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As seen on TV: Charlotte companies are in DIY showbiz

Television networks devoted to all things real estate and home improvement are pumping out new shows in less time than it takes to drive to the neighborhood Lowe’s or Home Depot. But what’s in it for all the businesses that volunteer their time and materials to make this peculiar brand of TV work?

Darin Brockelbank installed this pool at a home at Lake Wylie, S.C. Brockelbank's performing on home-improvement TV hasn't paid off in big profits. Photo by Nell Redmond

At least four business people in Charlotte can provide varied answers to that question. Their experiences ranged from not-so-good to stellar, with stops in between. But, as a testament to the powerful allure of showbiz, all said they would do it again.

 

The grass isn’t always greener

When Darin Brockelbank, president of Charlotte landscaping company Metro GreenScape, was first approached about participating in ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and A&E’s “Flip This House” several years ago, he had visions of an invaluable marketing opportunity. After all, there’s no better exposure than being on TV.

Based on a recommendation from the N.C. Home Builders Association, Brockelbank’s company ended up getting the home makeover gigs. He and his crew appeared on both shows and did tens of thousands of dollars of work for free.

According to Brockelbank, network representatives initially painted a rosy picture of all the marketing opportunities and resulting business that would shower over his company after the shows aired.

But then he said the shows’ legal division had him sign thick contracts that severely restricted the way in which he could use the shows to market his business. For instance, use of the shows’ logos was limited to something small on his website or email signature, and any ads mentioning the shows had to be approved by the network first.

“You might have an ad lined up for print, but corporate doesn’t call back,” Brockelbank said. “Some people might get discouraged and just not do it.”

After his company’s much-anticipated small-screen debut, Brockelbank’s phones were not ringing off the hooks. In fact, he doubts that very many people even realized his crew was involved.

That’s not really surprising. In such shows, all the worker bees are typically a blur in the background, essentially serving as backdrop for an energetic host who drops the hammer as soon as the cameras stop rolling.

“It’s TV business, man,” said a now-wiser Brockelbank.

From a call-to-action marketing standpoint, the shows were “horrible,” Brockelbank said. But he added that it’s still a good branding opportunity. He’s used the “Extreme Makeover” and “Flip This House” appearances in his advertising and at trade shows.

“That builds credibility,” he said, perhaps the first time that sentence has been uttered to describe reality TV.

Appearing alongside Brockelbank in the “Extreme Makeover” show was Frank Hereda, the president and owner of Bellamy Homes, who also did not see a noticeable increase in business after the show aired. But like Brockelbank, he said it wasn’t a complete loss.

“It was more community awareness and branding,” Hereda said, “but it wasn’t like the floodgates opened and people started rushing in.”

 

New to the game

A relative newcomer to home-improvement TV, Charlotte-based contractor Andrew Roby is looking forward to the business opportunities that it expects to come in the wake of its appearance on an upcoming season of DIY Network’s “Blog Cabin.”

The company has been busy renovating an 1860s waterfront cottage in Carteret for the show, which lets viewers vote on projects for the house and incorporates several of the network’s series, including “Mega Den,” “Kitchen Crashers” and “Desperate Landscapes.”

Andrew Roby landed a coveted spot in front of DIY’s cameras after it impressed networks execs during a series of interviews that were set up by the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce, said Ryan M. Crosser, vice president of the company’s coastal division.

Unlike the contractors in other similar shows, Andrew Roby is getting paid for its work. The company has a typical construction contract with the network, which is slated to air the first episode of “Blog Cabin” on July 29, according to Crosser.

“After the show has aired,” he said, “we’ll be able to use it in our print ads and marketing. It’s kind of a win-win.”

 

“Starring, Lisa Ludlow Archer”

Charlotte real estate agent Lisa Ludlow Archer of Keller Williams Realty seems to have had the best experience of the bunch. She has starred twice in HGTV’s “My First Sale,” which follows first-time home-sellers and their agents through the selling process.

Archer said HGTV found her because of her prolific Internet marketing, then tapped her for the show after she sent in a tape about herself and was interviewed.

Whenever reruns of her episodes air, Archer said, traffic on her website spikes as people type her name into Google, and she always gets calls for listings. Archer also has posted the video of one of her episodes on her website.

“I don’t lose listing appointments,” she said. “If they weren’t sold before I went there, it (TV exposure) is pretty much the kicker of why they hire me.”

 

BANTZ can be reached at phillip.bantz@nclawyersweekly.com or on Twitter at @NCLWBantz

 

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