From Stéphane Plaza to “L’Agence”, why real estate is a hit on TV

For more than a decade, many reality TV and tele-hook shows based on the real estate industry have occupied the French audiovisual landscape. Recently, the broadcast of the reality TV series “The Agency”, scheduled on TMC in 2020 and on the Netflix platform since June 2021, confirmed this underlying trend.

But how do you explain such a national passion for everyday life to a family of real estate agents from Boulogne-Billancourt, who are selling houses for 15 million euros?

Play on emotions

The impact of television programs on individuals and society is largely linked to the emotions they evoke. In fact, our sensory experiences have a strong influence on the perceptions and assessments we make of social and organizational phenomena.

But film and television programs are based on a cinematic (or editorial) construction that evokes and orchestrates particular emotions towards the audience. When audiovisual messages cause emotional resonance, that is, when the aesthetic experience they offer reinforces the normative patterns and institutional codes shared by the viewers, they have an even stronger influence on the constructions of construction and social representations that transcend television.

A dual phenomenon of identification

Reality TV shows dedicated to the real estate market open up the possibility of a double emotional resonance on the part of viewers. The first can be done through identification with the buyers represented in these matters. The purchase of a property is a process that is often fraught with complex emotions, given the many economic and sociocultural implications to which it refers, this resonance can be particularly strong (and generally positive).

The second is about the potential identification with real estate agents. Their point of view often constitutes the central narrative anchor of these programs, as is the case in the program “L’Agence”, but also in “Chasseurs d’appart”, and to a lesser extent “Recherche appartement ou home”.

The main plot revolves around the agents’ ability to offer properties that will satisfy their clients.

The preferred view in these programs is usually the characters of the “real estate agents”, but a recurring narrative pushes for emotional resonance with a wider audience. In fact, a large number of real estate agents talk about their professional retraining journey in these programs. The horizon for an easy and successful professional retraining, towards a profession that has proven to be satisfying and rewarding, reflects a social notion of freedom of choice, autonomy, conscious breakdown and renewal.

If we are to believe the commercial and media success of David Graeber’s book Bullshit job published in 2018, which shows that a large number of workers would like to bring more meaning to their work, this idea may seem particularly attractive.

But behind this idyllic image lies the diverse and complex realities of a profession that is influenced by what sociologist Lise Bernard describes as “white collar uncertainty”.

A different reality show

This program presents the daily life of the Kretz family at the head of a French family business operating in luxury properties, and uses certain classic codes for this type of program. Once again, it is the realtors’ perspective that has been adopted: the main plot revolves around the ability of these realtors to offer real estate that will satisfy their clientele. The classic tale of professional retraining is also represented there. We learn from the first paragraph that Sandrine and Olivier, parents of four children, created the company Kretz & Partners after a double retraining: Sandrine was a former teacher, and Olivier a commercial director.

Nevertheless, this reality TV show stands out from other shows in the genre, primarily because it is centered around a single company: a family-run real estate agency specializing in luxury. The social representations that it forms are mainly linked to the myths associated with family entrepreneurship.

In essence, the show offers an idealized depiction of a family business’ organization and success, where family ties transcend and humanize business, to the point that these family ties are presented as the primary reason for the company’s success.

The show depicts idyllic family relationships that guarantee the agency’s organizational efficiency.

To fully understand these editorial choices and filters, it is important to note that such a program, centered on a single company, is above all a promotional tool disguised as a documentary. As a minimum, it should help strengthen the company’s brand image. It is therefore not surprising that the editorial choices and filters used to build a specific representation of the family business adhere in every way to the differentiating elements of that company’s value proposition.

A visit to Kretz & Partners’ website shows that the organization’s family dimension is the cornerstone of its sales pitch. It does not just facilitate the exchange of real estate, but above all promises a personal, generous, emotional and memorable relational experience with its customers. And that promise is based on expanding family ties to how the business is run.

This positioning is reflected in the show, which depicts idyllic family relationships that guarantee the agency’s organizational efficiency, with a few superficial and well-chosen rubs that humanize and give credibility to this representation.

This promotional program works on various emotional resonant springs that foster public sympathy.

One of the disputes revealed in the program concerns a characteristic difficulty for family businesses, the issue of transmission. The dissemination of the family business is recognized as being a particularly intense period with ambivalent feelings concerning the whole family. These feelings are sometimes associated with psychological brakes that can hinder the transfer of the family business.

Staging the most experienced’s doubts about whether the youngest son will become a member of the family business, or disagreement about the eldest’s possible departure from the eldest’s business, aims to create empathy for this family seeking to preserve its unity around a common project. But staged disagreements never degenerate into conflicts and are resolved quickly: The family business, based on strong bonds of trust, overcomes all hardships. Good ending guaranteed.

The attraction of luxury properties

In addition to the company’s family dimension as a focal point for its success, Kretz & Partners is located in luxury properties, a universe that tends to fascinate viewers.

Here, too, the cinematic and editorial construction of the show must repeat this positioning in the luxury world, especially since the company offers a video production service to its customers. The show, a giant advertisement, allows the company to show its know-how in terms of showcasing the properties it is entrusted with. We can especially notice the intense use of light, which reflects an effect of beauty and perfection, or even the aerial shots, which highlight the size of the properties offered.

This image of luxury continues in the staging of the daily life of the family business. The beauty and grandeur of the family home, which serves as the company’s headquarters, is highlighted by the cinematic construction. A few flashy details, such as the swing in the living room or the presence of an antique gong, which is ritually rung at every sale, reinforce and sanctify the notion of luxury and economic success, in a totally uninhibited ultraliberal spirit.

This promotional program therefore works on various emotional resonant springs, which promote the sympathy of the public and at the same time create a distant fascination through the idealized and unrealistic representation of the family business and success.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The conversation

Leave a Comment