Atlantic Cities

Minneapolis Real Estate Agents Are Highly Amused by the Defacing of their Ads

Something strange is happening to real estate agents in Minneapolis. They put advertisements featuring themselves on public benches, like this one:

And the next thing they know, their faces have morphed into this guy:

Again, here's an ad with an actual real-estate agent:

And this is after its mysterious transformation:

The laws of physics do not seem to apply to this grinning intruder, as he appears twice in this scene:

Tony Oliveri, a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Burnet and the second person in the above photos, discovered he had been replaced by a replicant when his wife got a flood of messages from old high-school classmates in Canada. Later that day, his own phone, email, and Facebook account blew up with messages about his bus-stop doppelganger.

"I do remember driving by my bench a while back and thinking something was a little 'off,' like my hair was darker or something," says Oliveri, whose email signature notes he was "Voted Super Agent 2012 & 2013." "But in that moment, from a distance, I didn't think anything of it."

What he and a bunch of other home-brokers in Minneapolis were soon to learn was that they were the target of a peculiar joke by a local designer, Phil Jones. The prankster, who has done more normal work for Apple, The Gap, Subaru, and others, was in the midst of a public hacking campaign that he calls "Faces of Real Estate."

"I have a deep respect for anyone who is willing to put their face on a bus-stop bench knowing what people do to them," Jones writes. "I thought it would be fun to do my own take on our local realtor advertisements." (He did not respond to request for comment.)

The real-estate industry depends heavily on personal reputation, and having a weirdo clone assume one's public identity is probably not something that's encouraged in business school. So how are Minneapolis' agents taking being sucked into a marketing version of Multiplicity?

Surprisingly well, it turns out. "Obviously I don't condone defacing public or private property, but to me, this is a unique situation that falls under the 'art installation' category more than vandalism," says Oliveri.

"I am flattered," says Lynn Morgan from Edina Realty.

Over at Verve Realty, Scott Parkin has this to say: "I think it's hilarious. You can't pay for this type of advertising."

How true that is:

Images from Phil Jones on Cargo Collective

John Metcalfe is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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