The New Zealand Herald judged to have misled consumers in Herald Homes Advert

by Alistair Helm in

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this week published its Complaints Board’s decision against NZME., publisher of the NZ Herald. The board adjudicated that the Herald Homes advert claiming that “On average properties sell for 20% more when the marketing includes the Herald Homes…” was likely to mislead consumers.

I filed the complaint with the ASA following the articles I wrote in October when the advertising campaign commenced (Can advertising generate extra sales price for property / Sale price premium cannot be claimed by advertising alone). I should highlight that at the time I was self-employed. Subsequently I have taken a role with Trade Me Property and this complaint is in no way related to Trade Me Property.

I submitted a detailed complaint to the ASA supporting my claim that the advertising was misleading and potentially deceptive. I judged it to be misleading, as the advertising made no reference to the fact that the research upon which the advert was based only examined million dollar plus homes over a selected six month period. I further stated that their claim could potentially be deceptive as the analysis of the data, whilst proving correlation between advertising and selling price, could not definitely prove causation between advertising and sale price given the multitude of factors and variables involved in selling a property.

The outcome is gratifying – the complaint has been upheld and the NZ Herald has been found to have undertaken an advertising campaign which was judged to be likely to mislead consumers. However, the process taken to reach this outcome and the remedies available to the ASA leave me feeling somewhat frustrated.

The ASA is an industry organisation which seeks to uphold industry standards but is unable to exercise any financial remedies or penalties. The options are limited to forcing advertisers to withdraw and cease to undertake such advertising, matched to a published retraction.

The NZ Herald, in their response to the complaint, stated that:

The Herald Homes advertising campaign has finished its run. It is no longer present on bus shelters, is not scheduled to run in any further print media, and has also concluded its run on all NZME digital channels such that it is no longer accessible online (eg, via

I consider this a poor excuse or justification. However the most surprising component of the response from the NZ Herald was their attempt to offload responsibility for the advertising to its research company (TNS Research):

TNS Research were (accordingly) asked to provide their confirmation that the claim and explanatory footnote to the advertising were: accurate; and capable of substantiation based on the research undertaken by them.

NZME received confirmation from TNS Research prior to publication of the Herald Homes advertising campaign, that the claim and explanatory footnote were accurate and statistically supported by their research.

In my opinion the NZ Herald has a responsibility beyond simply asking the research company for confirmation. The ASA Complaints Board found the NZ Herald had breached the Basic Principle #4 of the Code of Ethics. This found that the NZ Herald advertising had not been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and society.

The advertising campaign is over and sadly the NZ Herald has achieved what it wanted to achieve – attempting to convince agents and vendors that the NZ Herald Homes advertising can deliver a 20% price premium over CV. Sadly that claim was misleading but the NZ Herald has banked any competitive advantage this has given them between October and December (the strongest listings period of the year).

My only wish now is that the NZ Herald and in fact all publications seeking to attract advertising dollars from agents and vendors take seriously their responsibility to act within the ASA guidelines and Code of Ethics and not to undertake misleading or deceptive advertising.



QR Codes in real estate - a missed opportunity?

by Alistair Helm in ,


QR codes have been around a long time, infact they were invented over 20 years ago as a means of monitoring production lines in the automobile industry. Over the years I have heard it said that "this year is going to be the year of the QR code in real estate". How it will revolutionise the industry and empower the consumer. 

In my mind and in the context of real estate it is best seen as a technology looking for a solution.

I find it interesting that it is being used in very much a piece-meal fashion by some companies in the industry - a recent copy of the NZ Herald Home supplement showed QR codes on listings from Premium and Harcourts.

QR codes 1.png

The QR code on a printed ad makes sense - it can be a great "call-to-action" for access to more details of a property and that is what it does. What I find interesting, and if I may say a bit dumb is that the URL (the web address) behind the QR is not a unique link that tracks the people using the QR code but takes users straight to the listing on the company website. Try it for yourself below:


The missed opportunity by these real estate companies is the ability to analyse metrics of the users of this QR code. To be able to track how many people actually used the QR code - when they used it and from which publication, what actions they carried out on the site once they landed there, what device they used to access the information. All of this, is vital information for the real estate company to assist the vendor and buyer.

All of this capability is free and readily accessible. I created the red QR code at the top of this article at QR Stuff and I also used the Google URL shortener which provides tracking metrics, so if anyone decides to try the QR code above then I can see the details, as you can here.

Given that in principle the QR code is the bridge between the printed media and the digital media in the context of real estate and the real estate industry is so fond of telling clients how important print advertising is, I am somewhat surprised that more of the print media does not undertake to create QR codes for all listings as a free service for agents and use the data to reinforce the true value of the print advert!

The other utilisation of QR codes has been on street signs for property for sale, there has not been extensive application of this in this country but my recent commentary about the UK real estate market showed a sign with a QR code. Again it makes sense as it can provide instant digital content without having to try to punch in a lengthy URL code for the listing.

However the process of accessing a QR code on a printed sign is lengthy - 6 steps in all

  • Switch on smartphone
  • Tap QR scanner app
  •  Tap scan
  • Hold phone to sign
  • Confirm link
  • Access to content


Compare that to using a smartphone app like

  • Switch on smartphone
  • Tap app
  • Tap 'Near Me'
  • Tap the listing flag
  • Access to content

5 steps so a little shorter. However the benefit of the app is the ease of use and the contextual information - once in the app you have all the other listings around you and the content is in a form best used to a smartphone as opposed to being on a webpage on a mobile device. You also in the case of the QR code need to get out of the car in the pouring rain and stand close up to the sign and focus the camera on the phone whilst passer-bys wonder if they should question your suspicious activity!

QR codes are a smart technology - I do suspect that they are not a perfect solution for real estate and I sense that there is better solution just around the corner.