Near Seattle, Washington in mid-September 2015, the Costello & Costello Real Estate Service firm sent out hundreds of copies of an advertising mailer to people in the Snoqualmie Ridge area of Issaquah in an effort to create more real estate business. They received such a negative reaction to it from upset mothers that they issued an apology.
The front of the mailer had a picture of a frazzled woman with three kids on the left side and Chase and Jeffrey Costello in suits on the right side. The woman is tied up and a little girl is painting her face while the woman tries to make a phone call. The baby on the floor has a colander on her head, and a duck is standing in the disheveled room with pictures on the wall askew.
The message over the left side read Part Time Agent VS. The right said Full Time Professionals. Beneath the two, the question was asked, “WHO WOULD YOU RATHER REPRESENT YOU?” News about the ad was passed around on Facebook.
The Costellos received so many telephone calls, emails, and comments, they issued an apology which is no longer available on Facebook. The apology said, “The Costello Team would like to apologize for our last marketing piece and we take full responsibility for it. We have received a flood of emotionally charged messages and phones [sic] calls, and we thank you for your responses. As sons of a single working mother and agents trying to build a family business, these reactions were difficult and important for us to hear.
“There are thousands of professional agents working in our area who are also dedicated mothers, including several members of our team. Our original hope with this message was to show the value of having a full-time agent in a competitive market, but we completely failed. We have the upmost [sic] respect for moms and working mothers, and we know that the job of a mother is far more demanding than what we do as real estate professionals. Again, we are truly sorry. It was not representative of the company we wish to be.”
Katlin Lee, who is a mother and sells real estate, commented, “It’s hurtful. It feels like you work so hard and not have that respect from your peers — these are my peers. We should be supporting each other and working together and instead it’s like bashing each other.” Lee called the apology lame and said, “It was a terrible apology to say sorry we offended some people, it’s like that’s not accepting
responsibility for the content of this hurtful mailer that went out.”
The backside of the mailer states, “A Team ALWAYS outperforms an individual” and has a list of what the Costellos offer versus what the woman does, including the line “Available at THEIR convenience not yours”.
Care should be taken with any advertising that no sector of the population is targeted for insult which will lose business. More single buyers are females now and they have also make up half of many couples. The Costello brothers must not have been aware that mothers are now the sole or primary breadwinner for 40 percent of households as compared with 11 percent in 1960. Their ad perpetuated an outdated stereotype of women. Would they think it is applicable if the in-the-home person was portrayed by a male?
These gentlemen who advertised themselves as professionals did damage to their own reputation, certainly among their female peers. They did receive much press about it, drew attention to themselves, and their names may be remembered, but it was not good press. This is not a fair judgement of how good they are as real estate agents. The concept of the value of a full time professional and the team working on listings has merit, but the depiction of the part time agent was faulty. On the RE/MAX Integrity Costello Team website under team reviews, only Chase Costello, with 13 years experience, comes up and the reviews are very positive. The Facebook page was deleted but is back up with a few negative comments about the mailer posted.