Real-estate media manipulation trend emerges, public must use tools to demand truth and integrity

Preamble: (This article is copied from CityHallWatch, as the implications are region-wide.) As information emerges from time to time, CityHallWatch is developing a hypothesis: The Metro Vancouver region suffers from a decades-old, deeply entrenched bias in our civic system, favoring the development industry at the expense of the average citizen and our society as a whole. Is the problem of unaffordable housing in Metro Vancouver municipalities exacerbated by this bias? Perhaps yes. Over time, we will test and revise this hypothesis. It’s up to citizens to use all the tools available to get the system fixed. At the bottom of this article we provide links to a Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice for realtors, and mention disciplinary investigations and procedures.

Now, on to today’s stories. A few publications this week began exposing what appears to be a trend in media manipulation to promote certain developments and enrich those involved, at the expense of the consumer. (CityHallWatch is aware of other examples of manipulation of public opinion in communities by consultants and pollsters in the last few years — but that’s for another day.) Below we link two three articles and provide a few salient points:

Here are a few things that captured our attention. (Please read the actual articles for the full details.)

Excerpt: “News yesterday that MAC Marketing had one of its employees pose as a potential homeowner in media interviews has prompted an apology from owner and former Business in Vancouver Forty under 40 winner Cameron McNeill and accusations from bloggers that this is part of a wider trend.”

Excerpt: “Marketers of the in-receivership Olympic Village are paying the editor of well-known local culture webzine VancouverIsAwesome.com to blog about the joys of life in the village – but it does not say on the website that he is being paid to do so….Rennie Marketing Systems awarded the deal after receiving a single pitch from VancouverIsAwesome.com editor Bob Kronbauer, who says feels like he won a contest to be paid to flog the Village in False Creek – much like the public contests held by Vancouver International Airport and Tourism Richmond to find paid bloggers to promote them.”

“VIA [VancouverIsAwesome.com] claims to get 245,000 visits per month from 70,000 unique visitors and is approaching 28,000 Twitter followers. The site is targeted to the 19 to 35 age group.”

Village spokeswoman Lesli Boldt said, “Mr. Kronbauer is on contract with the Village on False Creek to promote life in the Village…”

Excerpt: “A Vancouver real estate marketing company is apologizing for having two employees pose as prospective home buyers in televised newscasts on a supposed spike in sales around the Lunar New Year…. The two young women – presented as house-hunting sisters whose parents would be in town from China for the New Year to help them purchase a condo – are in fact an administrative assistant and a sales assistant with MAC Marketing Solutions, president Cameron McNeill confirmed to The Globe and Mail.”

“This is the latest in a number of questionable marketing tactics to be exposed within Metro Vancouver’s real estate community. During a media blitz announcing the Groupon-style sale of units at a Surrey condo development last year, one woman identified to a television news crew as an eager local investor was in fact a sales manager for Key Marketing, the company behind the scheme.”

“The Real Estate Council of B.C will be investigating the matter.”

****************

Now we turn to tools available to citizens to fix our civic system. Separately we have provided a summary of codes of conduct and codes of ethics of various organizations. In most cases, the codes are activated when someone makes a complaint, which triggers an investigation and disciplinary process. CityHallWatch encourages citizens to become familiar with these things, and to use the complaints systems when you have concerns.

We note that the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) has a “Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice.”

http://bcrea.opacitydesigngroup.com/docs/working-with-a-realtor-/bcrealtor-codeofethics.pdf

The BCREA lists member boards all over the province. For example, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (www.rebgv.org) is a member. MAC Marketing Solutions Inc. (http://www.condosbymac.com/) appears to be a member of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

The preamble to the code goes like this: “As REALTORS®, we accept a personal obligation to the public and to our profession. The Code of Ethics of The Canadian Real Estate Association embodies these obligations. As REALTORS®, we are committed to:
• Professional competent service
• Absolute honesty and integrity in business dealings
• Co-operation with and fairness to all
• Personal accountability through compliance with CREA’s Standards of Business Practice

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