known as the Rainmaker. He’s confident, he’s crisp, he’s full of youthful house-selling energy and can make money rain from the wealthy heavens. He’s even got his own logo! He actually looks like a fairly pleasant young man, too.
Bonus points for the finger guns. Real WW1 Uncle Sam vibes: “I want you…to sell your home!”
9. Stacey Prince
Did you hear? Stacey’s selling! I couldn’t quite figure out if she’s selling her own home in this instance, but either way, with the bold canary yellow background and Stacey’s zebra print blouse, it’s a conspicuous advertisement that can’t help but bring a confused smile to the face of the otherwise enraged driver stuck behind the bus.
8. Paul Neshausen
Scoring points for its avant-garde qualities, Paul Neshausen’s ad is an exercise in powerful minimalism. It’s the noir background. It’s Paul’s intense and determined gaze. It’s the shirt unbuttoned in the afterwork drinks at 46 and York fashion – a detail that proves fabulous success need not be packaged up in a neat and tidy half-windsor knot tie.
But most of all, it’s the energy of this ad, which is, in every single pixel, BIG MONEY.
7. Ivan Wong Kee
When it comes to puns, cliches and just plain bad writing, most public facing professionals – journalists in particular – would be crucified for using them. But for some reason real estate agents are afforded an almost unlimited licence to infringe.
But sometimes it actually works. The Hutt Valley’s Ivan Wong Kee makes effective use of wordplay in this billboard with its clever adaptation of the myth of King Midas and the Golden Touch. Through the adapted slogan, Ivan is effectively implying that he is the King of Real Estate. Now that’s the kind of confidence and knowledge of ancient history I would look for in an agent, in the very unlikely case I ever have a house to sell! Bonus points for the red blazer.
6. Travers Smyth
Not Trevor. Not Traverse. Not Travis. It’s TRAVERS god dammit! Travers Smyth (Smith?) scores points for originality and the refreshing modesty it takes to admit your name gets botched in so many ridiculous ways. I mean, I get how you could mistake his name for Travis. But how do you get Trevor? It doesn’t even sound the same.
5. Linh Yee
Forget stagnant billboards and newspaper ads, if you really want to attract customers and appeal to different demographics, you’ve got to get into video. Linh Yee from Ray White did just that, creating an entire music video which featured a rewrite of Bruno Mars’ ’24K Magic’.
The production value seems decent, and the Range Rover in the Ray White colours juxtaposes so cleverly with the very basic looking Mt Roskill bungalow in the video. It doesn’t sound too bad either.
4. Rick Trippe
Rick Trippe is our ranking wild card because he’s not actually from New Zealand – he’s a real estate agent from Darwin, Australia. I’ve included him here because, well, I had to. I mean look at the guy. The bow tie. The weird red hard hat. The half smile, half grimace. I just couldn’t ignore the overwhelming Australianness of it all.
The real reason Rick has been included is his antics out of work and on the water, which a simple Google search will reveal. An avid spear fisherman, Rick was out on his boat in 2015 when he saw a race horse drowning in the nearby water. It took him several hours, but Rick eventually saved the animal by towing and guiding it back to shore.
In another episode, he witnessed a battle between a poisonous stonefish and a sea snake locked in a death grip. He fished the beasts from the water and pried them apart, returning both to the sea. Rick later told media he’s well practised at handling snakes, having caught and removed many pythons from his chicken coup.
3. Alex Wu
I can’t decide if it’s the hair, or the splits. Or a combination of both. Either way, Alex Wu deserves his bronze medal for this creative ad in which he straddles two houses like a colossus while giving a double thumbs up. Judges (me) praised Alex’s cool hair, his core strength, and his innovative use of symmetry to bring a sense of order and calm to my very chaotic mind.
2. Pollie Ensing
There are infinite techniques one can employ to sell a product. But what’s the point in any of them when you can just dress up like an iconic movie character from a multi-billion dollar nine-movie franchise?
Palmerston North’s Pollie Ensing comes in second place for sheer simplicity – she dresses up like Princess Leia from Star Wars. Again, clever use of word play in the slogan: “out of this world results.”
Bonus points for the fact that she plies her trade in old Palmy, and not the Auckland or Wellington hotspots.
1. Carl Watkins
If New Zealand’s housing crisis has shown us anything, it’s that a real estate agent doesn’t have to look a certain way to be successful. Carl Watkins epitomises this maxim. For central Aucklanders, Carl has become an icon. For months now his likeness has grinned out from a curiously-placed billboard looking out over Newton Gully, charming and befuddling drivers with his phenomenally unorthodox look. Who is this man, we all ask. Is he rocking a mullet? Is that a faded sunburst halo behind his head? Why is he wearing what looks like a baby blue trench coat?
Whatever the reason, Carl’s unapologetically unique look in an industry that oozes affectation makes him a compelling and entertaining figure – one that incites intrigue in a way that I’m sure only serves to increase his profile and customer base. For that reason, I hereby name Carl Watkins the undisputed winner of my ranking.
Carl also gets bonus points for his other profession, hair dressing, and for one scene in his promotional video in which our champion pours water from a tap into a martini glass.
It might not make sense to us, or society, or the owner of the house he’s selling. But by god it makes sense to Carl.
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