Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cameron McNeill: "I don’t know if it was an overzealous employee or if this happened in a formalized way.”

First off we start with an update on yesterday's post.

In answer to one of our questions, I was advised by CBC reporter Matthew Black that MAC Marketing Solutions sales director Melanie Briggs wasn't on scene at the Maddox display suite when the CBC-TV crew was there.

Says Black:
I was told that "Melanie from MAC" would be there last Saturday. But, if she was, I certainly didn't meet or see her. Nic Jensen - who appears on camera in the original story - was the principal MAC person on hand for both myself and Ms Paterson.
Thanks for clarifying that, Matthew.

So now we have answers to 2 questions from yesterday.
  • (1) No... Ms. Briggs wasn't at the Maddox presentation centre during the media photo-op.
  • (2) Yes... Ms. Briggs was involved in setting the stage for what would become a media fiasco, but she bailed on attending the actual event at the last moment.
But the questions about what happened at the Maddox display suite have only begun.

Let's take a closer look at what we have been told about what happened on February 9th, 2013.

In exposing the fraud that was perpetrated by MAC Marketing Solutions that day, here is what the TV stations told us in their broadcasts.

From the CTV version
They checked out the scale model, they toured the show suite. On Saturday these two young women seemed keen on buying at a downtown high rise called Maddox.

So we put them in our story on real estate and Chinese New Year.
From the CBC version
Kirk Williams: Things aren't all they seem at this condo presentation centre.

Take a look at the women taking a tour, marvelling at all the features.

Potential buyers hoping to make a lucky start to the lunar new year by buying a condo?

Matthew Black was the reporter on the story.  He asked marketing staff for help in finding Chinese buyers.

One couple didn't want to do interviews. Initially the two women were shy too.

Matthew Black: A few minutes later that story changed again and this time they were going on camera. And this is how we met Chris and Amanda.
So what we have is that CBC and CTV are invited to come by and do a story on real estate and Chinese New Year.

They show up at the Maddox sales presentation centre, and the display suite is full of potential buyers. It's positively teaming with couples who are doing EXACTLY what we keep hearing about in the press - they're in town for CNY and they are here to BUY!

So logically the news crews ask for some visuals. They request to be able to do interviews with some of those prospective Asian buyers.

So what happened next?

MAC President Cameron McNeill claims he doesn't know, so let's try and piece it together.

“We’re trying to understand how this happened right now, and so I’m just trying my best to be open with you and just say that I’m very sorry that it happened,” McNeill maintained that the theme of the story – that Lower Mainland condo sites saw a spike in Chinese buyers around Lunar New Year – was completely true.“I think that the ladies probably fit the profile of the story,” he said. “At the moment I don’t know whose idea that was; I don’t even know if they took it upon themselves to make that up.”
From the Globe and Mail:
“All I can say is that I deeply apologize for having misled the media for being there,” said Mr. McNeill, who said he was out of town over the Family Day long weekend, when the news segments aired. “We were busy and I don’t know if the girls were put up to it, or just put on the spot, or if it happened spontaneously.
From the Vancouver Sun:
“I don’t know all the details about what precisely happened that day. I want to get to the bottom of this. I don’t know if it was an overzealous employee or if this happened in a formalized way.”
That last quote an important one.  Did it happen in a formalized way?

Let me ask you this, dear reader. Take a look at our primary players for a moment.

Look at the way they are dressed.

Do these two young, successful, western women - who work as real estate agents - look to you like they came to their office that morning prepared to sell condos to their clients?

No... they are dressed to portray a stereotype.  A western stereotype - of Chinese kids from wealthy Asian families.

The insinuation from the public apology is that a couple of employees, when faced with legitimate buyers who backed out of appearing before TV cameras at the last minute, stepped up to the plate and 'play-acted' something that was would have happened anyway.

It was an impromptu thing. A spontaneous action.

So why are Chris and Amanda dressed that way? Why are they already dressed as stereotypical Asian buyers, caricatures who can now so easily step up and assume that role?

Maybe there was a legitimate couple that did back out (I don't think so, but I will explore this in another post). 

Look at the other sales staff at Maddox that day... the ones who are actually playing the role of sellers.  Are they dressed up as Asian caricatures in honour of CNY to pander to wealthy Chinese buyers?  Of course not.  Any realtor who tried that stunt would instantly offend their customers who would immediately walk out.

CBC-TV reporter Matthew Black makes it clear. While the media were at the event, he asked Maddox staff for help in finding a Chinese buyer to do an interview.  One couple suddenly decides they don't want to do interviews for the two camera crews, so Maddox staff ask Chris and Amanda (who are initially reluctant, but then acquiesce) to step in.

So we ask the question again.

If Chris and Amanda are MAC realtors at the presentation centre that day to sell condos when they see their company's photo op suddenly going bad and (on their own) they decided to do an impromptu ad-lib; how is it that they are already dressed in costume, milling in the background, willing to step up to the plate and act out the role?

Is it because that entire presentation centre is already packed with 'fake buyers' who are actually MAC employees?

At the very least it seems Chris and Amanda are there to pose as background props for the media presentation, creating the impression for the press (and the public) that the myth of the Asian buyer during CNY is alive and thriving.

And if that's the case, it means MAC set out in a premeditated fashion to fake the visual (and thus, the news) regardless of the legitimate buyer backing out.

This whole charade appears a lot more formalized than McNeill is admitting to.

The more you scrutinize it, the more questions you have.

And... oh yeah... wasn't Melanie Briggs' background in Entertainment Television?


Click 'comments' below to contribute to this post.

Please read disclaimer at bottom of blog.


  1. You are really stretching this out and the conjecture is only hurting your valid points before. Why don't you go to the centre with a camera/mic/whatever and ask them? Instead of cyber-stalking and bullying these people why don't you actually do some investigative work rather than rely on anonymous blogger conjecture? You did good before... don't blow it with these last two articles!

    1. Its a blog, get a life. This guy isn't being paid to research the facts.. All research starts with a hypothesis so he can write whatever he likes :)

    2. Are you Amanda, Chris, or Melanie? The rest of us appreciate Whisperer taking time to dissect your media fraud. This has been going on long enough and it is about time someone exposes you for your deceitful practices.

    3. I say keep on 'stretching this out'. This is probably the most damning piece of evidence about some of the corruption to come from the of the Bubble Blogs - and the fact that heavily pro-RE news sources have picked up the story just shows what a decent job you did on acting on your hunch.

      If you could uncover some sort of evidence showing that 'HAM' buyers constitute less than 5% of the market in Vancouver, that'd be great as well - take the myths down one at a time!

    4. "Why don't you go to the presentation centre with a camera/mic/whatever and ask them?"

      LOL. Do you really think the company will allow any undesignated employees to act as spokespeople now after what happened? It would be a futile effort. They are all saying as little as possible and besides, it's irrelevant because CBC saw a handful of staff in the centre when they arrived. It's clear that their was complicity from a group of employees who did nothing to stop the shenanigan.

    5. The local real estate industry and local media has been 'stretching' this bubble out for far too long. With fake stats and fake asians. And your upset about two blog posts?

    6. Totally agree with your comment Joe! Two thumbs up. Power to the people for unearthing the truth instead of spouting off real estate hype.

    7. I think there'll be many MAC/RE trollers on this site saying that this story is blown out of proportion. Watch out, they'll blow smoke in your eyes, divert your attention and with a sleight of hand, make you forget this.
      Dear editor: don't let this go. We are behind you.

  2. Disagree completely - there are a lot of unanswered questions and without additional digging they won't be answered.

    An Observer

    1. Unless Cameron has the balls to come clean.

      I think it's sad that he's burying his head in the sand and hasn't been more proactive to draw this fiasco to a conclusion. In the meantime, there is a "truth vacuum" and people are filling it with speculation. The company is inadvertently adding fuel to the fire by taking this measured, cautious approach.

      This is akin to ripping off a bandaid - it will hurt a lot initially but once it's done, it's over and done with, with nothing else left to do.

      Cameron: Tell the truth, tell it all, tell it fast.

  3. Agree. And if this was planned in advance, McNeill had to have known about it. Which means he lied in his apology too!

  4. Why hasn't McNeill had a press conference announcing what happened and who was responsible?

  5. Found this humorous article...

    I've posted a comment linking to Google results of "MAC Marketing Admits"

    No surprise my comment is awaiting moderation.. wonder if they will approve it.. Ya right!...LOL

    1. Nice link. I posted comment below. Doubt it will get past moderation.

      Amanda Lee says:

      Yes. The above article is true. My sister and I are from China and will buy many, many condos while we are here this week. With help from our parents.

      Yes, we are from China.

      Yes, we are sisters.

      No we don’t work for Mac Market Solutions.

  6. To comment 1: He's telling us the house is on fire and what you get from this article is that he's not representing the color of the flames accurately??!!

    Far too late for individuals involved. There should be criminal charges and fines and lawsuits followed by lengthy societal boycotts of anything these people are associated with to ensure bankruptcy and a lesson that restores order and states that it is not acceptable to hurt others in business.

  7. When supply and demand forces are not working in favor of the RE industry/media, their job refocuses into faking the demand end of the equation.

  8. So your first poster is probably a MAC employee or "Facebook Friend" of one of them.

    Fame is so fleeting but lies last a life time. Guess 2 maybe 3 of these ladies will be looking for jobs at Target soon.

    When you get a mention on Garth Turner's blog then you have your teeth in something. Now it you could just drag it into the daylight for a while I hope it will put a dent int he spring "liars parade of real estate sales" that would have sprung up sooner if not for this article and follow-up.


  9. "I think that the ladies probably fit the profile of the story" is probably the most damning quote. He's basically saying hey I provided you what you came to see what's the problem?

    Last time the CBC came there one of my star Realtors told you that recent stock market volatility would push people to buy even more downtown condos (triple the amount of activity! vs. last year's double).

    The financially illeterate reporter didn't even question it, despite the fact that the stock market has dramatically outperformed Downtown Vancouver condos over the past 6 months, we can lie and no one ever catches us!

    These realtor spivs need to get taken down a few notches, unregulated snake oil salesmen responsible for handling the single largest purchases most people will ever make. Competition Canada is stil asleep at the wheel.

  10. The one girl did a good job faking a chinese accent. .... Practse makes perfect

  11. This post is interesting because i had the same suspicions when I watched the segment. The girls were meticulously "dolled up" to be on TV.

    In my past TV experience, female guests always lean toward strategically selecting a pop of bright colour in the wardrobes. These girls had perfect red lipstick, hair, clothes and make-up. Compare and contrast that to the real buyers in the CBC b-roll footage that were looking at the display model (and declined to be interviewed). They look more casual and unkempt.

    Can we prove they also faked their accent? If that's the case, it must have taken some advance practice.

    1. Chris Lee in real life is Korean. She either speaks perfect English or with a Korean accent.

  12. Who is Nic Jenson and what is his title and role at MAC Marketing Solutions? What is his statement on what happened, given that was there?

  13. For this to occur - the TV interview with prospective clients - the top management would be completely informed upfront. How many TV media recordings would be required to the point of becoming blase for MAC Marketing that Mr. McNeill is not in the loop? Infinity.

    I am actually sorry for the two 'Chinese prospective clients' who got suckered into this fake interview. They are taking the hit by being obedient employees.

    1. A segment that was scheduled to air on prime-time news too, at that. I used to do PR for several reputable developers (Intrawest was one of them with some high profile projects).

      In my dealings with real estate developers/marketers (some who still have stellar industry reputations today), this sort of deceit and fraud was non-existent, never even considered. Everything we did involved honest communications.

      Whenever there was a media interview, the protocol involved informing several key people but the key person always had a VP title of some sort. He was media trained in advance of project launch (even a refresher course to calm his/her nerves and practice being in front of a camera) and if I had booked media interviews, the VP and several senior level individuals knew about it.

      I find this story mind boggling and the only conclusion I can draw is that this sort of thing is a trickle-down effect from the top leadership who instilled the wrong values/ethics in his employees to proceed with something like this.

      Otherwise, why would all the presentation centre sales staff comply with this shenanigan the day-of? They thought it was okay and never thought twice about it. It's mind-boggling.

  14. Going out on a limb, indeed. Quotes from Cam in previous articles.

    Beijing-based developer opens first B.C. project
    Gold, Kerry. The Globe and Mail [Toronto, Ont] 01 Oct 2011: S.6.

    Marketer Cameron McNeill says the luxury project has already generated major interest by Chinese buyers who are looking to settle down in Vancouver. They are not buyers interested in speculative investment, he says.

    "I would go out on a limb and say we are going to be half sold out this weekend - this is the Mercedes Benz of real estate," Mr. McNeill said. "The majority of buyers would be of Chinese descent. What's happening in Vancouver right now is that ... a high percentage of people who come from China are making homes here. They have businesses. They have kids in school. And they are buying homes.

    "They are becoming a part of the melting pot of our city. It's important that people understand this is not offshore money."

    Big drop predicted for Vancouver real estate prices The National - CBC Television Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (Sep 20, 2012)

    The fact of the matter is in Vancouver you can today buy a condominium, you can rent it out and you will have 40 people lining up to try to rent that condominium. They'll be paying you a very, very high and a fair rent. If you have that much desire for people to live in a condominium, you know, I think that the market's got no problem sustaining itself.

    Blah, blah, blah. Touts the same hype all the time. Credibility out the window now.

  15. I think there'll be many MAC/RE trollers on this site saying that this story is blown out of proportion. Watch out, they'll blow smoke in your eyes, divert your attention and with a sleight of hand, make you forget this.
    Dear editor: don't let this go. We are behind you.

  16. Love this expose. I bet all of these "spontaneous" events were successful ploys to panic the locals into buying. This is dishonest to the Chinese people as well, as they are not all in a situation where their parents buy them over priced luxury real estate "if they like it". So there are many victims who will find out their bank is not their friend in time, and these sleazy people are liable. Not much will come of it I believe, just a reminder to the viewers how incredibly lame their reporters have become, or corrupt if they were complicit, which may not be too much of a stretch as well..

  17. "Otherwise, why would all the presentation centre sales staff comply with this shenanigan the day-of? They thought it was okay and never thought twice about it. It's mind-boggling."

    totally mind-boggling, i bet if you were to dig deeper you'd find that all the people in that video worked for mac, including the two that supposedly declined to be interviewed. I doubt anyone other than macs employees (besides film crew) were in that showroom.

    it is frustrating that we haven't received any explanation from wtf?

  18. Are the MAC staff busy finding new jobs / careers yet? It would be easy for young Amanda to start fresh in another field, but can't say the same for everybody..

  19. I posted a comment about MAC in my FB and received several replies from friends who said the recent media blow-up doesn't surprise them. They had bad experiences with MAC during their home-hunting days...

  20. Drove my a real estate sign this evening for a new development slated to go up, saw the developer's name (Cressey) and below that "Mac Marketing Solutions". Makes me sad that they are going to be doing the marketing of a real estate project in my neighborhood. Boo MAC! You've gone from hero to zero in my books.

  21. The focus of energy right now needs to be on what laws were broken. If MAC was a publicly traded entity, or represented a publicly traded company there would be enormous fines and jail time. Manipulation of the stock market is illegal, and I don't see how the RE market is any different. It's just a question of what the laws are. It's so painfully obvious how complicit everyone is in the bubble: developers, marketers, the banks. What is it going to take for these people to be held responsible, and does this happen when the knife hits the floor, or before, after?

    In other news I spent some quality time in Richmond today. What a crap hole.

  22. I say good for you! Keep it coming. This story is entertaining. I've been watching from across the pond for a while now and can not believe what the last 7-8 years have done to Metro Vancouver and the lower mainland. Over the years, whenever I have had a chance to visit, it has been impossible to have conversations without the main topic being real estate. I like how the price appreciation (especially those who bought 6-8 years ago) is the result of "Donald Trump" like vision and a keen eye for real estate investment. Not cheap credit and herd mentality. So far most countries that got caught up in rapid real estate appreciation have come down to earth. Maybe this will be the turning point for Vancouver speculation. I look forward to seeing how the rest of this story plays out. I also look forward to a visit when real estate does not dominate every conversation. There is more to life than a 600 square foot, half million dollar condo....or am I the crazy one?

  23. I know real estate marketing firms and I'd wager that you all are putting waaaaaaay too much credit on MAC's shoulders. It wouldn't surprise me if the truth were that Mr. McNeil was out of town and his uneducated and overzealous employees took it upon themselves to do the deed. More, it wouldn't surprise me if Ms. "Speaks a lot" Lee (Not Amanda) was the one who thought it was a good idea and came up with it. Amanda doesn't say anything... just goes along for the ride. She doesn't speak, doesn't "ooh" or "ahhh", and just holds a brochure. How much you want to bet they couldn't get a real buyer to talk and "Big Sis Lee" said "I'll do it!"

    Her lines are all stereotypical marketing fluff, her confidence shows, and now she may be responsible for Mr. McNeil and senior staff not having policies in place/enforced for how to deal with media. Remember, this is a marketing company that has gotten by on a bold market. BOSA, on the other hand, is a developer that is much more in tune and developed as a corporation with more to risk. They clearly are more refined as a business and the woman who speaks on camera appeared more real... nothing spectacular, just the truth and taking out a sign to the road, some candies, and no fake Asian buyers (but hoping).

    I bet Mr. McNeil has lost sleep on this and there are heads that will roll. His employees have cost him dearly.

  24. You know this is a MAC employee^