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Friday, September 30, 2011 by Douglas And Gordon


Breaking new ground is often about diminishing returns, especially in estate agency where most things have been done. The web is obviously a huge resource that’s been tapped for commercial gain, but less is known about how best to use it for PR and marketing. Yes, Twitter, Facebook etc are all part of the monetisation of cyberspace, but the concept of a web viral, the kind of thing you get sent and makes you laugh despite having been produced by a commercial company, was intriguing, baffling and a bit terrifying.

Outside help was definitely needed and Lee and Frank from Real Impact Productions were commissioned to produce a campaign. Given the object of the exercise was surprise it needed to be kept completely secret with the Board being brought in someway down the line.

Luckily we have a history of boundary pushing and so once the go ahead was officially given the nervousness could give way to the excitement of producing, editing and distributing the viral.

The exercise brought the company closer together and the fact that there was not a single leak is testament to how every member of Douglas & Gordon bought into the campaign. We gave the public credit that they’d see through it and our faith was tested when it went live. It was picked up by the Mail on Sunday two days after release and suddenly 3000 odd YouTube views became over 30000 in just two further days. The piece was ambivalent and despite 95% of comment being positive any commercial enterprise is nervous of a spoof that portrays, using members of the company and actors purporting to be, worst possible practice. We felt confident though as we know that our people couldn’t be further away from that stereotype. The appalling James actually appeared on the website as a negotiator in Hammersmith and the Production Company, if anyone called them, was telling people this was fly on the wall documentary stuff that they felt the public deserved to see, nerve racking stuff.

This controversial element kept the debate raging for the better part of a week and allowed those who perhaps missed the point to continue to pick and poke at the film. Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind and this was tested as episode two was released. Despite our knowing a reveal was due at the end of the week it was tiring and frustrating staying away from comment and the pressure grew and grew.

Luckily for us the wonderful Anne Ashworth at the Times wanted to write about what was a ground breaking move for an agent, and her article coincided with the release of the last episode, the reveal, which explains why and how we did it.

Of course there’ll be those for whom this was always going to be a step too far, but D&G has perhaps never been the agent for these people anyway. We always felt our clients and friends would see this for what it was and they have, despite the odd sleepless night.

One or two commentators got on the anti bandwagon only to discover it was going the wrong way, and one competitor in particular tried to prise a client away by sending the film link to them. The irony of a competitor, a household name, stooping to levels depicted in the film should not be lost on anyone.

It’s also allowed us to show how far standards have come and to reassure our clients and customers that we far exceed the level most do making sure all our sales and lettings negotiators take and pass their NFoPP exams within a year of joining the company.

A big thank you must go to Lee and Frank from Real Impact Productions and to Jo Sheldon from Edelman, our PR company.

The fact that most companies wouldn’t even dare countenance doing this, and the fact that we did and saw it through is a testament to the fabulous and loyal people who work for Douglas & Gordon. Anyone who comes into contact with us will see what we mean.


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