Elizabeth Banks is back in new campaign for Realtor.com, but this time things take a really weird turn.
Last year the actress appeared in the company's "Real Estate in Real Time" campaign as an overzealous aficionado of Realtor.com. Now, in the latest effort out of Pereira & O'Dell New York, she's crashing the dreams of prospective homeowners who are under the misconception their search for the perfect abode is just a futile quest. Alongside a puppet, ostrich, giant fork, talking pizza, dust bunny and other wacky compadres, Ms. Banks drops in on buyers' sleepytime reveries to tell them they are completely wrong -- they can find their dream home on Realtor.com. "Dream Home. Find Home. Own Home," reads this year's tag.
"It's really an evolution for us," said Andrew Strickman, head of brand and chief creative at Realtor.com. Last year, the company celebrated its second year on TV, and tapping Ms. Banks as a spokesperson represented the brand's decision to be "bigger and bolder," he said. The 2015 work showed "Liz's wacky, funny, sassy personality chanelling Realtor.com and depending on the spot you were watching, you saw something slightly different. It was all about the consistency of our data." This year, the company wanted to drive home clearly the idea that Realtor.com is updated more frequently, showing more homes truly for sale than its competitors. No matter what consumers were searching for, "we wanted to simplify the message and represent Realtor.com as the place where anyone dreaming about their next home is going to be able to find it," he said.
Surreal and off-kilter, the ads have a different comedic flavor altogether from last year's ads, thanks in large part to Dummy director Harold Einstein, known for his offbeat spots for the likes of Kayak.com, Little Caesars, Geico and others.
Each one focuses on a key feature a buyer would want in a home and shows, in very bizarre ways, that searchers would be able to find it on Realtor.com. In one spot, for example, a would-be buyer gets shaved by a floating razor in a spacious, spa-like bathrooom as Ms. Banks sits by, licking a lollipop and mysteriously growing a frothy, foamy beard. Yes, Realtor.com can help him find this fantastic bathroom, she says. Another spot shows Ms. Banks enjoying a decked-out deck with another dreamer, who soaks in his jacuzzi and enjoys barbecued ribs that drop from a cloud above his head. He can find that deck in the real world too, on Realtor.com, she says.
"We wanted to have smart but memorable humor that stood out in a category doing the same saccharine kind of messaging," said Pereira & O'Dell Executive Creative Director Dave Arnold. "A lot of times you think you need X amount of product shots, but then someone like Harold comes along with a really strong point of view and winds up simplifying things in a way that with the right casting, timing, visuals and taste, the product is now even more memorable and has a bigger role in the creative."
While the scenarios are quite ridiculous, "nuance was key," said Mr. Strickman. "Last year was dialogue-heavy, and this year the script got smarter and a lot more visual."
Ms. Banks' talent was evident given the stylistic shift. "She delivered over and over again," said Mr. Arnold. "Harold would ask her to deliver a line 20 ways and she didn't blink and delivered it 20 different ways. There was less room for her to riff on dialogue, but she could deliver more emotion and nuance with a look than any other actor we would have wanted to work with."
There was, however, one drawback to her professionalism, said Mr. Arnold. "We were cutting together a behind-the-scenes to help launch the campaign, and those are usually full of actors sweating, messing up, but there were maybe only two times where she flubbed the lines. We had to come up with other funny stuff to replace that."
Over the coming weeks, the campaign will also roll out social and branded content videos, designed to speak to a millennial audience. "We're definitely looking to millennials because many of them are first-time homebuyers," said Mr. Arnold. "They're one of our core audiences; TV doesn't always reach them, and that's why digital content is so important."
Such assets include branded instructional videos even more out-there than the TV ads. In each, Ms. Banks interviews a different subject -- like her childhood dog and her tweenish middle school crush Cory Berger (who happens to have the same name as Pereira & O'Dell New York's managing director), who all manage to deliver useful advice to new homebuyers. "We wanted to really provide value, but we recognize there's a lot of content out there. It needed to be really entertaining so people would really find it," said Mr. Strickman.
On social media, and only during late-night hours, Realtor.com will also be releasing Instagram videos in which Ms. Banks sends viewers off to sleep to dream about their ideal dwellings. And for buyers who do happen to score their dream homes, Realtor.com and Pereira & O'Dell have created the "Home-blebrag" digital tool that allows them to create customized videos of Ms. Banks showing off her newly purchased home via the Realtor.com listing.
According to Mr. Strickman, "We were No. 1 in the marketplace for a long time but then upstarts came along seven or eight years ago and started to chip away at that success." In the last three to four years, the company decided to shift its focus and talk to consumers as opposed to the industry, and since then, he said it's seen 40% audience growth year on year. "We overtook Trulia as No. 2, and we're gunning for No. 1 again."
According to Comscore, the Realtor.com network ranks No. 2 amongst online real estate properties, with Realtor.com seeing 39.7 million unique visitors in April 2016. That's under the Zillow Group that comprises both Zillow.com and Trulia.com, which saw 73.6 million uniques and 33.4 million uniques, respectively, in the same period.
This story also appears on Adage.com.