The National Association of Realtors is not sitting back and waiting for the housing downturn to end. The association, one of if not the largest professional organization in the country is going on the offensive with a $40 million advertising campaign designed to convince Americans that it is a good time to buy, a good time to sell, and a good time to be a Realtor.

The NAR blitz is targeting a number of audiences; buyers, sellers, FSBOs, owners of commercial real estate and those looking for commercial space or property. Hispanics will come in for a good deal of attention as will real estate agents themselves; a group which may or may not be in need of a bit of morale boosting by mid year.

The campaign kicks off on January 15 on television and a few weeks later on radio and is scheduled to run through November. NAR will fund 5,859 network radio spots, 2,600 insertions on cable TV and 336 spots on network television including 41 in prime time, most notably on ABC's Extreme Makeover which will feature ads six times over the life of the campaign. Good Morning America and the CBS Morning Show will be prime sites for NAR ads with GMA running as many as four per week, as will the David Letterman Show. The NCAA Basketball Tournament (through the elite eight, subsequent rounds are closing in on the Super Bowl ad-price wise) and the major league baseball playoffs will also be cashing NAR checks. 558 ads will run on the Hispanic television channels Univision, Telemundo, and Galavision. Local radio is slated to run about 25,000 spots during the 10 month campaign.

It is interesting that NBC will not be broadcasting any NAR ads nor will its cable affiliates MSNBC or CNBC. Perhaps some NBC cable stations are on the long list that will receive the ads; in these days of cross-ownership it is hard to keep track. Perhaps this is a function of affordability or audience demographics but it is more fun to think that NAR is still in a snit over the Janice Lieberman fiasco two years ago when the consumer reporter blew off any difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR as "six of one, half dozen of the other" thus undoing 20 years of NAR image building.

The one television ad available for previewing on-line, A Good Time to Buy, was straightforward and covered a lot of ground in 30 seconds: "When you have a family it is always a good time to buy; prices are favorable; every real estate market is different; there are a lot of options; working with a Realtor took all of the guesswork out; it's a great move up market; it's the best market in years in terms of choice; if we didn't buy now we would have missed the opportunity." It all makes sense when you see it with quick cuts from one of the speakers of the above lines to the next. All of course were attractive and covered the spectrum of ages and races. $26 million of the NAR campaign budget is targeted to television ads.

NAR is obviously viewing this campaign in part as seed money. All ads including the TV spots can be customized and used by local real estate firms in their own campaigns. This could result in a campaign that morphs far beyond the ad buys paid for directly by NAR. And it may be that NAR is depending on its membership to spread the word via print advertising. The association has prepared a number of attractive print advertising pages that are easily customizable by affiliates but we could find no information on line as to how or how much NAR itself plans to use them. The one we viewed, aimed at FSBOs was pretty clever. The headline read "Two-thirds of For Sale by Owners would use a REALTOR next time. The other third swear to never, ever move again."

NAR said that, while their Public Awareness Campaign is a long-standing tradition that strives to build a national presence for NAR on primetime television, this will be the first time the campaign will be on-air for 11 months of the year.