Vol.3 Iss.4: Ads that Work

by Chicago Agent

Ads That Work

By K.K. Snyder

We hear over and over that in order to make money, you have to spend money. But how you spend your hard-earned dollars can make all the difference in your bottom line. With regards to print real estate advertising, how can agents get the most for their advertising dollars? Chicago Agent consulted some of Chicagoland’s top real estate advertising and marketing agencies for some stellar insight and a little good, old-fashioned advice.

Basically, agents have two options for placing print ads: directory ads in real estate sections of newspapers and in magazines devoted to listings, and ads in general media, such as magazines and sections of newspapers not devoted to real estate. Open the real estate section of any publication, and it shows why all Realtors or builders need a competitive edge. Dozens of real estate firms and builders compete for the same prospective buyer.

Directory ads should easily identify the location, style and price of the home or community. These are the main three pieces of information any reader of a real estate publication is looking to find. Pictures are important, but they must be recent; don’t show a home with a snow-covered yard in an ad you’re running in May.

For ads in general media, the photo must grab the attention of the readers. The headline must draw them into a promise that is desirable, says Charles Falls, president of Demi & Cooper. “Remember, these people are not reading the publication specifically to find new homes,” he says. “In fact, it may be months before they’re looking. Ads in general media usually promote the company and the Web site, so readers will remember the company when they are in the market for a new home.”

Visual elements are extremely important in ads, since they attract and stop the readers’ eyes from going past your pitch. The key is to use enough visuals to generate the interest without using so many that they overwhelm the reader. One visual element needs to dominate, with the rest playing minor roles.

The success of any print ad is determined first by whether it reaches the right audience, and second by whether it conveys the messages that buyers want to hear. To the first point, you have to study the results from your media. Unless you know for sure that a publication is right, you must run an ad in that publication only, and then study the results to see whether the audience is right. “You should be able to track web statistics on the days the ad runs to see an upswing in unique visitors, and you should be able to monitor phone calls on those same days,” says Falls.

To the second point about the message, remember what the ad is designed to do. “Ads don’t sell the home, they simply connect a buyer who has needs with a Realtor or builder who has homes that can satisfy those needs,” says Falls. “The less you write about a home to pique a reader’s interest, the better. You can write too much and turn someone off by listing features they dislike. But you need to write enough to make certain you’ve covered enough to truly pique their interest. Always remember, ads must be created to make somebody do something. The reader can call, visit the property or go to a Web site, but you have to instruct them to do it.”

Harvey Haddon and Robert Haddon of FireStar Communications agree. “Advertising is only a way to get [homebuyers] to go to a sales center and look at a product,” says Harvey Haddon, the company’s president. “Little ads don’t work. Real estate advertising is not like regular advertising. You’re competing with every other ad within a page of your ad. People who are reading real estate sections are looking for lots of information and read all ads. If you’re running a small ad among large ads, you’re competing among giants.”

“People are interested in the actual product as well as the price,” adds Robert Haddon, VP and partner. “You can’t give enough information in advertising and Web sites to sell a piece of property. You’ve got to get them to the actual development.”

The Haddons fully believe that the 30 percent higher cost for color ads is well worth the expense, as they typically produce 50 percent better results. And placement may not be as big an issue as some agents or ad salespeople present it to be.

“People place an incredible amount of concern in placement,” says Harvey Haddon. “We’ve found that people who are looking for real estate are going to read the whole publication. The inside front cover doesn’t necessarily do better than an ad on page 10.”

One of the things an ad agency can’t control, say the Haddons, is price point of the product, which also determines success. “But it’s almost impossible to overspend presentation,” says Harvey Haddon.

All advertising, whether it’s for real estate, dog food or automobiles must catch the attention of the reader and draw him into the ad for more information. There are plenty of ads that attract attention, but an effective ad doesn’t stop there. The ad must motivate the reader to pick up the phone or visit the development. It’s creating a message that is compelling enough to get homebuyers interested. Your message should not be, “We have a great home for you,” but rather, “We understand what you want.” Put your big idea up front: People buy on emotions and justify on facts, says Gary Davis, principal with Brian Keith Advertising.

“All successful ads make an important offer or benefit of some kind to motivate the reader,” says Davis. “Sell the benefits, not the features. A benefit is the value the prospect can receive from that feature. A benefit can be real in dollars or cents, or an intangible, like an improvement in lifestyle. Both types of benefits will work.”

Davis says no matter how good the product or location is, unless people know about these homes, they won’t sell. “Advertising is sometimes viewed as a necessary evil,” he says. “They treat it like Listerine. They all hate it but feel they need to use it.”

Davis advises agents who haven’t already done so to meet with an ad agency. “We’ve entered the information age, and newspapers and the print media have to work with advertisers to remain a viable force,” he says. “Get to know the ad reps from the various real estate magazines and newspapers. They offer an array of services and often work in conjunction with other non-real estate media offering a media mix. Meet with their marketing departments. They will do the research and marketing for you.”

Davis advises that whether you’re a price-sensitive builder or a service-advantage Realtor you need to create relevance in your message. Those who succeed do so because they have created an impression on someone through their advertising that is easily recognizable and gave them information compelling enough to create interest.

“Across a broad spectrum of new home communities and the resale home marketplace in Chicagoland, the best marketers are those whose advertising engaged people and gave them enough information on how their company or product distinguishes themselves from their competitors,” says Davis. “Consumers are more selective and better informed these days. The first-time buyer may want a single-family home in Plainfield, and the executive may want that upscale penthouse in Streeterville. The dreams and aspirations may be different, but the goal is the same. The good marketer knows the difference in not only the message but also where to best maximize the advertising.“

The bottom line
Getting the best use out of your print advertising dollars is not as simple as adhering to some advertising formula. Some ads and media work better than others, depending on many different variables that fluctuate year to year. But all advertising in media targeted to your market has at least some value. The key is tracking and determining which medium is getting you the most for your money.

Knowing which medium works best for you is critical. When it comes to the ads, one thing you must do is ensure you’re getting as much out of your ad dollars as possible by being consistent and, basically, making sure your name is understood simply from the look of the ad.

“This way,” adds Falls, “even if someone isn’t in the market for a new home and they come across your ad, they’ll still notice your presence.” C.A.

Gary Davis
Brian Keith Advertising

Charles Falls
Demi & Cooper

Robert Haddon
VP and Partner
FireStar Communications

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