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 New Zealand - or is that really the story?
Trade Me was the first to kick off with its campaign. As a company it historically has 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 it has faced significant competition (as in the case of Trade Me Jobs vs. Seek) or where it has 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 it really has no need to tell people that it exists 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 and is 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 “four times more potential buyers than any other property site or No. 1 source of property buyers.” I this regard the commercials feel a trifle wooden. Trade Me over the years has built a close affinity with the population of New Zealand. There is 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 some ways, 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 is 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.
Former Realestate.co.nz CEO Alistair Helm is founder of Properazzi.