The ad opens on a middle-aged couple hugging in a huge green yard with a red house in the background. As a series of smiling, cardboard-box-toting couples move into new homes onscreen, a narrator says, “You can make that new home a reality …

The ad opens on a middle-aged couple hugging in a huge green yard with a red house in the background. As a series of smiling, cardboard-box-toting couples move into new homes onscreen, a narrator says, “You can make that new home a reality … with Intercounty Mortgage Network.”

The ad is an example of the work of Spot Runner, a company that makes it possible for real estate professionals and other small businesses to create their own television ads online.

More and more real estate professionals are using streaming video content online to help them stand out, and real estate agents have long used television ads. Spot Runner makes it possible for agents to create ads for one medium by using the other, for as little as $500.

A host of companies already exists in the real estate video space, including GoLookInside, a streaming video production company that shoots video home tours for real estate agents; video production company UCiT; and CreativeEdge, which produces 13 real estate television shows each week for brokerage companies in major markets across the country.

However, these companies do all the technical work for the agents. Spot Runner is different because it presents agents with a large number of pre-made 30-second television spots into which they can insert their names and other identifiers, creating their own TV spots.

“To the best of my knowledge, what they do is unique,” said Matt Dameron, head of research and development at CreativeEdge.

For example, in the Intercounty Mortgage Network ad, the company’s name is mentioned in the voiceover twice as happy couples carry boxes into their new homes and toast each other over takeout. The company’s name, address and phone number appear onscreen at the end.

The agents can also dictate which TV stations they want to run the ads and which time slots they want from pre-arranged options. Spot Runner media buyers do the rest, contacting the stations and making the arrangements. The company says it’s possible to create a full package, including commercial production, media planning and ad time, for as little as $500.

It’s not hard to assemble the videos from Spot Runner’s templates, according to David Waxman, who co-founded the company along with Nick Grouf. The two also founded companies including, in 1995, Firefly Network, an Internet personalization business they eventually sold to Microsoft for tens of millions of dollars.

“To make an ad, you go to our site and register, saying where you live,” Waxman said. This is so that no two real estate companies in the same area will run the same ad.

Then a series of drop-down menus appears, prompting the agents to supply details such as which video they want to use – the entire library, which includes non-real-estate-related ads, has about 3,000 videos – and how much they want to spend on their campaign. Then, they choose the TV stations they want.

Bravo, CNN, Discovery, the Food Network, HGTV, the ABC family, ESPN and a plethora of other stations are available as choices, Waxman said.

“Real estate agents can upload four to six photos of a house they are offering for sale” to create a virtual tour, according to Waxman. “We have more customized elements for real estate ads, specific templates. You can upload several images of yourself or a listing so you can showcase yourself.”

After the agent creates the ad, within 24 hours an e-mail arrives saying the ad is ready to be scrutinized on the Spot Runner site. After any necessary adjustments, the company’s media buyers go to work and the ad goes up. “It could be less than a week from the first time you visit our site to when you see your ad on television,” said Waxman.

Eric Schmitt, author of a December 2004 report on the state of TV advertising from Forrester Research, said the television industry is under a tremendous amount of pressure, with big-name advertisers cutting budgets and viewers skipping over ads, and that his report was “very much in line with what this company is doing.”

Spot Runner could be “useful” to real estate professionals, Schmitt said, but his concern was whether the videos could grab viewers’ attention.

With regard to local advertising, Schmitt said, “There’s not a lot of evidence that the corner car dealership or pizza shop ever gets their money back from spot ads.”

Nonetheless, according to Schmitt, “A lot of these small advertisers could never afford to produce a commercial,” he said. “I’m sure they (Spot Runner) could leverage the production costs across many clients so small companies could make good-looking ads. Anything that improves TV advertising over the status quo is a good thing.”


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