Premium advertising of property needs smart design thinking

by Alistair Helm in ,


The parallels of online and offline advertising of property are clear. If you want to achieve impact then you need bigger adverts and bigger adverts cost more - this applies to a print magazine as it does to a website.

With print magazines you go from the basic 1/4 page to a 1/2 page to a full page to a double page spread to a cover page - each step more than doubling the cost until you in some cases blast through $5,000 for a single insertion.

Online you go from a standard listing to a feature listing to a super feature and in the future as likely as not a platinum super feature. Costs increase accordingly, although not to top even $1,000.

However my focus of thought and reflection at this time is not on cost but on design and user experience. I think the team at Trade Me Property need to ask themselves some serious questions. For whereas the property magazines design very consumable and appealing publications with inspiring double page spreads and cover adverts that draw you in to support these premium advertising solutions, the online world of Trade Me Property is becoming a jumble which is less likely to draw anyone in as it strives for more and more premium advertising.

I make these comments as I today I have discovered a new header advertising unit on the site.

"Best on the block" takes up the header section of the site and is appearing under all types of searches despite the property in question when you click through to the "Find out more" is actually in Christchurch.

Why would I be interested in a Christchurch property when I am searching in New Plymouth? As you can see the advert provides no location context so you have to link through to see the location only to discover as over 4,000 people have already done that it holds no relevance - adding up to what in my mind is a dumb piece of advertising.

Additionally this new block of advertising pushes down the former super feature to now place the real listings so far down the page that it takes a good action of the scroll wheel of a person's mouse to find a normal listing as the screen shot below shows.

If you then open up the map search in the header things get ridiculous - it is so far down the page that you have to scroll that you might well be forgiven for thinking that Trade Me Property was not interested in basic listings at all.

In my opinion Trade Me needs a major rethink as to design layout.

It needs to decide fundamentally if it is a general classified website where property listings and their attendant premium adverts are to be squeezed in where there is some space just as car adverts and listings and job adverts are pigeoned into the same structured architecture or if it is serious about the property space and create a new design and user experience as a serious real estate website portal. It needs to look at the best run site in the region that of Realestate.com.au in Australia to see how to lay out a website for maximum user experience matched to optimal premium advertising.




Trade Me Property changes its pricing model - again!

by Alistair Helm in , ,


Trade Me Property today announced a new pricing structure almost a year after the implementation of the radical switch from a subscription model to a pay-per-listing business model. That model has, so it seems, proved to be a too great a stretch for the industry to accept and likely as not, too troublesome an issue for Trade Me to continue to deal with as it approaches it annual reporting just 3 weeks away.

The new pricing structure is on the face of it, a significant win for the real estate industry as it re-establishes the subscription model, whilst at the same time offering a scaled per-listing fee and a regionalisation of pricing.

The real estate industry mobilised itself into action upon the announcement of the new pricing model last November with clear messages passed within the industry from, at the extreme a  complete boycott of Trade Me Property, to merely advising clients that the website had changed its pricing and was no longer a mandatory component of marketing of a listing.

At the same time the industry circled the wagons around the ‘industry-owned’ website of Realestate.co.nz as a means to provide the home-shopping public with an alternative to Trade Me Property.

As the standoff ensued over the next 10 months there has been a clear demonstration that the impact on Trade Me’s business was being felt in both customer loyalty as demonstrated by listing numbers and in investor confidence as evidenced by the share price (although it is not accurate to entirely correlate share price to the issues with the Property sector, however it is a critical sector).

It is my belief that this new pricing scheme will in one fell swoop patch up the issues that Trade Me Property has faced, resulting in a solid re-population of the site to full strength and full loyalty (and if not loyalty then at least patronage). It will not deliver the much hoped for absolute gain to the bottom line that the original pricing model of a pure per-listing fee would have delivered but it will get the company back on track to build its business for the future.

So what are the details of the new price structure, who will benefit, who will choose which of the options and what will be the medium term outcome, as well as an assessment of the winners and losers within this tussle?

 

Return of the subscription 

The new subscription service with unlimited listings will be open to all offices with a regional split with metro offices in Auckland / Wellington / Christchurch paying $1,399 per month, an increase from the previous monthly subscription from last year when fee was $999. For those offices outside of these 3 metro areas the monthly fee will be $999 - no change.

This subscription model based on location is a smart move in that it moves the company away from a single flat fee structure, to regional pricing. This will go down well with provincial customers who have long fought to be recognised as having a wholly different cost base than the metro real estate operators. Once established, Trade Me Property may well apply this regional structure to their premium property advertising and also potentially further segment by geography as I am sure Southlanders will likely argue that Hamilton and Tauranga should pay more than them or rather that they should pay less. Regional pricing makes sense and it will be interesting to see if Realestate.co.nz follow suit.

 

Listing fees based on rateable value price

Trade Me Property will continue with the per listing fees in what they describe as the "Flexi option" however to mirror the differential pricing that was introduced for private sellers a year or so ago, single listings will be $159 for a property with a rateable value over $450,000 and $99 for those under $450,000. This will also go down well especially with the smaller offices. On top of this they are making a very public statement that the scale of a customers business affords discounts in the form of Gold / Silver / Bronze.

The average office in NZ is actually quite small handling around 100 listings a year / 8 listings a month, with many of these offices in provincial areas of the country where the median listing is more likely $300,000 this change will be welcome news. A year ago these offices would have been paying $999 a month for unlimited listings. The per listing fees bumped this up to $1,272 whilst this new structure will cost them $800 - a win!

The retention of the listing fee based model is in Trade Me’s words a method whereby offices can seek to remove the sunk cost of Trade Me Property and appropriately pass the cost on to the consumer, in effect saving them thousands of dollars a year. Time will tell if this is how the industry see it.


So overall the industry will feel I think, vindicated in leveraging their collective muscle against Trade Me and maybe Simon Tremain of Tremain Real Estate in the Hawkes Bay and Tim Mordaunt of Property Brokers in the Manawatu and Hawkes Bay will be hailed as heroes for staunchly refusing to capitulate and effectively completely boycotting Trade Me Property for all this time across all their offices.

I think it is likely that the vast majority of offices will switch back to a subscription model, the metro offices absorbing the higher monthly fee and relinquishing the charging of the fees to vendors. Many small offices will choose the per listing fee not to pass the cost on, simply as a means of saving money.

So the question has to be asked - so who’s the winner and who’s the looser in this change?

For my money the short term winner is the real estate industry. They will be happy and as I say feel vindicated. In the medium and longer term Trade Me Property is the winner. They will once again re-affirm their dominance of the lead generation business for agents from the largest and most comprehensive portal of listings covering licensed agent listings and private sellers. They will now, once they have regained patronage (if not as yet loyalty) build a growing business in premium services sold more aggressively through a growing field-based sales team. They will naturally hike fees regularly and in time seek to move to a pure per listing fee, probably as a more bundled offerings as other leading portals do. This will deliver the bottom line that the company and the investors want.

As for Realestate.co.nz I fear that they will be the loser in the short and long term. They have emerged from this period a lot stronger in audience terms and with a greater industry appreciation, however with Trade Me Property back with a full listings complement the delivery of leads through Trade Me will return and Realestate.co.nz will be back to being judged by the industry as a championing industry site, yet hardly a comparable adversary. Compounding their problems will be a more aggressive and significantly larger resource base across the Trade Me Property sales team out in the field who will seek to develop a stronger relationship with agents and offices matched to a significant ramping up in their technology team


Disclosure: I was CEO of Realestate.co.nz from 2006 to 2012. I provide consultancy services to Trade Me Property from time to time, but I note those services do not extend to advice on pricing and offers.  All insight and opinion expressed here are without any reference to any knowledge or insight I have gained through my work at Trade Me Property. 


Realestate.co.nz - Where to from here?

by Alistair Helm in


I have been fascinated over the past 6 months with the issues facing the real estate industry and Realestate.co.nz as the industry grapples with the issues related to the new pricing policy implemented by Trade Me Property. I have commented on these matters a number of times, each time though, I have thought  "what would I have done if I were still running Realestate.co.nz"?

For over 6 years I was the CEO of Realestate.co.nz and in that time faced many challenges and implemented many initiatives. I got some things right and some things wrong; ultimately though I parted from the organisation largely the result of an impasse with the board as to the future direction of the company. I had a view as to the level of investment and structure required to drive the future development and create the leading property website in NZ, it was not the view shared by the board. I lost, that is the reality in business.

Subsequently the company has invested in new developments and undertaken up-weighted marketing as it has sought to leverage the dissatisfaction of the real estate agents to the policy changes at Trade Me Property. These investments have paid off as Realestate.co.nz has strengthened its position which I am delighted to see. However I still reflect on what plan I would have adopted in such a situation.

So purely as a hypothetical exercise and in an open manner for the benefit of the real estate industry I have outlined here my thoughts around a strategy for the future of Realestate.co.nz, a strategy to power it into being the leading digital property platform in NZ. Now clearly this plan is by no means guaranteed to work or would be in any judged to be full-proof. It is merely my opinion and in writing this I am in no way criticising the current management or board. I simply felt the desire to articulate my thoughts.

There are 4 distinct components to my proposed strategy:

 

1. Engage your customers

In my mind this is the most important strategy for the company. For whilst the website has to deliver a valuable experience for consumers searching for property for sale or rent, the business will be of no value without the support of the real estate industry. In this regard I am not simply  talking about support as in the listings. I am talking about support in an evangelical way - you need to empower the industry to support the site and advocate the site. I often stated during my time in the role that the salesforce for the company were not those few account managers (excellent though they were!), but the 10,000+ real estate salespeople who through their everyday contact with consumers could become our full time evangelists.

Real estate salespeople are independent contractors and whilst in the past the decision as to online listing was a matter for the office manager and the admin team the critical importance of online marketing now and in the future requires all salespeople to engage with online marketing for every listing and with every client. To achieve this involvement and evangelical support requires investment in field based sales people together with comprehensive training. The real estate salespeople are the channel to future marketing products and services and need to be supported. I believe that currently neither Trade Me Property nor Realestate.co.nz has more than a couple of field based account managers and/or trainers compare that to the Australian market where REA group alone would have over 250 field based people dealing with customers - that would translate into the equivalent of 50 in NZ, now that might be excessive but I can be sure that if a customer in Morrinsville saw a visit from either Realestate.co.nz or Trade Me in the past year (or two) I would be surprised!

Beyond the critical customer group of real estate salespeople there is another subset of customers whose support the company needs, they are the business owners. Business owners are the 600+ individuals who own and operate the majority of real estate companies around the country. For whilst 80+% of the industry operates out of the 5 major brands, these are brands are franchise groups. The real influence and ultimately the buying-power rests with these business owners.

To empower and engage these business owners you need to provide them with motivation to support the company and nothing screams motivation more than “skin-in-the-game” and that in the case of the company this means real equity. Equity in Realestate.co.nz would be the motivation to ensure commitment of marketing budget and loyalty. That would provide the security of commitment for the company to attain the future vision to be the outright leader in the market.

Realestate.co.nz uniquely could enact this as it is notionally industry owned and a private company. For whilst the current shareholding is split between the REINZ and the 5 leading real estate companies, the reality is that the 10,000+ sales agents and 600+ business owners are disconnected from ownership, particularly as the shareholding of the large real estate companies is tied up in the franchisors to whom the business owner pay their franchisee fees. Effectively the business owners particularly are being asked to continue to support a website that benefits their franchisors at their costs - effectively making them pay twice.

Imagine if a cooperative structure was established much along the lines of Fonterra. Business owners having an equity stake in the website business through a capital raising by the existing shareholders. Shares could only be held by a subscribing and  active real estate business. Dividends would be payable based on usage support commensurate with shareholding. Shares could be traded to allow for businesses to enter and exit the industry and thereby allow business owners to realise the value in their continued support of the company.

 

 

2. Focus on experiences

The company needs to invest. It needs to create a compelling digital platform that delivers experiences for users that excites and delights. Experiences across all platforms to provide solutions to property buyers and renters, helping them navigate the buying or renting process.

The tablet experience is the most critical at this time, this is the device that you want users to fall in love with your brand and service, capture the emotional early searching part of the home buying process and thereby guide people to then go on to use the more functional smartphone app. Win the app environment and you can effectively ring-fence your users and secure competitive advantage.

The company also needs to think laterally to envisage the next experience opportunity. How could the smart TV be a complement to the lean-back tablet browsing experience? 

Realestate.co.nz is a technology platform for the real estate industry. It needs to showcase innovation to the users and go as far as to assist the customers in their quest to better understand the future of digital engagement.

 

3. Empower consumers

Consumers need to feel engaged and empowered especially around decisions that are complex and involve high risk. The advent of the internet has opened up access to enable consumers to be better informed and to have a true sense of involvement in so many aspects of their lives. This is not reversible. Real estate in someways epitomises this and yet at the same time it is the most opaque industry for data and empowerment. From the simple process of how to find and evaluate an agent, to what is really going on in the real estate market, and what is the best method of sale, there are as many answers as there are individuals willing to share opinions on the questions.

This situation opens up the opportunity for Realestate.co.nz to create a digital oasis of insight and assistance, to be a partner to the home buyers and sellers. This positioning for the company could provide it with an unassailable position of influence, respect and trust. Developing this in partnership with it customers ensures that the two sides operate in tandem and both benefit. It all comes down to data. If the customers could have the confidence to trust and influence the way the market data of transactions is collected, analysed and reported then a single repository of knowledge through Realestate.co.nz would benefit all stakeholders in the company.

The final component of empowering the consumer is almost akin to the final blow to the competitive threat of Trade Me Property to which I refer to private listings. These listings will for ever be the differentiator that enables Trade Me to retain its massive hold over the real estate industry. Cutting them off from this unique differentiator would finally allow Realestate.co.nz to create the winning move. There is no valid reason why private listings should not not be displayed on Realestate.co.nz. To the consumer it makes not a jot of difference, all they want is comprehensive content on a consistent single platform, nothing more frustrating for them than hopping from site to site to ascertain the total portfolio of listings on the market.

As for the attitude of real estate agents to private listings, surely by now the logic must be established that this approach to selling your home will not go away, nor will it undermine the role of the agent. If agents somehow believe that by not advertising private listings on Realestate.co.nz they are in some way cutting off oxygen to these sellers they are mistaken. Equally if they think that denying private sellers access to Realestate.co.nz is some how a demonstration of a value proposition for agents, then the value of agents is not valuable enough. As a final sweetener, surely the potential of $6m of revenue a year would quieten the loudest sceptic, especially if they were a shareholder of Realestate.co.nz

 

4. Build passionate brand adoption 

With a laser-like focus on the customers, a cooperative structure of ownership, matched to a resurgent investment funding to power new innovation, the last component of the strategy would have to be building the brand identity such that the brand becomes a byword for the process, a trusted and recommended single solution to all aspects of the property market.

Clearly the emboldened financial situation for the company as a result of greater support matched to a capital raising would create a war chest worthy of a major brand campaign, however burning the budget on flashy TV adverts does nothing more than stoke the coffers of the TV companies (even if one of them is state owned). What would be needed is an approach to marketing that created a real sense of why Realestate.co.nz is the logical solution. It should be as much about the innovation and experience as it about creative messaging. It should literally wrap itself around the agent process and support the agent in their day-today work as a part of the very foundation of the industry in all aspects of training, materials, communication and success. The brand should be there with the agent in the home of the potential client on the day of the first presentation as much as on the day the contract is signed, as on the day the keys are handed over and then the brand should live on with the consumer through the life of the property. This takes time and takes commitment, however the goal is audacious and yet highly achievable.



That is my proposal to the industry. My view as to how to push home the advantage and ultimately remove Trade Me from the equation, or at least marginalise them to the role of auctioning tractors with a 20 acre farm thown in!

As to the measure of success for the adoption of this strategy, which by no means is guaranteed, you need look no further than the overseas markets whether the digital real estate marketing platforms are reaching stellar levels. 

In the UK a market of 60 million population the leading property portal (Rightmove) as a listed company has a market cap of $4 billion and the #2 (Zoopla) is about to list at an estimated cap of $ 2 billion. The US has two leading property portal players both listed companies in a market with a population of 320 million - Zillow has a market cap of $5 billion and Trulia a market cap of $1.5 billion. Finally Australia with just 5 times to NZ population with its powerhouse property portal REA Group topping all of them with a market cap of over $6 billion. These valuations are not reported here as inducements to demonstrate the upside of the future value of Realestate.co.nz, for with this cooperative structure why would the future shareholders sell? The key demonstration of these numbers is to highlight to the industry as to what to expect if Trade Me is given a free run at the future, as its aspiration is to emulate these performance metrics from the real estate sector, and as a consequence the industry directly or indirectly will end up paying to generate the revenues to create the profit to support these levels of profitability, many times their current level.


New boundary view - a step forward down a narrow lane! (Updated)

by Alistair Helm in ,


Trade Me Property has announced the introduction of a new feature for property listings, the boundary details of properties. This service complements the existing map view and street view. It is not universal across all listings as it needs an accurate address detail. Scanning the site randomly checking listings from different parts of the country showed that it is somewhat 'pot luck' as to its availability.

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This new feature is sadly long overdue, firstly as it a core layer of content that has been available through both Terralink's 'Property Guru' service and Property IQ service for many years - these two competing services are only available to real estate agents and other property related companies as a subscription service, although it has been on the Zoodle and QV sites.

Secondly it is the first innovation we have seen from either Realestate.co.nz or Trade Me for a very long time - we have seen both of these companies prepared to spend millions of dollars recently on advertising campaigns trying to prove who is biggest! - yet sadly the consumer as a buyer of property has not seen any innovation. This is in marked contrast to overseas property portals where innovations flow on a weekly basis and provides the competitive tension between players in other countries - the consumer being the winner whereas here the TV companies are likely to to be the winners.

Speaking of competitive tension, it will be very interesting to see if and how Realestate.co.nz responds to this innovation. In the past there was a degree of a partnering of the two major property websites with the two property data companies - Trade Me with Property IQ and Realestate.co.nz with Terralink. However effective 1 January 2014, PropertyIQ NZ Limited and Terralink International limited officially came together as CoreLogic NZ Limited. This came after the Commerce Commission cleared the merger between the two businesses in November.

So now there is effectively only one player in town when it comes to detailed property mapping and if Trade Me has secured CoreLogic as a partner as this latest innovation suggests then it leave Realestate.co.nz out in the cold. Far from the principle of how the Commerce Commission saw this situation.

In the documents relating to the merger and in the findings in favour of the merger the Commerce Commission stated that:

“The Commission considered that PropertyIQ will continue to face competition from existing and emerging competitors in these markets. Furthermore, we consider that new competitors entering these markets are able to access the key datasets through negotiations with local Councils and other sources and will also constrain the merged entity,” said Commerce Commission Chairman Dr Mark Berry.

Certainly when it comes to general mapping there are numerous suppliers - Google being the main service used by both property websites, however when it comes to boundary details this is a very local mapping service here in NZ and 'drawing' this detail on maps will continue to be done by one company (as it was in the past) the main difference is that in the past 2 competing companies could sell this service - now there is only one player to offer this service, in my view lessening competition and denying the consumer a valuable service across their property website of choice. 

Updated - Friday 28th Feb 10am

I tweeted this post and received this reply from Trade Me Property

Now I think I understand the tweet - if I am right what they are saying is that the code integration to create these boundary link images takes about 4hrs and at tis time the system is busy doing open home data load.

If this is right then the question is why not do all this code loading on a beta site before releasing it publicly. The images being shown under boundary views are images (as a picture file) and therefore all it requires is a database look up on an address and then bring into the website the weblink from the CoreLogic image server - if no file then don't show.

If I have this wrong then I have asked Trade Me Property to comment below to clarify.


Could the agent boycott of Trade Me end up driving more people to private sales?

by Alistair Helm in


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The old adage that ‘perception is reality’ could potentially be occurring in the minds of property buyers and particularly sellers in the Hawkes Bay and Hamilton areas of the country. For if you were a normal everyday property buyer or seller using your usual means to keep in-touch with the property market through email alerts and web browsing, what you would notice in these two regions is that there seems to be far more ‘Private Sale’ properties being advertised on Trade Me.

This increase in private sellers is the perception. The reality is that there are less agent listings. 

What the real estate agents undertaking this boycott need to appreciate is that their next client is not that likely to be reading this article (I actually hope they are) nor the other media outlets that are discussing this issue - their prospective clients are browsing the news headlines and then reading the weekly women’s magazines!

These clients pay no attention to the number of listings on any page - all they want are new listings. They continue to turn to Trade Me everyday in huge numbers to view new listings. There may be less new listings, but how are they to judge the reason for this?

They certainly are not likely to stop using Trade Me Property to browse property for sale - why should they? They have been doing it for years and in their minds eye nothing has changed. The site looks identical and new properties come on the market everyday. They are not conscious that there are less (in fact no) new properties from the likes of Property Brokers, Tremains, Lugtons, Lodge and Harcourts. What they do see is far more properties coming onto the market from private sellers.

Just compare the first page of new listings in the Hawkes Bay with a comparable region - say New Plymouth in the Taranaki. In New Plymouth the first page with 50 listings consists of 6 private sale listings - 12%. On average Trade Me property comprises around 16% private sale listings on average. Now examine the first page of 50 latest listings for the Hawkes Bay - 40 of the 50 are private listings - 80%!

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To the average property buyer searching the site today the one thing they notice is less agent listings. Do they instantly think - "ah yes of course my local agent is boycotting Trade Me so I must switch across to Realestate.co.nz" or could it be they think - "ah more people seem to be trying to sell privately, this must mean something, maybe when we come to sell we should try a private sales, after all everybody is doing it and it only costs around $400 which compares to 4% commission which based on the median price in the Hawkes Bay at $279,000 means a cost to me of $12,834 inc GST".

This is the second time in the past 12 months where I perceive that the real estate industry is maybe shooting itself in the foot - earlier it was their fondness of auctions that may be their downfall now it is their challenge to fees from Trade Me - chinks in their armour they may be; but sometimes death by a thousand cuts can be fatal!


TV campaigns by Trade Me Property & Realestate.co.nz

by Alistair Helm in ,


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The new year has kicked off with the two competing property portals slugging it out in a marketing war to capture the greatest attention and thereby assert their respective role as the platform of choice for advertising property in NZ - or is that really the story?

Trade Me was the first to kick off with their campaign. As a company they historically have not been a significant advertiser across what is generally described as traditional media - TV, radio and print media. The exception to this has been where they have faced significant competition (as in the case of Trade Me Jobs vs. Seek) or where they have a new proposition to convey (as in the buy new retail strategy). 

The reality is that Trade Me enjoys unprecedented spontaneous awareness and engagement such that they really have no need to tell people that they exist or how to use the site or the benefits of the service.

When it comes to real estate these facts are indisputable. Trade Me is used by all real estate agents and private sellers, it is the most effective means of advertising property for sale or rent. Buyers and renters go to Trade Me first and most often to check out the properties on the market as well as being driven there by email alerts. So why is it that Trade Me is running TV adverts as well as other media?

The simple fact is this campaign is not targeted at property buyers in an effort to secure greater usage of the site, nor is it really targeted at property sellers trying to encourage them to list on Trade Me Property as the creative would suggest. They have undertaken this campaign to put pressure on the real estate industry to secure continued listing support under the new pricing model implemented late last year and ensure the threatened boycott does not eventuate. The ads are very much a trade marketing campaign using consumer messages.

 

There are three 15 second commercials in the campaign each supported by other media using the same animated stylised imagery somewhat reminiscent of clipart characters. This is a new creative execution very different from the new products campaign run last year and the Trade Me Jobs campaigns.

The commercial are very focused on features, rather than benefits as befits the trade marketing strategy, example being “4 times more potential buyers than any other property site or No. 1 source of property buyers”, in this regard the commercials feel a trifle wooden. Trade Me over the years has built a close affinity with the population of NZ. A warm and engaging sense of the underdog championing the individual to allow them to buy and sell anything and be in control. To do things easily, cheaply and for themselves and in so doing become a trusted place “run by good people like us”. I get none of this sense from these adverts, they seem disconnected from the brand values of Trade Me and in someways have a smugness that suggests that they are overly sure of their position and merely need to state the fact that they are the No1.

Realestate.co.nz on the other hand are launching a TV campaign clearly with the intention of building brand awareness and through that to drive traffic.

The commercial plays heavily to the mobile platform and the iPhone app as the access point to the content. Unlike Trade Me the advert does not use unique features or facts to sell the message it simply takes the generic requirement of the market and state - “browse through thousands of properties throughout NZ - anytime anywhere”.

 

The short time frame of the commercial does not allow the opportunity to establish a classic call to action - such as to download the app or check out specific aspects of the site. The reality is that 15 second adverts as this is, are best when used as recall ads supporting a longer form 30 second or 45 second that establish the premise of the campaign. To rely solely on the 15 second version as this campaign seems to be doing leaves a risk of insufficient impact.

Realestate.co.nz has not used TV advertising since the launch campaign for the website back in 2006 and therefore they are effectively starting out as a new brand - pitching into the wide ocean of TV viewers. This is likely to see massive dilution of the message. Given the likely budget, the money would have been better invested into media where their core audience are more likely engaged.

Not knowing the scale of the expenditure behind these campaigns it is difficult to assess the relative impact. Clearly Trade Me has a considerably larger war chest of marketing dollars and could outspend Realestate.co.nz many time over, however I doubt they will. Their campaign as stated is really targeted at the industry as a trade marketing push, in this regard merely to be doing the campaign and telling the industry about it supported by the outdoor advertising will achieve the objective of exerting pressure for industry support without a massive expenditure.

Realestate.co.nz on the other hand in my judgement are caught as the expenditure of the campaign I suspect will not be sufficient to really influence consumer behaviour or drive action. Certainly they will benefit from trade support in that they will be seen to be advertising which has long been a call by the industry. 

Overall I am left with the distinct view that the total campaign of these two competitors is a complete waste of money. The beneficiary of this campaign are as ever the TV companies. The losers the real estate industry. The expenditure in the case of Realestate.co.nz takes money away from smart investment in the site and the apps and in the case of Trade Me the expenditure is a small investment which will ensure continued usage of the site and thereby further their financial ambitions to take more of the marketing dollar from the real estate industry.

If these campaign were really about seeking to market to property buyers and sellers the respective marketing teams would have bypassed old media and looked to established deeper consumer engagement within the respective groups through online campaigns and social media marketing.


What is a listing?

by Alistair Helm in


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It struck me the other day when reading a comment from a reader to the various articles regarding the reaction by the real estate industry to Trade Me Property new pricing structure for property, that part of the problem is in someways the words we use and the connotation they infer, borne of age-old experience.

Think about it for a moment, the heart of the discussion is around the notion of the cost / value of a listing. But what is a listing?

So much of our approach to this issue is governed by our old-media thinking. Newspapers still instruct our frame of reference. A listing in a newspaper was governed by column inches. Simply a list of articles for sale (in this case a house). Page after page of the newspaper were full of 'listings' - probably given the 6 column structure of newspapers you would have close on 100 house listings on a page. Such layout in simple black newsprint text could do nothing to provide more than the bare facts - suburb, size, features (though limited) and contact details or open home details. 

As such this basic listing, charged on a per inch basis was never expected to be significant as a true 'advert' for the property, it was simply a inclusion in a stock list. To achieve impact and draw attention of buyers it was necessary to pay for advertising in the form of 1/4 page 1/2 page or full page adverts with photos. In rough terms of cost a listing might cost $30 and full page advert $1,000.

So the use of the word 'listing' in the context of the web is entirely misleading for the costs of a 'listing on Trade Me Property' today costs upwards of $399 but delivers more than the $1,000 full page advert of old. Full colour images, comprehensive details, maps and social insight, contact details and contextual data. Not to forget that the advert is targeted to all property buyers and is seen by an audience of over 100,000 a day - challenge to any newspapers audience at the height of their era. It is also significantly important to remember that the advertising for the property is active 24hrs a day to a global audience until sold - the listing in the newspaper was classically there on Saturday and in the trash by Sunday morning.

So whilst somewhat over simplifying the situation - if we thought of a 'listing' on a website as an advertising feature or a webpage advert we might redefine our frame of reference and squabble less over the price of a listing and think more of the value of the advertising.

Interestingly though, now with over a third of viewing of property on mobile devices we should stake a new term entirely. How about a properties "Digital Profile". In that way you can pay $399 for the digital profile on Trade Me Property and then choose to do an enhanced Feature advert or Super Feature advert upgrade, which is interestingly not 30 times the cost of the old newspaper listing - why? because the basic "Digital Profile" delivers so much more advertising value!.