Tuesday, October 25, 2016
  • Friday, May. 6, 2016
ABC TV, FOX Studios, "Modern Family" Create New Brand Marketing Real Estate In Primetime
A scene from the National Association of Realtors' spot titled "Ball" and starring Ty Burrell.
Arnold Worldwide, Havas Media craft integrated campaign for National Association of Realtors
  • --

If Phil Dunphy’s insistence that he’s a Realtor and not a real estate agent on “Modern Family” this week seemed a little odd, be aware that ABC was paid to make that distinction.

The plot twist was part of a new advertising campaign by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). At a time of fear among advertisers that their messages are getting lost, it represents a tactic beyond the casual product placement of a soda can or car in the background of a television scene.

In the episode that aired Wednesday (5/4), the Dunphy character twice makes the point that he’s a Realtor. Dunphy wins a battle with Gloria Pritchett’s nemesis by confronting her with insider knowledge gleaned from his profession: that there’s been illegal construction on the woman’s property, and her grandson is attending an out-of-district school.

At the show’s end, Dunphy straightens an “R’’ insignia pinned to his suit jacket.

The Realtors are touting their services over licensed agents who are not members of their association, and trying to counter a trend where more consumers are doing their own real estate research to avoid paying fees, said Elizabeth Mendenhall, incoming president of the association.

With Dunphy, portrayed by actor Ty Burrell, the group sensed an opportunity: a main character on one of television’s most popular comedies who sells real estate.

“He’s now one of America’s best-loved Realtors,” Mendenhall said.

Neither Mendenhall nor ABC would say how much the association paid ABC for the placement. The campaign also includes more traditional ads featuring Burrell’s character that premiered during two other ABC sitcoms Wednesday.

Burrell said there’s always some nervousness when advertising intrudes on the creative process. But he said he trusted the “Modern Family” executive producers, who signed off on the use and wrote the scenes. “Their sense of caretaking for the show is very high,” he said.

NAR was given the chance to review what was written before the show aired, ABC said.

Mendenhall said the Realtors were not nervous about having their message carried by a character who, while likable, is often portrayed as bumbling and clueless. The Realtors want to convey that their members are just like anyone else in a community.

“We are real people helping real individuals and providing them with a part of the American dream,” she said. “The fact that he is approachable is part of what makes him special.”

Burrell said it is clever advertising.

“I’ve always admired a company that allows themselves to be seen in an imperfect light or allows themselves to be poked fun at,” he said. “That’s the strongest play.”

The traditional ads, where Dunphy disseminates his “Phil-osophies,” is more along those lines. They will be offered online, during breaks in ABC shows and on cable networks like HGTV that feature real estate-oriented programs.

Campaign’s genesis
NAR partnered with ABC Television Networks, FOX Studios and the creators of “Modern Family” in support of the “Get Realtor” brand marketing platform. What began as script integration for the television show evolved into collaboration on a groundbreaking multi-channel commercial campaign--designed to remind people about the skills, knowledge and experience a Realtor brings to the often complex task of buying or selling a home. 

NAR’s media and advertising agencies, Havas Media and Arnold Worldwide, were integral to the campaign. This is one of those rare instances when an idea presented in a review actually reaches the activation phase, as the genesis of this integration was part of Havas Media’s winning pitch to NAR in Fall 2015. 

To further amplify the episode integration, Arnold Worldwide led creation of the new year-long campaign--“Phil’s-osophies”--which comes to life through advertising, digital video and social media. Campaign creative features Burrell as Dunphy to provide a connective thread. In addition to producing the integrated episode of “Modern Family,” the show’s creators Christopher Lloyd and Steve Levitan played a critical role in campaign content, partnering with Arnold’s creative team to develop commercial advertising, and serving as directors for TV and online video content. Two of the spots, “Ball” and “Silence,” began airing on Wednesday, the night of the “Modern Family” episode in which the Realtor ID for the Dunphy character was woven into the storyline.

The concept for this campaign leverages a book of life lessons made by Phil Dunphy, introduced back during season four. Arnold used the “Phil’s-osophies” platform to create content for NAR that covers all of the ways Realtors® provide a competitive advantage in the home buying process. TV spots, digital and social content have featured and will continue to feature Dunphy covering topics like art of negotiation, the importance of knowing how to craft a perfect offer and the value of knowing market trends. All of this work will be tagged with the brand’s signature call to action: “Get Realtor.”

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client National Association of Realtors  Agency Arnold Worldwide Jim Elliott, global chief creative officer; Sean McBride, EVP/executive creative director; Nate Donabed, VP/creative director (art); Josh Kahn, VP/creative director (copy); Liz Breen, copywriter; Ashley Herrin, art director; Sean Vernaglia, sr. broadcast producer; Jake Williams, assistant broadcast producer; Dayna Stanley, art producer; Kathy McMann, VP director of art production. Media Agency Havas Media/Cake Greg James, chief strategy officer; Stacy Fuller, head of content. Havas Media North America; Jenna Fidellow, SVP/general manager Cake. Network ABC Jeffrey Weinstock, VP/creative director; Jessica Popper, director, integrated marketing; Andy Staub, coordinator. Production Moving Parts Christopher Lloyd, Steve Levitan, directors; Chad Cooperman, exec producer; Jon Goldberg, line producer. Jim Bogdonas, cinematographer. Editorial Brendan Murphy, editor. Music Tommy Fields