The Real Deal New York

Are brokerages finally coming around to the chief creative officer role?

CCOs popular for big brands, but resi firms slower to adopt the role
By E.B. Solomont | March 07, 2018 07:00AM

Matt Spangler

Target has one. So do Chobani, the Honest Company and Best Buy.

Now Compass — the startup residential brokerage with $775 million in venture money to burn — has created a “chief creative officer” job to ensure its brand and design aesthetic are applied to new products, offices and agent marketing as the company grows.

The New York-based firm said Matt Spangler, who has been Compass’ head of marketing and design since 2014, will become CCO and it will hire a chief marketing officer who will report to Maëlle Gavet, the company’s chief operating officer.

“With our speed of growth, it’s less of me getting in the weeds and more of me focusing on the enormous things we have to do: How can design and brand be woven into every piece of Compass’ platform?” Spangler said.

Although “chief creative” jobs have crept into major consumer brands, the residential real estate industry has been slower to adopt the position. But a few of the city’s largest firms have already given it a try.

Douglas Elliman hired Roy Kim in 2015 as its first chief creative officer for development marketing. But last year, when Kim left Elliman, the firm said it would not fill the role. Currently, Michael Hardman is Elliman’s creative director.

Town Residential hired David Lipman in 2014 to work on a long-term brand strategy and launch “My Town,” a lifestyle magazine. The firm has since cut ties with Lipman — who did the branding for One Madison Park and One57. Instead, Town currently has a 10-person marketing team that operates as “an agency within the firm,” said Lori Levin, director of marketing and communications. The team offers a “full creative suite,” including logos for projects, signage for buildings, and advertising for agents.

“We’ve named buildings, developed the visual identities of buildings and sustained the marketing campaign,” she said of the firm’s marketing group.

Several developers, though, have their own chief creative officers. At DDG, founding member Peter Guthrie is also the firm’s CCO and head of design and construction. Will Cooper, a partner at Brooklyn-based ASH, is CCO and leads the firm’s design team and brand strategy.

“New York City real estate has become incredibly competitive, with a surge of luxury housing,” said Jay Solomon, chief creative officer of Sugar Hill Capital Partners. “One way to distinguish your product is to have unique branding and design and a fully immersive experience for buyers and renters.”

Last year, Sugar Hill pivoted away from just renovating apartments and began giving each property its own brand identity by also redoing lobbies, hallways and other communal spaces, he explained.

“If you did not have a chief creative officer, you might have your architect planning the interiors different from the branding,” Solomon said. “It’s true that these things could meet and come to some sort of consensus, but I laid out my vision for the project and put each team to task.”

At Compass, Spangler will lead the firm’s “creative studio,” which will work on company-wide branding and individual agent brands.

“In a world where there’s more and more options … brand, storytelling and design is critical,” he said. “It’s not a new path, it’s a path that the world’s greatest brands are investing in heavily, so we feel like it’s an area to invest in as well.”