The case of the online estate agent TV campaign that didn’t have The X Factor

Back in autumn 2015 a new online estate agent called launched with an advert during ITV’s prime time The X-Factor, which is among the most expensive TV slots going.

The ad was directed by Oscar nominated Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty, Rev) and starred well known actress Sarah Parish (Cutting It, W1A, Broadchurch) who played a female Sherlock Holmes who solved mysteries surrounding property sales.

Unfortunately it seems like despite its big money effort to gain a mass market audience, Homeseller has now disappeared from the online estate agency market.

According to advertising industry experts, The X Factor 30 second ad slots can cost £120,000-£130,000 during the final which apparently is around 40% higher than the earlier shows – meaning each ad may have cost up to £90,000 in airtime.

We are not sure how many X Factor ads they ran but it’s fair to say this campaign which included several other slots during different programmes over several weeks – plus magazine, poster and online ads – could easily have run into the hundreds of thousands.

In September 2015 the marketing company behind the TV ads, g&mp, wrote: “The first mysterious TV spot, ‘The Block of Ice’ breaks tonight at around 8.15pm within the X Factor commercial break. The spot will be followed by 3 more TV ads in the campaign as well as press advertising, digital advertising, London Underground advertising and several other channels.”

A retrospective look at the company’s property listings history reveals that at the time of the first TV ad they had around 16 properties for sale, and weeks later in November 2015 that had risen to just 25 listings. By December 2015 that had gone up to 36 and by the following April they had around 50 listings. Compared to the several thousand properties on the books of the big online estate agents that they were trying to emulate, the number of listings were clearly very low. The cost per acquisition of each new property for sale must have been in the many thousands of pounds during this campaign.

Homeseller was still operating in summer 2016 but by autumn it had been effectively shut down with the company only servicing existing vendors to complete pending sales. spoke to an employee of Estates Property Group – a high street agency brand which has the same owner and who answered the phone. He confirmed that Homeseller was no longer a going concern and operations had been wound down. We made an enquiry to the former marketing director behind the TV ad campaign to find out more about the strategy, but that went unanswered.

At the time of writing the Homeseller website simply features a logo on a plain background, in contrast to the site pre-shutdown which heavily used the Sherlock Holmes concept to tie in with the marketing campaign (below).

homeseller_old_homepage homepage from July 2016

TV advertising seems to be working wonders for Purplebricks, so what went wrong for Homeseller? Maybe the adverts didn’t capture people’s imagination as much as the Purplebricks ads have done – or could it be the case that there simply weren’t enough of them and the money ran out before they could generate any kind of decent exposure?

It is a pity for the online estate agency sector, which is still emerging, when a valiant effort to build a new brand fails, and it must be hugely disappointing for the owner, experienced high street agent Anthony Quirk.

The demise of Homeseller will not have gone unnoticed by Mr Quirk’s cousin Russell, the founder of major online agent eMoov who have considerable funding and no doubt are considering future TV strategies themselves to compete with Purplebricks.