Regional Realty Company Shifts Ad Strategy

It used to be that Minnesota’s Edina Realty kept its ad plans relatively simple: all TV, all radio, all outdoor, and so on. A year-long multi-pronged campaign set to launch this spring marks a first for the regional company, and affirms a shift among real estate advertisers and home seekers. They’re going online.

“We really wanted to do an integrated campaign this year that involves all touch points,” explained Lynn Clare, VP marketing for Edina Realty, a subsidiary of HomeServices of America.

For real estate advertisers like Edina, placing online ads is becoming a natural outgrowth of a transition to the Web by their traditional media partners. For instance, for its new “Sold” campaign, the firm will run keyword-driven text ads on six Clear Channel network Web sites, chosen based on the geographical reach of each station. Edina will also run animated ads on Minneapolis/St. Paul-based StarTribune.com; The Rake, the online component of a monthly magazine with the same name; and Twin Cities-based NBC affiliate site, Kare11.com.

To get more bang for its TV production buck, the firm plans to run a 10-second streaming TV spot on StarTribune.com within the next month. According to Edina, the streaming ad, like all of Edina’s placements on the newspaper site, was sold as a value-add, meaning it came as a free bonus along with purchase of Star Tribune print advertising.

The campaign, which will encompass nearly 50 million total gross impressions, was developed by BBDO Minneapolis. Edina hopes to reach a broad audience, ranging in age from 25 to 54. Spending wasn’t disclosed.

In addition to the fact that traditional outlets are expanding their offerings to include the Web, Clare said the “high usage of the Internet” among Twin Cities-area residents is a main contributing factor for the home seller’s decision to devote attention to Internet media.

According to Paul Bishop, manager of real estate research for the National Association of Realtors, a 2005 survey of home buyers conducted by the organization found that 24 percent of recent home buyers said they first discovered their home on the Internet. In 2003, 11 percent of recent home buyers said the same. In all, according to Bishop, 77 percent of those surveyed are using the Internet to search for a home.

In its July 2005 “Online Real Estate Advertising” report, local online ad research firm Borrell Associates projected that online ad sales would hit $1.8 billion in 2005, representing a 15.7 percent share of overall ad spending by the sector.

“It’s been a struggle for us to figure out how to reallocate dollars” from traditional media to interactive, added Clare. Because many of Edina’s online placements were negotiated as value-adds, actual online spends don’t actually reflect the extent of Web exposure. Clare noted that the company will run radio, print and Web ads through October, while television spots will run for four weeks total.

Although some of Edina’s 3,400 agents do buy search advertising, the company itself relies only on search engine optimization, and does no keyword bidding. “We can’t control that cost,” commented Clare. Edina’s agents each get a free site hosted by Edina which enables property searches.

Following the user trend toward online home-searching, paid search ads for individual local real estate agents account for 49.6 percent of listings on keyword searches for local business segments across 10 different cities, up from 17.5 percent of local search ads eighteen months ago, according to the “2006 Local Search Advertising” report from Borrell Associates.

Other recent efforts by real estate outfits evince an increasingly serious focus on the Web by the industry. In March, Century 21 Real Estate announced it would be the exclusive category sponsor of CNN.com’s “Open House” page, and run billboard ads with streaming video clips of the real estate-related show. In addition, real estate site Homestore in February announced the launch of its vertical search engine, Move.com, which will offer home showcase listings as well as paid featured listings.

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