Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thurs Post #2: Province newspaper first out of gate to expose MAC fraud

Well it seems the Vancouver Province newspaper is the first out of the gate with the MAC Marketing Solutions news fabrication story.

Mac Marketing Solutions admits on Facebook that it had an employee pretend, in local TV news stories about Vancouver real-estate sales, that her parents were coming from China to buy her a condo.

A Vancouver real-estate company is getting the kind of social media buzz they could surely do without, after apparently admitting to a manipulative Chinese New Year marketing scheme.

After an astute blogger noticed something fishy in several TV news stories involving Mac Marketing Solutions, the company was forced to make a statement on its Facebook page.

The blogger alleged “media manipulation” because a Mac Marketing employee appeared to have acted the part of a Chinese investor on two local TV news broadcasts.

The employee — represented as a young woman from China — suggests her parents are on the way to Vancouver to snap up a condo for her.

In a post to the company’s Facebook page under the Mac Marketing Solutions logo, an apparent spokesperson writes: “Chinese New Year is indeed a busy time across many of our communities. Last year at Maddox, we experienced increased sales volume during our Chinese New Year efforts and this year have already sold a number of homes with several more expected. We do admit we should have been more transparent about the fact that a MAC Marketing Solutions employee was included in this story.”

Multiple calls to Mac Marketing Solutions Thursday morning have yet to be returned.

Without a doubt, reporters often field real-estate story pitches and, in recent themes, marketers have focused on the voracious Chinese investor who comes to Vancouver on holiday during Chinese New Year ready to throw down cash.

On Thursday, the Mac Marketing Solutions Facebook page is getting quite a backlash against that narrative, seemingly from young Vancouverites who are fed up with high home prices and excessive greed in the city.

“Mac has admitted to perpetrating a fraud on both CBC and CTV news as well as their viewing public in conjunction to a condo development they are marketing,” Chris Bullard posted Thursday morning.

“They represented one of their employees as an out of town Asian buyer to fuel their marketing hype of the non-existent Asian real-estate invasion in Vancouver. The management of this company has no ethics and deserves to be drummed out of the business. I’m urging the authorities to charge them with fraud.”
The only clarification is that this didn't come from an 'astute blogger,' it came from the local online community in total who continuously shared the information they were finding. 

Kudos to all of you. 

After watching the 'fake' news stories involving yellow helicopters, groupon sales and one day sell outs, it's nice to finally see the media recognize some of the shenanigans that go on.


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  1. That is awesome! Finally a victory over these liars...

    Thanks Whisperer for not letting this story go away.

  2. Well done, this blog was relentless with the coverage and the biggest factor in getting the story out there.

  3. David Baines at the Vancouver Sun should write a piece on this. It's no different than pumping and dumping a stock - fraud is fraud and people can lose money in equities and real estate resulting from dubious practices. The more exposure to this kind of behaviour, the better off we are and perhaps msm can "restore the faith", a little, as there are some great journalists out there.

    1. I doubt that would ever happen.

      I'm curious if anybody contacted him about this story to see what excuse he gives that he can't cover it - when everybody knows the reason is because the developers buy up ad space.

  4. I just hope the TV stations wont be turning a blind eye and reporting this fraud.Its seems they have been to accommodating on the news casts with these RE companies and their bogus stories. There are a lot of advertising dollars involved in all this,and it stinks

  5. How much you wanna bet the players in this all have the common thread of being educated at UBC's Sauder School of Business?

  6. Yeah, I'm waiting for Tsur the Business Prof to explain it all away for me. After all, in a market supported by such STRONG FUNDAMENTALS and LIMITLESS OVERSEAS DEMAND, isn't this kinda cheesy scam a little, ummm...redundant?

    Please explain in 1500 words or less. Extra credits will be given for referring to the market as "balanced" and "strongly supported by fundamentals".....

  7. Could this be the jump-the-shark moment when RE actually starts getting more scrutiny?

  8. Congrad to whisper and all for finally winning one for the bears in the media. Hopefully, the media will report what is real, eg. the housing crash that is happening as we speak.

  9. Nice work! This blog has had a huge impact. Lets hope that the story has some legs and that the myth of hordes of asians buying Vancouver is busted like the sales-man's lie that it is.

  10. I would reiterate my post from last night - there are a lot of players who want to see this story die before the scratch starts getting through the surface. Its highly likely that these parties will ensure this gets blamed on some scapegoat renegade account manager, with MAC issuing apologies downplaying this to a management glitch that it regrets and will ensure is rectified....local rags will then report how quickly and responsibly MAC addressed the situation, and MAC will be restored to its ability to spend advertising dollars... Its up to us to keep the pressure on and not let this disappear so easily.

    1. it's already started!

      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. Regardless, it was wrong and I take full responsibility, on my own shoulders.”


      Mr. McNeill said there have been discussions about the incident within the company but it is not yet known who is behind it.

      “I’m trying my best to figure it out,” he said. “Will there be some heads rolling? I don’t know.”

      When asked if the ploy may lead to terminations at the company, Mr. McNeill said it would depend on the depth of responsibility.

      “If it was blatant and on the hands of one person, then I think there might be some severe repercussions, but it’s hard for me to answer that without knowing all the details surrounding it.”

      He said he is not aware of anything like this having happened at the company before.

    2. "I just don't know how this could've happened! It's likely a spontaneous mutual hallucination. I'll be testing the drinking water immediately and you can bet we're going to fire the plumber."

  11. Cameron McNeill has been interviewed.

  12. Key Marketing did the same thing last April when they attempted the Groupon deal to sell condos.

    Watch at the 1:05 mark. Tara Fluet was a Key staffer at the time.


      And Tara's linkedin profile.

  13. I see it's on the Huffington Post now....

    Nice work, Cam!!

  14. Guys, it's time for you to take your pencils and provide some materials to the Globe and Mail journalist:

    Andrea Woo
    4:50 PM on February 14, 2013

    Hey. I'm still working on the story for overnight. If your friends are open to speaking with me, I'd be happy to listen:

  15. It is hardly surprising that MAC is treating this issue as a management issue that "it regrets" and will "ensure is fixed". A head will roll, and advertising dollars will continue to flow. Tragically, absent a formal investigation, I'm not sure much else can be done without significant resources being allocated to a journalist investigation. And while I have strong suspicions the issue and practices extend well beyond MAC, a lot of vested interests would rather that didn't happen.

    In the meantime, my concern is that this story will turn into a "company fraud" issue, when it is really a door to a much larger issue: standards in real estate marketing, and the enforcement of those standards. Vancouver residents in particular have been sold a constant story over the past decade that offshore investors are driving up the prices, and if you don't play ball you'll be left out on the street. And yet neither realtors, the REBGV, nor any civic or provincial governmental agency has to my knowledge provided a single number or piece of data to support these claims. All we are given is anecdotal evidence of prospective foreign buyers who are here shopping. No one in Vancouver would dispute that offshore investors have bought up a lot of real estate in Vancouver. But the issue is how real estate promoters and marketers are framing their presence in the market. The story is that they have deep pockets, don't care how much they pay, so if you don't bid high you will be priced out. Just as plausible, is that the story of overseas investors with bottomless pockets is inducing buyers to make much higher bids on properties than they would otherwise make - and that this myth has created a self-perpetuating bidding war over the past decade. In this scenario, it is not offshore investors that have driven up the prices, but the myth of bottomless pocket rival bidders. Convenient that nobody keeps any stats that might test this. Looking back to the MAC story, it is not simply that employees posed as potential investors, but that they posed as investors who were "candy shopping", with mom and dad coming later to foot the bill - perpetuating this bottomless-pocket, fear-inducing bid-promoting myth.

    In my view, I don't see why realtors and real estate marketers are not held to the same standards of disclosure as stock promoters. I think this story highlights the glaring lack of due diligence exercised by the investment community and media when digesting information from people whose sole job is to inflate the prices of what they are selling. And why this lack of due diligence? Because a culture has been carefully developed by real estate promoters that has buyers operating out of fear and hope, rather than reasoned and informed analysis. In my view, realtors and real estate marketers should be prohibited from commenting in any way on who a bidder might be bidding against (including offshore pockets) without providing full disclosure of verifiable information backing those claims. This story highlights the need for that.