Real estate brand advertising and the Burger King Problem

[Beware: This post is a bit of a rambler – I’m thinking about several issues here that I will flesh out later.]

Does consumer-facing brand advertising – print or online – work in real estate?

Rarely, I think.

But I don’t put the blame on the medium; I put it on the messengers.  Think about it: How many truly great real estate brand ads have you seen? Ads that provoke, inspire, connect with you in a way that matters?

Corcoran did it. Better Homes and Gardens does it. In my market, Alan Pinel has come close.

But these are exceptions.

So when I hear people in real estate dismiss brand advertising out of hand I suggest they stop and explore the matter. Because drawing this conclusion is a bit like saying hamburgers aren’t any good when all you’ve ever eaten is Burger King.

This is not to say that things could not be helped from the publisher side of the equation, particularly online. While most real estate brand ads on sites like, Zillow and others are pretty poor, it is also true that the formats are tired.

Leaderboard, skyscraper, banner ” boring. Can’t we do better?

John Battelle, CEO of Federated Media, an ad network that connects advertisers with high-quality “conversational” publishers, offered one possibility earlier this week.

Federated Media introduced something it’s calling the “Ad Stamp,” (see a screencast and examples here) a coordinated brand display from one advertiser. The problem the Ad Stamp tries to solve is explained by Battelle thusly:

“”the relegation of marketing impressions to increasingly competing “third rails” on the sides and tops of sites has created a “Nascar effect” where more than five – if not 15 – messages blink numbly and disparately at their subjects. This is not a quality environment for readers or brand marketers, and it’s a premium publisher’s job to create a quality environment for both.”

The advertiser’s burden here is to deliver creative that makes something like this sing, to connect – or, better here online, engage — the viewer in a conversation. And what category is more conversational than real estate?

I guess what I’m getting to here is a challenge to some of the talk about real estate advertising that is beginning to congeal into conventional wisdom.  Print is not pointless – if you do it well. Online display advertising is not just gravy thrown on top of an enhanced listings buy – if publishers and advertisers get creative.

What do you think? Have you seen any good real estate brand ads lately? If so, link to them in the comments.

[Disclosure: Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate is a 1000WATT Consulting client.]