CALIFORNIA BUILDERS HAVE CREATED A SERIES of three 30-second television ads nudging homeowners to talk to a builder about repairs instead of a lawyer.

The ads, which are airing initially through November on several cable networks in the San Francisco Bay area, take a light-hearted approach to the rising problem of construction product litigation.

In one ad, a homeowner fights with a faulty garage door, and the voice-over says, “Even the nicest home occasionally needs adjustments.” The second shows an attorney trying to fix a leak under a kitchen sink while an impatient homeowner taps her foot, and the third shows a “for sale” sign with increasingly desperate inducements to buy. The voice-over is a conversation about the difficulty of selling a house involved in a lawsuit. All three ads close with the statement, “Talk to your home builder, not a lawyer.”

“We want to let them know there is a builder who would like the right to repair,” says Guy Bjerke, COO of the HBA of Northern California, which produced the ads. “Nine times out of 10 that will be a simpler economic fix to whatever the problem is.” The ads are running in tightly defined markets with homes in the three- to eight-year-old range, says David Gauger, principal at Gauger + Santy, the ad agency that created the spots. The houses are at an age when problems are more likely to appear, and they're within the state's 10-year window of builder responsibility.

The humorous tone was selected, Gauger says, because “we wanted to take a positive approach, more advocacy than adversarial. They offer a solution to homeowners if they had a problem with their home.”

And they didn't want to tick off attorneys any more than necessary.