Trulia Stages Holiday House Hunt For Gingerbread Man

Social Media Push Enlists 'Million Dollar Listing' Agents James Harris and David Parnes

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From Trulia's campaign.
From Trulia's campaign. Credit: via Trulia

Fred was not planning on spending major dough for a new home, but when he found out his wife had a bun in the oven, it was unavoidable. So he turned to "Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles" real estate agents James Harris and David Parnes to find the perfect cottage. The only catch? Fred is Ginger Fred, a cookie made of gingerbread.

That is the actual storyline behind a whimsical search for the perfect (gingerbread) home for the holidays is central to Trulia's holiday social-marketing push this year. The 12-day social media and public relations campaign runs from Dec.1 through Dec. 12, ending on "Gingerbread House Day," with daily Instagram photo vignettes chronicling the search. Mekanism did the creative.

"The holidays aren't thought of as a great time to buy or sell a house, but we believe it still can be a great time, and we wanted to bring that to life in a fun and playful way," said Micky Onvural, VP-consumer marketing at Trulia.

Known for its rich databases of real estate information, pricing histories and photos, Trulia will spotlight that expertise by pinpointing the best neighborhoods in San Francisco and Los Angeles for the gingerbread family, locating the best nearby bakeries and grocery stores and areas that are not too hot to melt icing roofs. Infographics with the 10 best and the 10 worst places for gingerbread families to live will play on Trulia's traditional data-driven "best of" listings it publishes throughout the year.

Million-dollar uber agents Messrs. Harris and Parnes were tapped because the online real estate service also helps buyers and sellers find real estate agents. The two men will guide the cookies in finding the right home and showcase the search on their own social media channels as well.

"It's a playful campaign, it's fun, it's Christmas and I think we're in the right economy to do it. This also fits our personalities really well," said Mr. Harris, co-founder with Mr. Parnes in Bond Street Partners. "Trulia is very aesthetically pleasing, which I absolutely love, and a lot of our clients like as well. At the end of the day, real estate, especially residential, is about beautiful homes and Trulia really represents those houses and shows them off in the best way."

The campaign comes with the more serious reminder that November and December can be an opportune time for home buying, especially in competitive real estate markets. Ms. Onvarul said she closed on her own home in San Francisco last year on Christmas Eve and enjoyed the experience of a more relaxed market.

Last spring Trulia ran its first national "Moment of Trulia" mainstream and mobile campaign pegged at $45 million in spending, but after Trulia was acquired by its chief competitor Zillow for $3.5 billion, it changed up tactics. What followed was a yearlong series of content efforts concentrated in social media and public relations, including a haunted open house staging at Halloween and a #TruliHome effort showing how people really live at home with "surprising" habits like playing naked scrabble or practicing whale calls.

Zillow, which also owns online real estate sites HotPads and StreetEasy, recently noted in its third quarter financial statement that it expects 2015 revenue of $675 million to $680 million, more than double its 2014 total of $325 million.

Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff spoke about its current Trulia brand strategy during the recent call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript: "We are spending money right now, advertising the Trulia brand online. … But for us, it does start with products and there's a lot of hard work being done by the Trulia product teams to improve the user experience and reduce the ad load, which directly speaks to usability and to consumer satisfaction. So, it starts with product, it gets amplifies through PR, e-mail, and social, and SEO, and then, advertising is an important part of it, as well."

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