Guerrilla Marketing

Why Canada's housing market is destined to slump


Mon, Apr 11, 2011 Page B8

(Original Article here:)

George Athanassakos is a professor of finance and holds the Ben Graham Chair in Value Investing at the Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario

The resilience of the Canadian housing market has confounded experts. While other property markets around the world have plunged, real estate prices in this country continue to reach new heights.

If the Canadian housing market does falter, the impact on the economy will be profound. Consumer spending and housing investment will feel the pain, and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp., which provides mortgage loan insurance, will face substantial losses.

Some believe that low interest rates, solid banks, a growing economy, abundant natural resources and a relatively conservative mortgage market (at least compared to the United States) will all continue to support Canadian housing prices. Optimists argue that the run up in Canadian home prices has been based on strong demand from homeowners, while construction in the U.S. ran well ahead of actual demand and was fueled by speculators.

But there's another side to this debate. I believe that Canada's high house prices in relation to incomes, combined with record household debt levels and over investment in residential construction, will spur a severe correction in the real estate market.

Home prices are simply way out of line, especially when viewed in relation to household income. The ratio of house prices to income has historically averaged about 3.5 in Canada. It now stands at about 5.5. It is difficult to see how income growth in the future can bring this ratio close to the historical average within any reasonable period - so it follows that house prices will have to decline.

Signs of stress are already evident, especially when you look at household debt levels. In recent years, the gap between house prices and income has been bridged through borrowing. The average Canadian family debt hit $100,000 in 2010. About 17,400 households are behind in their mortgage payments, an increase of nearly 50 per cent since the start of the last recession.

The current consensus is that Canada's real estate market has achieved a "soft" landing and that prices will flat line but not decline substantially over the next several years. I disagree. The housing market is already in bubble territory. Average house prices have doubled in the last 10 years, while rents have risen by only about 30 per cent. The ratio of house prices to rent is higher in Canada than in any other developed country.

An even more powerful indicator also points to a severe housing correction in Canada. Residential housing investment as a percentage of GDP was 6.48 per cent in 2009, down slightly from 6.76 per cent in 2008, after peaking at 7.13 per cent in 2007. The previous peaks were at 7.26 per cent in 1976 and 7.18 per cent in 1989 - and we know what happened to Canada's housing market in the early 1980s and early 1990s. After residential housing investment as a percentage of GDP peaked in the previous two cycles, the housing market crashed within a few years.

I believe we are running out of time. By way of a comparison, this ratio peaked at about 6.1 per cent in the U.S. in the mid-2000s at the height of its housing bubble, and toward the end of the 1980s in Japan, when that country was nearing the end of its own property boom. Both countries experienced sharp declines in housing prices soon afterward. (The ratio stands at 6.0 per cent in China at the end of 2010 - no wonder there is talk of a housing bubble there.)

Canada is past the point of no return. What has propped up the housing market in Canada and delayed the correction is artificial demand from Asian investors. It is not clear when this demand will dry up, but it eventually will. Once it does, watch out.

The ratio of residential investment to GDP has provided a powerful leading indicator of housing corrections around the world and in Canada in the past. The question is, why would it not work this time around? I'm willing to listen.

More articles by George here:

Consumers take control of brands on social media with ‘mutant ads’

Sites such as YouTube host videos that often reveal public perception — good or bad

Vancouver Sun May 12, 2011

A commercial shows a young woman extolling the rich flavour of Starbucks’ Frappuccino. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love a frappuccino on a hot summer day,” she gushes. Then a frown. A frappuccino just costs so darn much. How much? Well, enough to feed a child in a Sudanese refugee camp for a week, she says.

Hit pause.

Why would Starbucks make a commercial emphasizing the view that their costly beverage is an overindulgence?

Short answer: They didn’t. The commercial is a fake, part of a growing trend of “mutant ads,” or mock ads created by consumers and posted on social media channels, according to a recent Simon Fraser University study.

An international group of researchers, including Leyland Pitt and Michael Parent of SFU’s Beedie School of Business, examined four examples of mutant ads posted on YouTube to determine how consumers are transforming brands — whether companies like it or not.

“The consequences, I think, are quite profound,” said Pitt. “Brand managers have lost control of the brand in this environment.”

The study, published in the spring issue of Journal of Advertising, suggests that brand managers will have to pay attention to this new digital wave of advertising and figure out how to respond appropriately.

Negative mock ads like the frappuccino commercial can be potentially very damaging for brands, Pitt said.

“In a way, she’s making fun of us as consumers who are willing to pay these prices, but on the other hand she’s taking a serious dig at Starbucks.”

Researchers examined not only the ads themselves, but the conversations that arose in the comments section on YouTube.

Pitt noted there was a large group of viewers who defended Starbucks, in addition to those who agreed with the video’s message.

Not all mock ads are negative. The study identified three basic motivations that consumers have for creating and broadcasting ads: intrinsic enjoyment, self-promotion and perception change. A slick ad for the Apple iPhone created by a group of directors called “the Consultants” has caught the attention of more than 100,000 viewers since it was uploaded to YouTube in 2007.

The video shows people in New York praising the phone’s features in different languages.

The trend of mock ads is only one part of the growing social media shift, whereby more control is placed in the hands of consumers to shape a brand’s image, Pitt said.

“The best thing companies can do is try to abdicate control of the brand and allow the conversation to happen.”

One common mistake is that brands use social media the same way they would have used traditional advertising, Pitt said.

“You can’t just rush in and say, ‘What we were going to tell you on television we’re going to tell you on Facebook ...’

“You’ve almost got to be invited to be a part of the conversation.”
sample videos here also

Career Scarevertising

"Life’s too short for the wrong job" the message of this brilliant ambient campaign by, a German job search portal.

Think about the interaction in this guerrilla marketing campaign. What's the impact for those looking at themselves in the mirror in the cape.

The campaign, by Scholz and Friends, won Gold at the ADCE Awards 2008.

More marketing stuff at