In Real Estate Crunch, Builders Test Data-Driven Web Ads

Data drives online advertising, and the use of timely data is especially relevant for traditional classifieds advertisers like home sellers and auto dealers. A new partnership between dynamic ad platform provider AdMission and Builder Homesite Inc. (BHI), publisher of NewHomeSource.com, combines information from new home builder listings with user search data such as geographic location and property price range to generate customized display ads.

The result is a display ad unit targeted based on user queries featuring images and details on new homes from BHI’s consortium of 36 national and regional home building firms. Advertisers including Pulte Homes and Lennar have tested the ads on NewHomeSource.com for the past two months; BHI began offering them to hundreds of home builders advertising in its network yesterday. The company will also roll out the ads, appearing in display placements and alongside listings, on its partner sites including Yahoo Real Estate and Trulia.

“Generally speaking,” the ads will be sold on a CPM basis, according to Builder Homesite VP, GM Blair Kuhnen. However, he continued, “It performs at a cost comparable to pay-per-click advertising.”

AdMission powers similar data-driven ads on Autobytel‘s network. While such ads have obvious appeal for auto dealers and others offering weekly specials, generating interest from the real estate sector has been more difficult, said Leif Welch, chief revenue officer at AdMission. The key here, he believes, is that new home builders have branding goals in addition to needing to unload new homes in local markets.

“It has certainly been a challenge encouraging real estate advertisers to get on board, but new homes builders are a little bit different from the brokerage advertisers,” said Welch. “They have inventory they have built that they desperately need to get rid of… They also have national brands. I think they’re finding online display advertising is one way to really showcase their inventory.”

Although the real estate credit crunch and wider economic downturn has affected new home builders, they tend to be more willing to invest in their brands over the long-term, explained Welch. “They’re willing to spend the dollars right now, whereas the brokerages are feeling more of the crunch,” he said.

Peter Zollman, founding principal of Classified Intelligence contended the appeal is more in the format’s practicality than branding. “Most home builders are in desperate circumstances right now,” he said, “The reason they would do this is because by having a more targeted ad and a more data-driven ad they can maximize the value of the limited spend they’re making.”

Builder Homesite’s Kuhnen also suggested the automated quality of the ads has benefits for advertisers. Because they’re “fairly templated,” he said, “The builder is not spending much money and time creating the ads.”

The ads are also intended to push traffic to builder sites for lead generation purposes; there users can find more information on available homes, and request to be contacted by the builder. Despite the economic rough patch, said Zollman, builders “are also thinking, ‘My customers, even if there are only a few of them, are connecting in new ways, so I’ve got to find new ways to connect.'”

Accessing local ad dollars requires local relationships, both with advertisers and with media firms for distribution. Like the partnerships AdMission has with Autobytel, AutoTrader.com and YellowPages.com, Builder Homesite connects the ad tech firm with a new pool of advertisers. This partnership model is becoming commonplace in the local online marketplace, where ad and technology vendors align with local media companies to get their ad products in the hands of local advertisers.

BHI has about 10 salespeople in major home markets. It also distributes its new home listings on Yahoo Real Estate, Trulia and AOL and resells Yahoo and Trulia display ad inventory to builders.

Yahoo has a dynamic ad product similar to AdMission’s. The SmartAds platform assembles targeted ads from advertisers’ creative assets and data feeds of their offers, and was introduced last year for travel advertisers like airlines and travel aggregators.

Asked whether Yahoo’s dynamic platform could pose a competitive threat to AdMission down the road in the case of BHI advertisers on Yahoo, Welch agreed the two technologies are similar, adding, “I don’t know how competitive they view our solution.”

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