Ed Carey, founder and CEO of Audience Town, a new real estate advertising company, believes lead generation in its common forms is antiquated and becoming diluted. Here’s why he thinks that programmatic advertising is the future of online outreach for the real estate industry.

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There’s getting the business, and there’s doing the business. The second depends entirely on the first. And in real estate, it’s the “getting” that sinks so many new practitioners.

Zillow, realtor.com and a compendium of other services (some good, some terrible) exist solely to sell agents leads.

Ed Carey

But one person isn’t buying what the lead generators are selling.

Ed Carey, founder and CEO of Audience Town, a new real estate advertising company, believes lead generation in its common forms is antiquated and becoming diluted. In a phone call with Inman, he called Zillow “monopolistic.”

“It puts things in place to compete with its owns clients, and that’s what a monopoly does. They make it impossible to compete,” he said.

Carey sees Facebook advertising as generic because the social media giant offers the same products to every industry. He feels the same about Google, which he called “diabolical” when it comes to controlling data and advertising.

In March of this year, Carey’s company issued a statement on Facebook’s settlement with the Fair Housing Administration (FHA) over its advertising targeting models, which explains clearly Audience Town’s take that Facebook might very well leave the real estate industry — and the agents using it to find leads — out to dry.

It was written by attorney and company COO, Anthony Grecco. Part of it reads: “Facebook has so much data on their users that if there is discrimination happening on their system, the easy resolution is to go overboard and remove any and all targeting in order to remove the possibility of discrimination. In other words, because they have generic ‘one-size-fits-all’ technology, they have to take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to resolving issues such as this.

“That being said, it is our view that Facebook has gone too far. They’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.”

In the 2019 Real Estate Advertising Outlook report by Borrell Associates, it was stated that collectively, the real estate industry (excluding commercial) will be spending $41.4 billion per year on advertising by 2024. And, 77 percent of that figure will go to online media.

That’s why Carey is so confident the industry will respond to a more sophisticated, programmatic approach to advertising.

Programmatic strategies in online advertising entail buying ads that land only in front of the right people at the right time.

The media buyer doesn’t pay for ad views by the wrong audience, and it eschews a shotgun approach of ZIP codes or money spent on narrowing down an audience through click funnels that require time to qualify a lead.

Instead, programmatic advertising uses intelligent automation for quick, highly accurate ad buys. There’s some machine learning involved, too.

“Retargeting is 10-year-old technology,” Carey said. “It’s table stakes and commoditized. But, it did get a lot of agents on the web advertising.”

Carey’s background consists of 20 years in digital media, data and advertising technology in New York City. His wife, a real estate agent, was the source of his desire to solve the lead problem in real estate by using a mix of data collection, modeling and old-school, Madison Avenue-esque audience targeting.

He says they’re taking advantage of the centralization trend in marketing and lead generation, such as how News Corp. bought Opcity. The idea is to help real estate companies onboard consumer data so they can make their own intelligent, data-driven advertising decisions.

“We’re working with a home development company now, for example, in northern California that is specifically targeting employees of companies about to go public,” said Carey. “They’re after Uber employees.”

His company is putting together an advertising plan for a brokerage in New York that targets California entertainment industry players who visit New York twice a month and can spend $2 million on a home.

“We’ll help clients repurpose old content for the creative or create new stuff for desktop, mobile and video. An old Matterport video, maybe. We can reuse those dying assets.”

Carey and his team believe firmly in the new models streaming into the industry, and he’s a fan of iBuyers.

“I am, right now, selling my house in suburban New Jersey, 12 miles from Manhattan,” Carey told Inman. “I would gladly accept less from an iBuyer. We already have our new house picked out, and there’s all this anxiety about who’s going to buy it. We could be moved in a couple of weeks if the house sold,” he said. “I think humans want certainty.”

Carey is also bullish on iBuyers’ growth beyond cookie-cutter suburban homes, and he believes there’s a tremendous market for Audience Town.

“Eventually, iBuyers are going to need to advertise to off-load inventory when carrying that many homes. They won’t have time to waste on billboards and print,” he said.

Ultimately though, Carey wants to see agents and real estate companies better spend their advertising dollars.

“Too many brokerages over-invest in lead generation, then the players inflate prices,” he said.

Audience Town will be closing a round of financing soon, according to Carey, and he’s eager to use that money to challenge the industry’s understanding of online advertising and lead generation.

“Our platform begins and ends with data,” Carey said. “And brokerages need an alternative.”

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