One of the Super Bowl’s biggest advertisers was a company few viewers would know by name, even if they recognize its Homes.com and Apartments.com brands. Real estate company CoStar Group, which owns both sites, invested around $35 million in spots for the game. The massive spend is only the beginning as the company plots a year-long advertising blitz for Homes.com, which made up the bulk of CoStar’s Big Game buy.
Behind the massive Super Bowl ad buy for Homes.com and Apartments.com
The homebuying brand ran one 60-second introductory ad in the second quarter, and then two supporting 30-second ads each quarter of the second half. After acquiring the residential listing site in 2021, CoStar has spent the last three years preparing it for primetime, with a new website, improved user experience and detailed neighborhood profiles, according to David Mele, president of Homes.com.
“We really do want to have a megaphone to point all the home buyers, sellers and agents now and in the future to Homes.com,” he said in an interview last week. “It’s time for us to unveil the new Homes.com— it’s two minutes and it is an investment to build the brand and to showcase something that’s really different and unique.”
Beginning with a humorous spot that gives “Succession” vibes, the campaign introduced Dan Levy as one of Homes.com’s new spokespeople along with comedian Heidi Gardner. One ad included a cameo from Lil Wayne, and another featured Jeff Goldblum, reprising his role as Apartments.com character Brad Bellflower, in a sister-brand crossover.
Apartments.com got its own 30-second spot, also with Goldblum, that ran in the first quarter. The CoStar brands worked with RPA on both creative and media duties; the Santa Monica, California-based shop has been Apartments.com’s agency since it was acquired by CoStar a decade ago.
It’s been a decade punctuated by considerable recent growth, thanks to pandemic-era residential real estate boosts. CoStar’s quarterly revenue has increased by double-digit percentages for the last 50 quarters, the company recently announced. For the quarter ended Sept. 30, revenue rose 12% over the year-earlier period to $625 million. The Washington, D.C.-based company’s net income rose 25% in the quarter, to $91 million.
Since buying Homes.com, CoStar has worked to improve it by following a similar playbook to its strategies on Apartments.com. The Homes site was rebuilt from the ground up with a better user interface following focus group testing and a new tech stack. The brand also focused on developing its proprietary neighborhood profile offerings, which include data for prospective buyers that drill down to a granular level. Schools, parks, shopping and restaurant information is included in the detailed 21,000 neighborhood profiles currently on offer on the site. More profiles are planned, according to Mele, who stressed that the company’s 1,000-plus employees developing the work are neither contractors nor ChatGPT.
“We have focused on getting product in place, getting the content in place and then turning on marketing,” he said.
The campaign’s casting choice of Levy and Gardner could be seen as an inspired dig at chief rival Zillow. For example, “Saturday Night Live” loyalists will remember the pair’s inclusion in a Zillow ad spoof three years ago at the height of the real estate porn trend, when consumers on lockdown were all looking for better digs. Following the 60-second introductory spot, subsequent ads that aired Sunday highlighted Homes.com’s focus on neighborhood research and school data.
But it’s the crossover with Goldblum’s character that will help connect the dots between Apartments.com and Homes.com, said Mele, noting the natural progression for many home buyers to start as renters. In addition, the established Apartments.com brand, and its spokesman, already enjoy mainstream awareness.
“We know Apartments.com is in a strong position and a well-known brand and we are looking for a bit of a halo from that for Homes.com,” Mele said.
Following the Super Bowl, Homes.com’s marketing push will continue with media buys in several tentpole events, including the Oscars, March Madness and the Olympics. The home-buying brand plans to advertise with additional spots on linear TV and streaming, digital channels and podcasts as it looks to build awareness and establish itself as a real estate search aid for U.S. consumers.
“We will have a large-scale media buy throughout the entire year,” Mele said.