The head of a Wellington-based real estate agency who was spoofed in an online billboard campaign says he finds many of the signs hilarious and respects people’s right to speak their mind.
A website designed to look like that of the Lowe and Co agency was created by three Wellington programmers and allows users to insert their own slogans on the agency’s billboards.
Contributors replaced ads with statements highlighting prohibitive house and rent prices and the poor quality of the housing stock, all in the company’s signature white text on a black background.
One reads: ‘Are you looking for a place for your family to live? Sell us your blood and we’ll think about it.”
* A year of capital gains was wiped out in Wellington as home values fell
* The enduring appeal of former state houses
* Demand real estate agents to stop recommending non-accredited inspectors
Another reads: “You see a housing crisis. We see an opportunity to expand the portfolio.”
Craig Lowe, managing director of Lowe and Co, said the company’s billboard falsification was surprising.
“To be honest, it’s a bit humbling to have garnered so much attention. From our point of view, that speaks very much to the power of the brand,” said Lowe.
“It’s a pretty fun tool for people to show creativity and humor by making classic memes, and some of the memes directed at us are hilarious. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you don’t deserve to laugh at others.”
Lowe said many of the billboards had nothing to do with real estate agents, and a friend likened the parodies to the public embracing Tui’s “yes, right” ads.
“Which I think is a great analogy. We’ve always been tongue-in-cheek with our billboards and I think this is just an extension of that.”
One of the co-creators of the Spoof website, programmer and designer Mix Irving, said the website and app took him, fellow programmer Sam Muirhead and a third friend, who asked not to be named, about 10 days to create.
Two of the three creators owned homes, but Irving said they all had friends who didn’t make it up the ladder.
“It’s heartbreaking to see how they’ve fared and how unattainable housing is for so many people,” Irving said.
“I think it’s a societal issue, we’re all poorer when some of us don’t have homes, you know?”
An Instagram post with an image of fake billboards garnered over 36,000 likes, and a tweet about the site received 279 retweets.
The spoof website states that it was created because the creators thought “bragging about being greedy middlemen in a housing crisis felt a little awkward.”
“We thought about defacing billboards, but that takes effort (some of them are very high up),” the website reads.
“Then we realized we could give anyone the power to write their own messages; to shape our collective narrative.”
In response to being characterized as “greedy,” Lowe said he and his staff have always respected the fact that they work in an environment that has been difficult for first-time home buyers and where prices have become exclusive.
“From our point of view we do not influence the market in one direction, but we are an easy target”
“At the end of the day, when you put yourself out there, you have to expect some people to put out stuff that isn’t that nice, but we can laugh at ourselves at the same time — and that’s okay too.”
“We are passionate about ensuring all generations can buy a home and are excited to be part of the conversation about affordable housing.”
Spoof website for sale whose profits go to housing projects
The spoof website is also up for sale, with proceeds going to an organization that improves housing accessibility.
“As savvy investors, we have added great value to this now luxurious and well-appointed domain,” it reads.
“The current RV (assessable value) is around $10,000 and will only go up. In the future, the sale will take place via a complex and opaque tendering process. We are currently looking for local housing projects to donate the proceeds from the sale to.”
Irving said the trio plan to hold a tongue-in-cheek Trade Me auction.
They hadn’t decided which provider to choose.
“We’re looking for good matches right now because I know you can’t just throw money at people randomly,” Irving said.