Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Homeward Bound’ Powerfully Drives Coldwell Banker’s Biggest Ad

The realty campaign marks the song's first use in a spot

A woman at a train station wearing scrubs and holding a stuffed animal in her purse
A mother trying to get back to her family is one of many who are homeward bound in the real estate agency's largest production ever. Coldwell Banker
Headshot of T.L. Stanley

Coldwell Banker left transactional ads in the dust long ago, moving past the category trope of showing real estate agents shaking hands with new homeowners in front of a “sold” sign.

Instead, the brand has tugged at consumers’ collective heartstrings, focusing for the past several years on its pet rescue program. And now, coinciding with its first rebrand and logo makeover in 40 years, the company taps into the magnetic pull of home and the profound joy of arriving there with a spot set to the classic ballad “Homeward Bound” from Simon & Garfunkel.

The hero ad, running about 80 seconds, took four days to shoot over 10 locations and gathered 50 actors (plus two dogs) for “our biggest-ever production,” said David Marine, Coldwell Banker CMO. With longtime agency Siltanen & Partners, the brand’s goal was inclusivity with its on-screen stars.

“We wanted this spot to be universal,” Marine said. “Diversity was important to us so we took care to show people of all generations, all walks of life and even from a myriad of places across the country. We believe that a message of unity and positivity is so needed right now.”

The campaign, with the tagline, “Guiding you home,” touts the brand’s 114 years in the industry and could be the only commercial use of the lovely pop song, written in 1964 at a U.K. train station by a very homesick Paul Simon. (Rights holders Sony and Universal couldn’t confirm it, but the agency and brand said they couldn’t locate any other needle drops of the original track for marketing purposes).

“We’ve found that emotional, heartfelt storytelling and an iconic song is a winning combination,” Marine said. “‘Homeward Bound’ is one of my personal favorite songs, and we thought it was perfect for this campaign.”

The new work launched on Coldwell Banker’s social media platforms and via a digital billboard outside New York’s Madison Square Garden. Other media plans had to be reshuffled in light of the NCAA’s canceled March Madness tournament. The brand aims to have a significant TV presence, still to be determined, and to boost its streaming spend.

As part of the campaign, Coldwell Banker commissioned a consumer study of millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers. The Harris Poll debunked some popular misconceptions and found that the groups had more commonalities than differences when it comes to real estate. (Millennials were just as likely as boomers to say that home ownership is important—north of 90% for both demos—and that living close to family is a priority.)

A few other gems from the research: Millennials are nearly twice as likely to be swayed by a white picket fence than boomers (13% versus 7%), while they agree with their elders about the importance of living in a safe neighborhood and care only slightly more than boomers or Gen Xers about buying a house close to bars, restaurants and clubs. 

Millennials also pick up the phone to connect to faraway family and friends, in almost identical numbers as boomers and Gen Xers, and don’t blow their cash on avocado toast instead of saving for a down payment. (66% of millennials spent $0 on the trendy snack in 2019).

“There’s a narrative out there that millennials are some exotic species with desires and preferences never encountered before,” Marine said. “And our informed hunch, based on what we hear from our 90,000-plus agents, many of whom are milliennials and many more who work with millennials, is that there isn’t some huge generation gap. We wanted to test that thesis and have a little fun while we were at it.”

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@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.