Julie Lauer, a Realtor for Keller Williams Realty in Pleasanton, Calif., paid $100 for a tiny square adjoining the image of a flying Elvis. Michael Seitz, associate broker for Kingman Realty in Kingman, Ariz., bought a $400 rectangle to display the word “Arizona.”

Other real estate professionals, too, spent $100 or more to be a part of a pay-per-pixel advertising site dreamed up by Alex Tew, 21, a college student from Wiltshire, England.

Julie Lauer, a Realtor for Keller Williams Realty in Pleasanton, Calif., paid $100 for a tiny square adjoining the image of a flying Elvis. Michael Seitz, associate broker for Kingman Realty in Kingman, Ariz., bought a $400 rectangle to display the word “Arizona.”

Other real estate professionals, too, spent $100 or more to be a part of a pay-per-pixel advertising site dreamed up by Alex Tew, 21, a college student from Wiltshire, England. A pixel is a tiny digitized speck that is a building block for images on computer screens. The word “pixel” is short for “picture element.”

Tew created a Web site, MillionDollarHomepage.com, and a system for selling ad space. The minimum ad size – a 10-by-10 block of pixels – cost $100, so $1 per pixel. The Web page consists of 1 million pixels.

The first $100 ad went up in late August. And as of Dec. 29, Tew had sold $912,000 worth of pixels, with 88,000 pixels remaining to sell at the site. Needless to say, Tew has made more than enough money to finish college and could probably teach business students a few things about Internet marketing.

The Web site is a busy hodgepodge of colorful images, logos and text. As users pass a pointer over each ad, a text description is displayed.

One of the most prominent real estate-related ads, which cost $3,900, is for a site called RentClick.com, which specializes in home rentals. Tew’s idea has drawn international media attention and spawned a wave of copycat Web sites that are also selling ad space by the pixel.

Tew’s site generated about 70,000 unique page views from Dec. 22-23, according to a blog item at the site. He has guaranteed advertisers that the site will be maintained for at least five years, “but hopefully much longer. I want it to become a kind of Internet time capsule,” according to a description at the site.

In a “frequently asked questions” section at his Web site, Tew states that he conceptualized the pay-per-pixel plan on “a muggy summer’s night late in August, the time around midnight, and there I was, lying on my bed with a notepad, brainstorming ideas to make money for (university). I wanted to come up with an idea that was unique and would hopefully capture people’s imagination, but with the whole purpose of making money.”

Lauer and Seitz said they read about Tew’s Web site in a Wall Street Journal article.

“I was just so intrigued. I loved the idea. It’s kind of a novelty,” said Lauer. “I think the guy who did it was really smart. He came up with this whacky idea which, because of the Internet Age, just took off. It’s the whole word-of-mouth thing. Maybe in the future I’ll be selling pixel ads instead of banner ads (at my site) as a way to generate income.”

Lauer hasn’t yet finalized an image to display in the 10-by-10 space that she reserved on Nov. 24. “With such a small space you’re really limited on what you’re going to do graphically.”

She said she’s hoping that site visitors will be drawn to the Elvis image, a $2,400 ad paid for by Bonanza Gifts of Las Vegas. “I wanted to be next to something large – I wanted to be near something significant,” she said.

Lauer said the $100 ad at Tew’s site is her first foray into Internet advertising. She has received calls on occasion from companies that offer services relating to Google AdWords, though she hasn’t acted on the offers yet.

So far, she hasn’t received any solid leads from her ad, but it is definitely driving traffic to her Web site, Lauer said. She received about 700 more hits at her Web site in December than in the previous month.

Seitz, who purchased a 400-pixel ad Nov. 27, said he has received a couple of real estate queries from folks who clicked through to his Web site from the MillionDollarHomepage.com site. One prospective buyer requested information about property listings at his Web site.

“I think this is a fantastic form of advertising,” Seitz said. “If I get one sale it’ll pay off. Instead of a search engine, everything is all on one page, in sort of a fun atmosphere.” He said that a real estate-specific pixel ad site might be popular with industry professionals.

Seitz decided to display the word “Arizona” in his ad because he felt “it was a good catch-all for people who were curiosity seekers.” There are many relocation buyers coming to the Kingman area, and one of the leads he got from the pixel ad site was from a Florida resident, he also said.

Among the other real estate ads at Tew’s pixel ad site: FSBOAlaska.com, MauiCo.com, a South Florida real estate blog, RadCribs.com, IPropertyShop.com, MyHouseOnTheWeb.co.uk, BrandonNa.com, HappySeller.co.uk, DesignForward.net, Fisbo.co.uk, ThePropertyFinders.com and TheRealEstateHomepage.com. There are several ads related to properties in Spain, and a couple that advertise property in Bulgaria.

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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