In one of the biggest advertising deals this year, Century 21 Real Estate Corp. on Tuesday awarded its $30-million national account to Minneapolis-Advertising, dropping incumbent McCann-Erickson/Los Angeles.
The decision to split with the agency, which had the account for seven years, is a blow to the local advertising market because it pulls a trophy account and major piece of business out of Southern California.
Irvine-based Century 21’s switch, which takes effect in 60 days, also underscores the tenuous relationships between ad agencies and real estate firms. As the real estate market has softened, several large real estate companies have switched agencies in recent months.
“Advertising is a high-visibility component of any business, and it often translates to problems (for the ad agency) when business takes a downturn,” said Rich Edler, managing director of McCann-Erickson/L.A.
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate and BBDO/Los Angeles parted company in January after four years. Coldwell last month gave its $15-million national account to the Los Angeles office of Grey Advertising. And in April, Coldwell Banker Commercial switched its $5-million account to the Los Angeles office of Della Femina, McNamee WCRS after J. Walter Thompson/Los Angeles resigned from the account.
Century 21, the nation’s largest franchiser of real estate brokerage services, put its account up for grabs in March. The company said more than 100 agencies initially responded to its call for proposals and that seven agencies were invited to make creative presentations--basically, to outline their proposed ad campaigns--at its headquarters last week.
McCann-Erickson/L.A. was one of the contenders, as was the firm’s New York office. Two other Southern California firms, Chiat/Day/Mojo of Venice and D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles/L.A., also were finalists.
A Century 21 spokesman said Tuesday that the company was not unhappy with McCann-Erickson’s work but had put the account up for review in March because it wanted to see ideas offered by other firms.
But Bruce Oseland, Century 21’s senior vice president for marketing, said in March that when an account is put up for review “there generally is some level of concern about a particular aspect of the advertising.” He did not elaborate.
McCann Erickson’s Edler said loss of the account would result in a staff reduction, but he could not say how many jobs would be lost. The firm employs 120 in the Los Angeles office.
“From time to time,” Edler said, “clients and agencies separate, and sometimes it is difficult to understand exactly why. We naturally are disappointed, but we will carry on.”
While losing the Century 21 contract was a blow, Edler said the firm was proud of its work for the past seven years for the real estate concern. “We have taken them from a relative unknown to the position of the leading real estate organization in the world,” he said.
In contrast to the atmosphere at McCann-Erickson, a spokeswoman at Campbell-Mithun-Esty (CME) said “euphoric would be too mild” to describe the mood in the Minneapolis office.
Howard Lizst, CME’s president, said the contract calls for his firm to handle all forms of corporate advertising for Century 21 in the United States. The real estate franchiser has 6,000 offices nationally and 1,200 more in foreign countries. Each U.S. office pays an annual national advertising fee used to promote the Century 21 name.