There is a print pub in Houston called Houstonia Magazine. Seems the Ashton-Martini Group of agents at Martha Turner Sotheby’s International ran an ad in the magazine — the ad above (photo credit to Chris Skiles) and a couple of subscribers to the magazine got miffed. What bothered them? They were upset that the ad depicted a mixed-race marriage — white mother, black father, and three darling biracial babies.
I know, I am scratching my head, too. Can you double check me here? Is it 2015? Thought so.
In the words of Houstonia editor-in-chief, Scott Vogel, a doctor in Tomball, a suburb of Houston in Harris County, was provoked by the Ashton Martini Group’s biracial real estate “message” sitting in his waiting room — so he rattled off an email to the advertiser:
The ad, you may recall, featured a family of five Houstonians—a husband and wife, and the couple’s three children—relaxing in the living room of their home. To the lion’s share of our readership, one imagines, such a tableau must have looked almost aggressively typical. Perhaps they observed that the husband is black, the wife is white, and the couple’s three adorable children biracial, but that’s all it was for most, an observation.
Not so Dr. Tomball, who on May 26 sent an email to the Ashton Martini Group registering his disapproval. The note, which I have seen, carries the subject “Disgusting Ad,” and explains: “Your ad in the June Houstonia magazine is DISGUSTING! I will not put this magazine in my reception area! If you care to discuss this,” the note concluded, “I am available.”
Except that when Houstonia called him, he didn’t answer, they said. Then another un-named reader apparently called (and apparently had no caller ID) and said that he was also disgusted by the ad.
Exactly one week later, we heard from a second man, this time a resident of the Memorial area, who called to say that although he usually likes Houstonia, he “just can’t go for racial mixing.” The caller—identifying himself only as Fred—voiced his concern that children might see the ad and “get it into their heads that this is okay.” To ensure that that did not happen, the man informed us that he’d taken our June issue straight from the mailbox to the trash can, although he declined our invitation to cancel his subscription altogether. He counts himself among this magazine’s fans, he told us.
Houstonia says who needs racists? They are happy to remove these two from their subscribers list, and Scott Vogel even penned a letter about it in The Washington Post, called “Here’s what I did when racists complained about an interracial family in my magazine.” Nice work & publicity!
Maybe my BS meter needs tuning, but I think it’s curious they do not name the physician they have slugged “Dr. Tomball.” I mean, if he sent an email, which Vogel says he saw, they have his name, right? Redact it from the email and Scribd it. Also, my husband is a physician, and he doesn’t even know the color of the carpet in his own waiting room. He would never have nor take time to go through the magazines in there. Name the doctor. Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer now has his name spread all over the universe for his abhorrent, PATHETIC hunting of that splendid lion in Africa — (what the hell is wrong with people? Don’t get me started). So why won’t Houstonia reveal the name of the doctor, as so many commenters have begged? Sometimes these city magazines like to get all holy and “PC” when, in fact, they are run by a bunch of middle-aged white males.
I called the agent who bought the ad, Ashton Martini. He phoned me back and left a nice message saying he’d call me in the morning. When that didn’t happen, I called him several times and texted. Yes, I am persistent. Ashton’s first text was not so nice —
I am in back to back to back meetings and closings. Please stop calling over and over
I said sorry, was trying to wrap a story on deadline, and was expecting that promised call.
I’m extremely busy. I don’t like being harassed. I will not make a statement and neither will anyone on my team. Thank you.
Asked if I could call the family in the photo? Have their number? After a few minutes, Ashton sends this statement:
This has been my statement to other outlets:
Houston is a diverse city and therefore, so is my clientele. This ad features a real family who are my clients and have become friends. While I never intended for it to be controversial, the response has started a conversation and I am happy to be part of it. I applaud Scott Vogel and Houstonia for their stand, and I can only hope that we are fostering a more accepting and tolerant younger generation.
So it’s a real family. Then I asked to see the email from “Dr. Tomball” — no response.
I placed four calls to Scott Vogel at Houstonia Magazine where no one ever seems to answer the telephone. None have been returned. But of course, it’s summer, Scott Vogel (and the receptionist) COULD be on vacation!
The thing is, this is all very un-Martha Turner-like. She is the Ebby Halliday of Houston, the quintessential Houston lady. She spoke at NAREE there last year. Her pearls were perfect and never moved while she told us how she usually meets clients in a chauffeured limo because it gives her time to talk, not drive. Apparently Ashton likes to really push the envelope in his ads. Love his name. And from his website, he sounds like one of the best guys you could ever meet:
Among his awards and honors, he received the NRG 20 Under 40 award in 2013. Real Trends recognized him as one of the top 250 real estate agents in Texas. His honors at Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty include Top Ten Producing Agent, Most Listings and Most Seller Transactions. He is a member of the Martha Turner Circle of Excellence.
Martini founded the Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty MS150 team to raise funds needed to help find a cure for multiple sclerosis. He and his team raised over $100,000 in two years. He currently is training to run his first marathon while raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association. Martini also is devoted to Friends For Life, a no-kill animal adoption and rescue organization. He donates a portion of his commissions to charity.
No wonder he’s got back-to-back closings!
(I still have that condom!)
My question: who is going to be the first broker in Dallas to push the envelope with an ad like this … and which magazine will
charge you an arm and a leg publish it? Will there be push-back? Complaints?