Technology

Realtor.com’s rebrand doubles down on accuracy — with a comedic twist

News Corp.-owned Move Inc. chooses Elizabeth Banks to appear in national ad campaign

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WASHINGTON — Move Inc. is launching a new national advertising campaign that uses humor and a famous talent to lure consumers to realtor.com and differentiate the site from its Zillow Group rivals, Zillow and Trulia.

The campaign is the latest change put in place since News Corp. bought realtor.com operator Move Inc. last fall.

The campaign starts with a rebranding that went live today. The realtor.com logo is now red and black, with the “real” in “realtor” in red — a bolder color scheme than the previous teal and gray. The ad campaign is titled “real estate in real time” to emphasize the site’s fresh, accurate information.

“Everything’s about real — real knowledge, real data, real insight,” said Move CEO Ryan O’Hara.

On May 18, Move will also roll out the first two of several national commercials featuring famous actress, producer and director Elizabeth Banks. Banks is best known for her roles in “Pitch Perfect” and the “Hunger Games” trilogy.

Banks will also appear in a five-episode Web series for first-time homebuyers that is set to launch in mid-to-late June. The series is directed by Fred Savage of “The Wonder Years” fame. The campaign will run for at least a year.

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In the commercials and “webisodes,” Banks is playing a “real estate-obsessed version of herself,” said Andrew Strickman, Move’s vice president of brand strategy and chief creative.

“She is an amazing actress. She is an incredibly intuitive comedienne. She really understands humor,” he said, detailing why Move chose Banks.

“The interesting thing about Elizabeth is that she appeals to all demographics,” he added.

With this campaign, Move made a concerted effort to break away from the traditional approach to real estate, particularly online real estate, Strickman said.

“We aligned with an agency [Pereira & O’Dell New York] that helped us see the role that humor could play in our advertising,” he said.

“With something as intense … as the homeownership process, sometimes you just need to take a step back and laugh at yourself.”

The Web series will show that real estate doesn’t need to be as scary as it sometimes seems, he said.

Move is open to discussions with big brokers that wish to brand the webisodes to themselves, he added.

Neither the commercials nor the Web series feature Realtors. When asked whether Move will continue to promote Realtors, Strickman said that the company would continue to market that partnership.

Many consumers have never worked with a Realtor and are afraid of that part of the homebuying experience, he said.

“I think our job is to bring them in to that part of the experience … not hit them over the head with anything like that. But once we’ve got them, that’s the perfect time to help them pick a Realtor of their choosing,” he said.

Once on the realtor.com site, there are several places where consumers are directed to choose a Realtor, including agent review pages and listing detail pages, according to O’Hara.

“A strong realtor.com is vitally important and valuable for Realtors. It further promotes what a Realtor is all about. It makes that brand resonate with consumers,” he said.

While some critics might object to realtor.com’s double-down on accuracy in its marketing, Move execs say that approach is working.

“Accuracy definitely matters to consumers,” Strickman said. Every research study Move has ever done has shown that consumers’ most frustrating experience is when they find a home online only to discover it has already been sold, he said.

Though still shy of portal giant Zillow, realtor.com’s traffic is growing. Consumers are “coming to realtor.com in numbers that have never been seen before,” Strickman said.

Zillow spokeswoman Katie Curnutte noted that Zillow Group is still attracting millions more unique users than realtor.com. By itself, Zillow added 12 million more visitors in April compared to a year ago, compared to 8 million for realtor.com, she said. That number goes up to 20 million for Zillow and Trulia combined.

O’Hara admits “it’s early days” and realtor.com still has “a long way to go.” But realtor.com’s page views per unique user are about on par with Zillow’s, Move said, citing comScore figures.

That’s a sign of engagement and why realtor.com’s leads are “really high quality,” O’Hara said. “When the consumer comes to realtor.com they go deeper.”

Potential homebuyers are also more likely to care about accuracy, according to Move.

Since its acquisition by News Corp., Move has also added more editorial content to the site under “News & Advice.” The content comes from Move staffers as well as other News Corp.-owned entities such as The Wall Street Journal.

People are “hungering” for more real estate content and realtor.com aspires to be the home for all things real estate, O’Hara said.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.