As the housing market recovers, real-estate advertisers are starting to spend big bucks to advertise during live events like the Super Bowl, Grammys and Oscars. Marketers in the category, such as Coldwell Banker, are also unleashing their ads earlier in the year as they seek to inject their brands into conversations before the spring selling season begins.
The investments are a sign that executives remain bullish on the recovering housing industry, because ad budgets for major real-estate franchisers are fueled in part by fees often based on transactions.
Measured-media spending by real-estate companies, home builders and related firms has been on the rebound since plummeting to just below $1 billion in 2009 in the wake of the bursting housing bubble, according to Kantar Media. Last year, spending reached $1.09 billion, which marked the second-consecutive yearly increase, but still far behind the recent peak of $3.1 billion in 2006, according to Kantar.
Century 21 made the biggest spending splash by running an ad in Sunday's Super Bowl, marking its second-straight year in the Big Game, for which ad prices were estimated at $3.8 million for 30 seconds.
"For us it's a perfect time in advance of the spring selling season because it gives consumers a chance to see the brand and have it be top of mind," said Chief Marketing Officer Bev Thorne.
This year, Coldwell Banker is starting its campaign in February, rather than March, while unleashing a new media-buying strategy that it calls "blue carpet" because it targets top award shows and other high-profile TV events. The buys, which were handled by MediaCom, begin with the Grammy Awards on Feb. 10 and include the Oscars on Feb. 24, the Emmy Awards in the fall and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The shows are "relatively DVR-proof" as well as "social," said Michael Fischer, the company's former CMO who was recently promoted to chief operating officer. During the programs, Coldwell will buy sponsored tweets directing viewers to content on its blog. With the Grammys, for instance, Coldwell plans to plug a blog post featuring a posh condo in Miami recently sold by rapper Drake that was handled by a Coldwell agent.
Like last year, the TV campaign by Siltanen & Partners uses Tom Selleck in a voice-over and highlights the emotional side of home ownership, such as building forts "made from sofa cushions and blankets" and "Friday-night sleepovers." The marketer, whose previous effort had talked about avoiding the hidden dangers of buying a home, shifted the tone in 2012 to get away from the "rational, negative discussion" that had been dominating the market, Mr. Fischer said.
And there is more than a little optimism these days.
"Housing is clearly recovering. Prices are rising, as are both new and existing home sales," said David Blitzer, chairman of the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Index, in a report last week that showed prices rising 5.5% in the 12 months ending in November for its 20-city composite index.
But while category advertising is up, Madison Avenue execs, specifically, might still have something to worry about: The only city where home prices fell over the 12 months was New York -- though only 1.2%, according to the index.