Ad of the Week: Century 21 advertises Walter White’s house

This week’s Ad of the Week is a piece of witty brilliance for US estate agent Century 21, created by Mullen. The work tied into the social media frenzy generated by the finale of US TV series Breaking Bad earlier this week, by posting lead character Walter White’s house for sale on Craigslist…

This week’s Ad of the Week is a piece of witty brilliance for US estate agent Century 21, created by Mullen. The work tied into the social media frenzy generated by the finale of US TV series Breaking Bad earlier this week, by posting lead character Walter White’s house for sale on Craigslist…

The spoof sales ad, shown in full below, was worded with lots of in-jokes for fans of the show, and the number on the ad even worked. The ad was then seeded on social media sites and was immediately picked up and shared by fans, allowing Century 21 to steal a march on other advertisers who had paid big money to appear on the official ad breaks of the show. Below, we talk to Tim Cawley, group creative director at Mullen, and Eric Montague, group account director (and Breaking Bad fan) about how the idea came about.

CR: When did you come up with idea – as Breaking Bad fans, did you have it a while back or did it come up with the frenzy of interest surrounding the finale?

TC & EM: We produce regular, topical social content for Century 21. We knew the Breaking Bad finale was going to be a huge topic online, so we had the episode marked on the calendar, but the concept didn’t happen until the pressure was on in the days leading up to the deadline. All the best ideas come under duress, don’t they? It’s tried-and-true agency behaviour.

CR: It seems quite a different way of marketing for Century 21 – were they immediately into it?

TC & EM: This was a bit bolder than anything we’d done in the past. But sometimes, a project just gets momentum. Walter White’s home is such a big part of the show, it just seemed right. We weren’t force fitting the idea. That’s what’s exciting about doing topical creative marketing in social media. There isn’t too much time for hand-wringing. You either go ‘all in’ with an idea and commit, or you miss your moment. We have a brave, smart client in Century 21’s director of social media, Matt Gentile. He gave us permission to try something. And it paid off.

CR: How long did the Craigslist ad run?

TC & EM: The Craigslist post stayed up from Sunday until Tuesday. We were worried it might get taken down sooner, but we had two alternative backups just in case. These kinds of efforts are always way more delicate than traditional media where everything’s planned far in advance and contractually guaranteed. We had to plan for contingencies.

To get things rolling, we seeded the ideas through Century 21 social channels. But we knew we’d need folks far beyond our immediate reach to get involved if we wanted this thing to get huge. So we also reacted to the tweets of popular bloggers on the night of the show and helped spread the link that way. For instance, someone tweeted about Heisenberg’s car. We tweeted back: “Forget the car. You could have Walter’s house.” Our writers were on their game. They watched the show together in a room at the agency, reading and reacting. It was like a live performance. And it worked. Fans of the show discovered the listing, appreciated all the nods to the show’s plot lines in the copy, and shared it themselves.

CR: Are you happy with the results?

TC & EM: Absolutely. The coverage was immediate. And went far beyond just the hardcore fans or even marketing press. The frenzy of reaction – almost universally positive – was downright thrilling.

Credits:
Agency: Mullen
Chief creative officer: Mark Wenneker
Chief digital officer: Stephen Goldblatt
ECD: Dave Weist, Tim Vaccarino
Group creative directors: Tim Cawley, Chris Brady
Creatives: Larry Fahey, Tom Francesconi
Group account director: Eric Montague

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