Scandal has engulfed the largest real estate portal company in Brazil after an ill-advised attempt at disintermediation lead to damage limitation and a rebrand for OLX-owned Zap Imóveis.
The turmoil started when local publication DiariodoRio.com broke the story that Zap Imóveis had been contacting homeowners with a calculator showing them how much they could save by listing their properties directly on the portal and cutting out realtors.
Understandably the news was shared very quickly throughout the Brazilian real estate industry and soon Zap was receiving a tumult of questions and invective from realtors. Initially, Zap's PR consultants attempted to dismiss the campaign as 'fake news' but it soon became clear that the campaign to disintermediate agents had not been fake and the portal's General Manager Marcos Leite was forced to issue an apology.
The following quote was translated from Portuguese via Linkedin:
"Misaligned communication within our portal has been gaining visibility in recent days among our partners. It is important to clarify that this communication, which has already been withdrawn, is the result of an internal process error and does not reflect our business strategy discussed and gradually put into practice since olx Brasil's acquisition of zap group.
I reiterate here, with you longtime partners, our apology and reinforcement that the content disclosed does not translate our vision and strategy, since for us brokers and real estate agents occupy a central place in the real estate transaction.
As Managing Director of ZAP+, I do not believe in the deintermediation of this market and reaffirm our commitment to you to continue building our partnership. Nowhere in the world is there a good experience in real estate without the role of the broker and in Brazil will be no different.
With you, we continue to invest in technology to make this market increasingly efficient, with opportunities for everyone, listening and, especially, respecting all the people who are part of this ecosystem."
Understandably, agents have not taken kindly to the 'misaligned communication' line and many across social media feel they have been stabbed in the back and had their intelligence insulted by the whole affair. Zap has reportedly had to delete almost all of the content from its Instagram account due to the volume of negative comments the account has received.
Apart from the negative comments Zap also lost sponsorship for its flagship networking conference event Conecta Imobi when the country's largest real estate franchise, Lopes pulled out and demanded its money back citing what it saw as a clear conflict of interest.
In response, the portal announced 'an agent appreciation campaign' across all of its channels with the message that it supports Brazil's realtors very much front and centre.
Since the scandal broke, Zap Imóveis along with its fellow OLX-owned portal Viva Real have undergone a makeover at brand and website level. The move is designed to better integrate Zap, Viva Real and OLX under the ZAP+ umbrella that the company is using for its real estate vertical activities since the 2020 buyout by the OLX Brasil Group (a joint venture between Adevinta and Prosus).
Speaking to exame.com, Leite said of the rebranding efforts:
“We make technology our starting point and, through it, we offer solutions that add intelligence and innovation to the business. The repositioning of the brands reflects the company's leading role, boosting connections and solutions that reinvent the experience of the real estate chain – from the user to the professional”
Whether the rebrand and a belated social media apology will be enough to repair the reputational damage done to the largest real estate portal company in Brazil remains to be seen.