Is it Immoral for Real Estate Agents to Suggest Print VPA?

cheap sunglasses lyrics When will it become morally wrong for an agent to promote print to a vendor?

A state manager for the REA Group recently posed this question to  all of his business contacts on Linkedin recently.

As real estate agents we are constantly called upon to recommend and then implement advertising on properties for sale (and rentals for that matter)  that we represent. In many cases  this is done with the owners funds with VPA (Vendor Paid Advertising).

Unless you have been operating in a bubble there has been a dramatic shift towards online advertising in recent years and now real estate portals like and dominate the landscape for property enquiries for virtually all offices through the country.

But is print dead?  Hardly.  Certainly over the past 10 years the once dominant print media has lost its gloss as what was once a one horse race had another player enter the game. Print is probably not even a close second at the moment. Print  is obviously on the way out, but its still got a long way to go and for many agents as it still delivers enquiries whether it be from colour magazines, newspapers or printed flyers.

What may keep print alive longer is the increasing costs of the top two portals and especially who now has a $2000+ per month product in their bag of tricks.  This price level is similar to print advertising costs. Go back 5 or 6 years in time and find me anybody who would have predicted that online advertising for a property could have cost that much. With’s reputation for price gouging the industry every year with huge price rises what will they be asking for this this top shelf product in a few years.

So should agents be asking when is it time to stop using print for vpa?  Of course… we do that every time we propose marketing to an owner.   Industry detractors will always suggest that advertising is done to promote the business not the property but I have never met an agent who will throw away good money, whether it be their money or the owners, when they knew they would get no enquiry from it.  That is totally counter productive of what we do.

So should REA State Managers be questioning the morals of their customers?  The comments made by Tom Ainsworth, the Victoria and Tasmania State Manager for the REA Group to over 500 connections on linkedin are probably not an official company position. Despite this many would argue that his personal comments would align perfectly with that of his employer.

What puts an interesting spin on it though is that according to his Linkedin profile before he started at REA he came from the News Ltd stable of papers including the Geelong Advertiser Group and Leader Newspapers.

Just a guess but I reckon when he was the Group Real Estate Manager at Leader Newspapers his opinion on agents investing VPA in newspaper advertising was a little different at that time. No doubt Tom would argue that his opinion has matured over time and as has experiences have improved… but I would suggest his opinion in both cases is tainted by the corporation who pays his wage!

Whilst Tom’s employer would probably agree with him, I doubt’s master,  News Ltd would find his comments on the money!

I personally think Tom has a huge conflict of interest in questioning the morals of real estate agents if they select something that he does not sell.  That does not mean he has no right to ask it as after all it is an interesting question that we ask ourselves all the time.  I just don’t think he will like the answer that comes back!

The value proposition of the subscription portals is falling, partially because the subscription costs are rising well beyond sane levels but also because they have seemed to hit critical mass.  For many years we were use to growing massively month on month… but that growth has stopped dead in its tracks. Even’s monthly reports have stopped adding zero’s on to all of the numbers like they use to.

A couple of years ago I thought the death of print advertising in the very near future was a fait accompli. Now I am not so sure.  No doubt it will happen one day, but that is more than likely because newspapers themselves will become a digital experience rather than agents stop advertising in their pages.  Agents will then probably still advertise in that digital newspaper version.

There is and and always will be exceptions to the rule as around Australia some agents are already forced into an online only strategy with either low levels of VPA or agent funded advertising. For most of the agents around Australia total print advertising expenditure has dropped but is still a viable option delivering value enquiries.

Print will continue to decline and online continue to improve and one day what Tom describes will come to pass…. I just dont think that day is coming for the industry at large in the next year few years.

Despite what Tom would have you believe, agents will advertise where ever they think will deliver them the most number of quality enquiries.  The biggest “bang” for the “buck”. It is just not good business to waste money on ads that dont produce a result.

So… What do you think?

Are Tom Ainsworth’s comments the arrogant ramblings of an REA employee trying to toe the company line or is he on the money?

Considering he is an industry  service provider with an obvious bias towards his employer  should he even be questionings agents, his clients  morality or not?

Should agents be spreading their advertising across all types of media, old and new… or should we be only investing in online?

And at the end of the day it boils down to one point.. Is print totally dead or is there still life in the old girl yet?

Agents… We would love you to comment on the print experience for you and your office, but please share the type of market you operate in to give it some persepctive…   suburban outer Melbourne, small town South East Queensland or Sydney CBD etc etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *