Selling Homes Now a Mayne Event for ESPN

Why This Matters: TV networks are looking for creative ways to make commercials stand out and produce measurable results.

ESPN SportsCenter anchor Kenny Mayne isn’t a real estate agent, but he’s playing one on TV.

Mayne will be appearing in a series of five unique commercials for Century 21. They’re unique because they are airing live and focus on a single property being sold by the real estate chain.

The first ad in the series aired last month during the 11 p.m. edition of SportsCenter. Mayne appeared with a real Century 21 agent, Kevin Mills, and they showed off a three-bedroom, two-bath home at 2000 Chattooga Court in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, listed for $279,500.

“We’ve sold many things on SportsCenter, but never before have we tried to sell a house on live TV. That’s what’s going on here,” Mayne said. The anchor pointed out the home’s gas fireplace. “You could play Wiffle ball in there,” he noted.

The other ads will air in the coming weeks.

The campaign comes at a time when advertisers are looking for more ways to make their TV commercials stand out, as well as for ways to measure the impact they’re having.

In the first few days of the campaign, Century 21 got more than 100 phone call leads for the house.

Disney Ad Sales did a study with research company EDO — cofounded by actor Edward Norton — that measures how effective commercials are at generating searches and found that the live ad was 72% better at driving inquiries. EDO also found that it would have taken 1.7 ads in other ABC/ESPN programming to generate the same amount of search volume as the single live ad.

“Being able to put our agents’ listings on live national TV is a first-ever of its kind for both Century 21 and ESPN and really helps us show our relentless approach to push our industry forward and stand out from the competition,” Century 21 chief marketing officer Cara Whitley said.

Going live was a risk Century 21 was willing to take, Whitley said. “The real-time feedback and awareness for our agents’ listings we hope to gain with these live spots is what makes it so appealing to us. Being able to immediately generate hundreds of thousands of media impressions instantly makes it a risk worth taking.”

So far, the client is happy with the results, including the phone calls and the exposure its agent received as a result of the commercial. “Those types of results are anything but typical and serve as a perfect example of how our agents are truly relentless in their approach to getting the best possible outcome for their clients,” Whitley said.

Mayne was a natural choice as pitchman. For years, he’s made sometimes profane appearances at ESPN upfronts and this year he took part in Disney TV’s presentation to advertisers.

“Mayne told the audience that he was game to do just about anything for our clients. He’s a favorite to collaborate with and works alongside our teams — and clients — to refine some of the programs he’s part of,” said Andrew Messina, senior VP, retail & apparel and travel, Disney Advertising Sales.

Messina said Disney has been “pushing the boundaries with brand integrations and experimenting with varied commercial formats more and more” under Disney Ad Sales president Rita Ferro.

“Every time we complete a program with a client, we’re eager to identify the next opportunity to outdo ourselves,” he said.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.