Monday, February 18, 2013

MAC-gate: What actually happened here? It's time for a press conference to se the record straight - Updated

The more you examine the failed MAC Marketing Solutions PR media event (and subsequent media apology), the more you come away with the belief that this was a scripted, planned and practiced event.

It certainly was not the actions of one "overzealous employee", as MAC President Cameron McNeill has suggested.

Everyone has focused on the two central players in the fraud, Amanda Lee and the fictitious 'Chris Lee'. But this saga involves many more MAC employees.

What about the role played by the lead MAC representative in attendance that day, Nic Jensen?

He knew who his two employees were and he watched the charade unfold without saying anything.

And what of the blonde MAC sales representative moving the 2 fake MAC buyers through the display suite for the benefit of the press?  She knew who they were:

And who better to set it all up than Melanie Briggs, MAC Marketing PR rep and a former Global-TV Inside Entertainment reporter? CBC reporter Matthew Black says he was told Melanie was going to be in attendance, what is her role here?

And then there are "the girls" themselves.

Why are two MAC realtors, presumably at the presentation centre to sell condos, already dressed in costume as stereotypical young Asian buyers?  When the press arrives, they are milling about in the display suite, already in character and prepared to play out their role. If this was "an impromptu" action, why weren't they originally introduced to the news teams as MAC sales agents?

The most important player in this charade is the fictitious "Chris Lee". 

Her performance is nothing short of impressive:

From the excellent CBC-TV coverage of the fraud, we are told:
Kirk Williams: 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 Chris and Amanda play coy with the press initially and then emerge to engage the waiting press in their charade. It's a cat and mouse game that certainly guarantees the press will go gently on them.  Especially if 'Chris' is nervous about the lies she is about to tell.

But 'Chris' shines in her role as an Asian home buyer:

It's a convincing performance.  Too convincing, we say. Especially since we now know it's all a fraud.

Her accent is great.  She hits all the talking points. All while under the glare of lights from two television camera crews. It's an outstanding display of calm and collectiveness while spinning her fable.  And it's all supposed to be an impromptu, ad-lib performance? 

I doubt many of the junior anchors on any of the local TV networks could display a higher level of composure during live coverage of a news event.

If this charade was ad-libed, this girl missed her calling. 

It has been five days now since the story of MAC's deception exploded in the news. It is clear numerous MAC employees were involved. MAC President Cameron McNeill has had ample time to investigate and ascertain what happened here.

It is time to end the rampant speculation on the internet by calling a press conference and providing a detailed accounting of what transpired.

McNeill owes an explanation to the media (whom MAC duped), to the broader real estate community (whose reputation MAC has irrevocably damaged), and to the general public (the ultimate targets of this fraud).

We need to know exactly what happened, who was involved, how much of it was planned and who knew about it in advance.


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Please read disclaimer at bottom of blog.


  1. Obviously pre-planned.

    Cam obviously knew about this.

    Everyone on site that day knew about it.

    Someone posted on MAC's facebook page that the Competiton Bureau has been contacted about this fraud. Maximum fines are $10,000,000 for a corporation, $750,000 for individuals.

  2. Equally to blame are the over zealous Global and CTV Media who make the story a story.

    No clarification to the story, no apology, no comment on how they will do things better and not continually be duped (or push the agenda, it's hard to tell which one) of people like the sleazy Cam Good and now Cameron McNeill.

  3. The Vancouver real estate market, especially the condo market, has rapidly slowed down and the real descent has yet to begin. Condo development companies such as Solterra, Anthem, Cressey, Embassy, and Epta have condo projects whose sales are entrusted to an admitted manipulative, deceptive marketing company. In a severely slowing condo market, these companies may regret hitching their multi-million condo project wagons to the "MAC Marketing Solution". For sure, it's time for MAC to do the full Jimmy Swaggart confessional.

  4. Good job with exposing these frauds..however I am sick of reading about them. Back to the real message Whisperer....the whole reason WHY they lied! The market is going down and MSM keeps feeding us BS from those who profit from real estate.

  5. I am not sick about reading about them. We need to keep up with this story. Sounds like you work for Mac^

  6. Nope. Glad they got exposed. I just do not think it is going to stop the news from continuing with real estate stories that are one sided. Too many families are getting the wrong information and will pay the ultimate price.

  7. You should be dubbed "Truth Whisperer" You are the most refreshingly honest blogger I have come across. It is a shame that forces are trying to silence you. Why the retraction about Chris Lee? She is dishonest. This story could be the factor that propels the industry (condo marketing especially) to be scrutinized. It is very important work you have done.

  8. Please stop abusing and bullying the MAC employees. They are just as much a victim as Mr. McNeil. A few broken eggs in the carton need to be replaced... that is all. The real estate industry is an honourable and hard working bunch who only look out for doing the best for their clients. When a true buyer was uncomfortable going on camera, an employee stepped in for them and behaved EXACTLY the way buyers do. Should there been a disclaimer or a clearer communication? Sure. But let us not forget the media is equally at fault for wanting to run a story based exactly on what was presented. The English media got the helicopter story wrong and they got this story wrong. That is all. Please stop the harassment of these hard working individuals.

    1. Oh please! What a load of clap-trap. You're obviously a MAC employee who's here to true and squelch the perfectly justified outrage at the shady and shameful tactic you used to manipulate unsuspecting stooges into buying. You showed no respect for the general public as you tried to dupe them so why should we cut you any slack?

      I don't consider you hard working or honourable. And neither does the vast majority of the public. And it's not harassment to expose your lies and deceit. Or to ask you to justify yourselves.

      Maybe you couldn't find a genuine buyer to speak on camera because the whole 'CNY buying frenzy' is a figment of your imagination.

    2. "Please stop abusing and bullying the Mac employees"
      Are you freaking kidding me.These con artists have been caught in action and they should charged to the full extent of the law.The only way to get the public trust back is to set an example of them.

    3. This makes about as much sense as pleading people not to "harass" the hockey rioters after they have been exposed.

    4. This is quite possibly the dumbest comment i've ever read. Do you work for MAC?

    5. "An employee stepped in for them and behaved EXACTLY the way buyers do."

      Your comment is idiotic and reinforces to me the kind of people MAC hires...Honey, you just don't get it, do you? So sad.

    6. When a true buyer was uncomfortable going on camera, an employee stepped in for them and behaved EXACTLY the way buyers do.
      So what you're saying is:

      "Why worry what the truth is, just as long the condo marketing firm provides viewers with a acted-out scene which matches our view of reality"?

    7. Wrong. Realtards are going after their own interest-more sells more commission at any cost

  9. During the condo gold rush of the past few years, these marketing companies had to do minimal work as people actually lined up to accomplish single day sellouts ("I buy three, my husband buy three"). The condos basically sold themselves in a bubble market. However, now that the market has dramatically slowed, the gravy train has also significantly slowed. As a marketing company, you can try to sell the product but few if any purchasers appear on the downside of the bubble. Playing the HAM card at CNY seems like a last gasp attempt at convincing the public that a demand side still exists in this rapidly deteriorating market. The gravy train has quickly derailed and these companies are scrambling to stay on track. Smells of desperation tactics.

  10. It appears the MAC Marketing "Solution" is fraud.

    This is their business solution on how to effectively sell condos. Create a charade. Propagate new myths. Lie to the population. Intent to deceive. Willful intent to commit fraud.

    The question is how to expose the media, because they are the enablers of this fraud. It seems they are content to just roll the cameras for whatever message the RE industry has for them to send out.

    1. Yes the media accommodates and turns a blind eye to these fraudulent RE practices because of the advertising dollars involved,whether its TV adds or advertising in the Home Section of the newspapers .

    2. Maybe the community papers play this game, but the major dailies do not. Perhaps the shallow New Homes section publishes fluff but the Business sections do not. They look for legitimate news. I am in PR, I have pitched both sections numerous times, and my story ideas have been accepted and declined on behalf of clients. They do NOT accept stories because a company buys advertising. There are far bigger customers in advertising that project marketers -- Rogers, Telus, the big banks, large retailers.

    3. BullCrap! The Vancouver Sun and Province make millions from the Condo developers and their full page ads. The full page furniture and kitchen ads. The realtor ads. The pullout sections. Global 6pm news is sponsored by ReMax. CKNW and the rest are filled with ads for HELOCS. The Georgia Straight seems to exist solely on condo ads.

      A few of them were forced to acknowledge the MAC scam because of the sheer social media velocity. But they are all out with their pumping advertorial style of repeating every press release from the GVREB, BCREA, UID CREA.

      After the initial shock of getting caught the trolls will be out in force on this site. and the other blogs. They've already attacked Reddit attempting to ban any real estate stories from /r/vancoubver.

    4. I mentioned "Home Section of the newspapers" not Business Section.Regardless the income is still there and that is what the problem is.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Anyone know if this fraud has been exposed to the chinese sites in China as well. At least the potential chinese buyer should be aware that they are also paying for the scam as well.

  13. Three things cannot be long hidden : the sun,the moon and the truth....Buddah said.

  14. Yes but the do their utmost to spin the lies and hide the truth as long as possiblereal estate trolls and their legion of hangers on will

  15. MAC is in damage control mode....hired legal help will spint things a bit. MAC is sorry it was exposed, but that is where the "sorry" ends.

  16. Whisperer, you are doing fabulous work here. Please keep it up. I fear though that Cameron is just waiting for the general public to move on and forget about this entire affair (and that appears to be what is happening right now). Silence is the best move for MAC right now, not coming clean.

  17. Everyone in the Sales Centre knew about this shenanigan and did nothing about it...before, during or after it happened.

    Well done showing the blonde MAC sales rep and Nic Jensen. It proves that Cameron's media response was dishonest. He played dumb about what happened, and even if he truly didnt know (which is so unlikely), the players are all captured on camera!

    What does old Cammo say about this now? This behaviour and brazen culture stems from the top and pervades lower ranks. So disrespectful to the public and the media.

    It's interesting...the longer he lies low, the less credible his company looks. Who on earth is counseling MAC? Anyone know who the company's external advisors are -- PR, legal, executive coaching, sales, etc? Surely they were invited to the Cube Awards or something.

  18. The silence is deafening !

  19. I asked my friends in BC if they knew anything about this and none had heard. Clearly, the only ones who care are the bubble bloggers. MAC's best response is to say nothing, stay quiet, and continue business as usual which is apparently what they are doing.

    1. Exactly! No one here in BC cares..this is not on people's minds..But..since 70% of people own homes..they should care! Until MSM starts telling the other side of the one will listen..too late by then

    2. The 70% who own homes are saying "Nya nya nya I can't hear you. Asians want to pay $3 million for my tear down".

      It's amazing how deafness can be selective. I have spoken with a few home owning folks who are surprised to hear prices are falling, then change the subject. Your friends didn't want to hear.

      It's lonely in the 30%.

  20. To answered question above 'Anyone know if this fraud has been exposed to the chinese sites in China as well. At least the potential chinese buyer should be aware that they are also paying for the scam as well.'.

    Yes, it is on Chinese newspaper as well online major Chinese online websites over the weekend!

    As a Chinese from Mainland China and also actively looking for the property to purchase, I am sure I won't buy anything that MAC is their agent and also will do the detailed check myself. Thanks for Whisperer's hard work!

  21. Look, nothing will happen yo MAC. They will continue on and will forget this even happened. The only people that care are the bubble bloggers and we are a small community. We are considered the doomers to the rest of the real estate world. Village Whisperer, i appreciate your work, but I think you're really wasting your time. Nothing will happen here, I bet my balls on this! Any one else feel the same way?

  22. To the person who wrote at 9.48 pm directly above....bearish indeed. The damage to MAC's reputation is immeasurable. I guarantee if the company had conducted a pre-crisis and post-crisis market survey, you'd find a huge change in:

    - public sentiment (leaning toward the strongly negative)

    - attitude

    - behaviour (meaning that buyers will be more cautious in trusting anything this company says and act more cautiously in their dealings with them)

    Okay, not convinced? Let's talk dollars and sense.

    Developers may decide to not hire MAC for future projects because they don't want their own company's good name marred with MAC's tarnished reputation. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars will this cost the company in lost future business?

    What about the cost to the company in lost productivity, morale, degradation of corporate culture?

    MAC is being investigated by the Real Estate Council (fines would only be $20K and some possible license suspensions) and the Competition Bureau, which could result in significant costs upwards of $1M.

    The legal and other advisory fees that MAC must be incurring is likely costly too.

    1. How will current employees ever seek gainful employment in the future? So what if MAC gives them a letter of commendation. All one has to do is look at the dates of employment and the projects the person worked on, and put two-and-two together.

      And hey, well, if the employee tries to lie about his/her involvement the said potential new employer later investigates and finds out this person was lying (gee, that would be a shocker), this person will lose out on potentially great new employment opportunities.

      No, no Mr. 9:48 pm, I dont think you thought through the various permutations and repercussions. And quite frankly, neither did any of MAC's employees or mgmt when they planned and executed this ridiculous blunder.

    2. I can test to the above: personally feel nauseous and disgusted whenever I drive by a MAC Marketing Solutions real estate project.

    3. Mr 1025
      Employees can always find work in the future in other RE companies.If they chose a different field of work they can delete Mac from their resume and say they left the country for a few years or "took time off to travel the world".I have seen this happen before with co-workers who have been fired ,a couple even for theft .A few years down the road I ran into them again and they have found better higher paying jobs.

    4. Employees being forced to leave MAC Marketing employment off their resume and lie about the gap out of shame of the company's conduct... Yeah, that's sounds brilliant.

      Well, we know already that the MAC employees are all good liars so they can probably pull it off. Brilliant plan.

  23. I tend to agree with the above poster. MAC's biggest ally is time. I think they are staying low key until the public (not blogs like this, but joe public) forgets. Making a public apology or investigation only attracts attention. MAC is waiting for the fire to die out, so we need to keep the flame going. We need to tell our own networks what is going on here. I doubt MSM will do anything proactively and bite the hand that feeds them.

    1. Companies that are guilty, and don't apologize, don't recover. The key for MAC is to craft an apology that doesn't expose them to additional liability. I think this proves to be difficult (because they know they're guilty) so they are doing nothing. Their options are limited. I disagree. The public, the media...all have very long memories.

      The apology provided thus far by MAC falls flat; and hence, to backlash some bloggers, media and supporters are fanning the flames. Sort of a modern day version of medieval public fruit bashing or public hangings.

  24. Vancouver Homeowner mindthink:

    "Fake Asian buyers? Hmmmm sounds bad. But maybe they want to buy my house. Honey, call the realtor. The markets back!"

  25. MAC will just change their name to something else and market condos under a different name. Any suggestions? CAM Marketing...hmm too obvious. How about MacNeil Marketing...or FAB (Fake Asian Buyer) Marketing, no better yet, simply Rennie Marketing will be fine.