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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Nothing wrong with 'Commisery' says unrepentant Michael Bruce

A founder of Purplebricks, Michael Bruce, suggests there was nothing wrong with the controversial Commisery TV ads that contributed to making his agency so unpopular with the rest of the industry.

Bruce, who founded Purplebricks with his brother Kenny, was effectively pushed out of the agency in mid-2019.

Now, in his first major interview since quitting the company, he is asked whether he would change any of the marketing or pricing strategies used by Purplebricks during his five years with the firm.

He defends the pricing, saying some other agencies were cheaper than Purplebricks at different times during the firm’s history, and are cheaper than it is now - and he denies that it was a unique significant factor in driving down agents’ fees generally.

Quizzed specifically on the Commisery ads, Bruce says: “The reality of the situation though is no one predominantly in general at all instructs an agent off the back of the fact that they have an advert on TV.”

He also says that it has always been clear from the website and advertising that consumers were told what they were paying for in terms of upfront fees.

The only moment of apparent regret expressed by Bruce concerns some of the agency’s international activities: it expanded rapidly into Australia, the United States and Canada, and now all three businesses have been either shut down or sold off.

He admits he made some mistakes and has learned some lessons from the international failures.

The second half of the interview is given over to the Agents Together charitable foundation that the Bruce brothers, and other industry figures, have set up. 

The foundation launched earlier this summer, spurred on by the Coronavirus crisis and its possible effects on the agency industry, and involves mentoring and practical assistance to agents.

When asked whether the foundation is a PR exercise to smooth the path of the Bruce brothers back into the agency industry, Michael Bruce says such an idea is “nonsense.” He says he’s been working for 40 hours a week on the foundation - and people can judge whether that indicates a genuine interest in the subject matter. 

However, he says it has been well known for some time that the brothers have been exploring another business - known originally as Launch B and more recently as the brand name Boomin - which is launching later this year.

The interview with Michael Bruce is conducted by well known industry commentator Chris Watkin - who is himself voluntarily giving time to the Agents Together foundation - and you can see the 35 minutes video below. 

You can see the latest news story from Estate Agent Today on Bruce’s Launch B/Boomin project here.

  • Chris Arnold

    What did other agencies expect? That a disruptor would play ball on fees? More fool any agency that chose to compete that way.
    The better question might have been why was the cost of customer acquisition so high? What made Purplebricks imagine that estate agency is a mass market opportunity when it is clearly local and there were no LPE's in many areas? Might they have better spent their cash on slower growth?

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    The interview was nothing more than a PR exercise. No insight here - just MB stating ‘it’s true because I say it is”.

    Commisery was misleading as was a great deal that PB did and does. It was openly accepted that they regularly travelled below the integrity line. 38 complaints to the ASA – do the math.

    MB was pushed out because his arrogance got in the way of reality. Failure in Oz and in the US was inevitable with a model that lacked any substance or integrity with a blinded belief that spending circa 35-40% on marketing of your baseline income would eventually buy you a market share.

    Other agents were cheaper but not when you compare what the average PB agents was expected to do for the income they received. They work ridiculously long hours and it often means they are doing it for an hourly rate that is less than the minimum wage.

    TV adverts help get you through the front door. When you join PB your taught ‘a pitch’. Your taught a very specific way to explain the fees, to say that it’s opaque is in itself rather opaque. Why do you think PB get so many complaints? Have a look a Trust Pilot – you’ll see many negative reviews where the reviewer states the fees were NEVER clear.

    Rapid expansion was always part of the PB MO when MB was in charge. Rapid expansion with a disproportionately high marketing budget? At one point there was 3 different marketing heads at the same time. James Kydd, Joby Russell and Ed Hughes – what does that tell you?

    The foundation is a Trojan Horse to gain credibility and trust. It’s marketing under a different name.

  • Simon Shinerock

    Put it this way, I don’t think the Bruce name will make ‘Boomin’ easier to sell to agents...

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    This interview was all a little bit 'cosy'. Watkins hardly challenged Bruce with anything too testing and he almost led him to the answers on many occasions

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    Member of Agents Together interviews Founder of Agents Together, not exactly going to rock the boat is he. A hard-hitting financial analyst would tear Bruce a new one. Deservedly so.

     
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    Never seen this guy interviewed before, completely underwhelmed! Thought he would be more dynamic, inspiring and even interesting. More drippy Geography teacher than motivating entrepreneur. What a snoozefest.

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    How funny is that statement. That’s why they decided to spending £21million of borrowed money trying to sell houses! Hilarious.
    “The reality of the situation though is no one predominantly in general at all instructs an agent off the back of the fact that they have an advert on TV.”

    Probably why he was booted out for missing the point

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    Exactly.....its all about the big advertising , nothing more

     
  • Algarve  Investor

    I enjoy CW's interviews, but he is a bit soft with Michael Bruce here. Usually he's not afraid to ask the hard, difficult questions in an uncompromising, no-holds barred manner, but here he appears to go a bit easy on MB. I know he says they have had many frank discussions about Agents Together, but I agree with the poster above that it's all a bit too cosy.

    I'm not one of those who absolutely hated PB and everything it stood for - although I hate those Commisery adverts! - but the company had serious flaws (and still does) and I don't think it is nonsense to suggest that the foundation and Boomin are linked in some way. They must be. Why launch them both at the same time, if not? Why not launch Boomin before the foundation if it wasn't all a PR exercise?

    Maybe I'm just an old cynic, but I can't see how the two weren't connected in some way. They'd almost be better off saying 'this is our way of giving back to an industry which we have previously disparaged and demeaned, as our attempt to build bridges."

    Rather than pretending the foundation was a completely altruistic venture with absolutely no link to the new portal (or whatever it is) they just happened to be launching a few weeks later.

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    I can't forget or forgive the flawed business model of PB and the damage to decent, good agents up and down the country. And i will absolutely never forgive or forget those adverts or anyone who had anything to do with them.

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