What was wrong with Elizabeth Banks?

It’s a question we find ourselves asking Realtor.com (not that they’d answer) after seeing their new “Unreal” series of ads.

If you don’t remember, Realtor.com retained the services of actress Elizabeth Banks to appear in their commercials as recently as last year. The ads were, in our opinion, great for a variety of reasons.

Banks is a funny, likable pitchwoman. The ads were well-written and memorable. And most importantly, we believe they resonated with consumers because they touched on common pain points consumers experience during the home buying process.

The new ads do none of those things.

Titled the “Unreal” series, the ads poke fun at the homes, buyers and people featured on networks like HGTV and FoodTV. One ad focuses on how ridiculously expensive and perfect the homes featured on HGTV are. Another lampoons the tidy, 22-minute home-shopping process people seem to breeze through on TV. A third points out that the beautiful kitchens shown on cooking shows are sets, not real homes.

The payoff in all of the ads is that Realtor.com is the arbiter of Real Estate for the real world. In the real world, people don’t buy multi-gazillion-dollar homes or follow a simple, perfect process for buying a home.

In the real world, homes are more modest and the process is much messier and much more difficult. And, many consumers don’t understand the difference the right building products can make in a home’s comfort and durability. 


Funny, but not insightful

Realtor.com’s ads are fine. They’re mildly funny and they’re executed well. But our beef with them is that they’re dull, forgettable, and not at all differentiating.

And, we’re doubtful that they’ve hit on an important consumer pain point. Sure, the ridiculousness of reality TV is, well, ridiculous. But their claim that Realtor.com is a place where real-world home shopping happens isn’t at all unique.

Zillow could easily make that same claim. Anyone watching the ads might say to the TV, “Yeah, no sh*t.”

So that brings us back to Ms. Banks. As we said above, the ads in which she was featured were different and kooky. Almost theater of the absurd, making excellent use of her comedic timing and delivery.

Maybe she got to be too expensive, or didn’t want to do commercials after finding so much success in films. If that was the case, we can forgive Realtor.com for moving on.

But what we can’t forgive is their lazy attempt at humor that barely scratches the surface of the home buyer’s psyche.

Home buying (and selling, for that matter) is a difficult, stressful process, fraught with frustration and disappointment. The Elizabeth Banks ads nodded to that consumer pain point in a funny way.

These new ads don’t, and we think that’s a missed opportunity.

We wish Realtor.com would have dug a little deeper into the consumer mindset to find insights about their frustrations, and addressed those in their ads. They could have continued to use humor, or struck a more serious, helpful note.

Either would have been better than the shallow, tepid ads they have now.