StreetEasy channels Renaissance art to illustrate the odyssey of home buying in New York

Mother New York captures the drama and high emotion of those on a journey through the city’s real estate market

Published On
Mar 04, 2024
A Renaissance style painting of a person in a bathrobe holding up a piece of paper

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Buying a home in New York City is a journey of high drama, which is captured with artistic flair in Mother’s new StreetEasy campaign, styled to look like Renaissance paintings.

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In its first work for the Zillow-owned real estate brand, Mother’s New York office worked with artistic partner Buck to create a series of seven out-of-home ads depicting the long, stressful and ultimately triumphant process of purchasing a home in one of the world’s most intimidating real estate markets.

The series begins with the ad below, in which a renter, upon receiving a lease renewal document, considers the age-old question: Is it time to buy a place?

Ad #1 in StreetEasy's new outdoor campaign

“Let the journey begin,” is the tagline. 

This is StreetEasy’s first brand campaign devoted solely to reaching buyers across New York City—versus buyers and renters, or just renters. StreetEasy’s data shows one in five New Yorkers search for homes for sale when also searching for rentals.

Jason Ferguson, creative director at StreetEasy, said the creative approach fit well with the intensity of the home-buying process.

“We know [it] has many ups and downs and a range of emotions, from feeling overwhelmed and nervous to excited, determined and triumphant,” he said. “No artistic style more accurately captures the complexity of this journey than Renaissance style painting, which is known for its masterful use of light and shadow to capture drama and evoke intense emotion. ... We’re mixing old world with new in a way that’s ultimately deeply reflective of life—and real estate—in New York.” 

Ad #2 in StreetEasy's new outdoor campaign

The seven ads divide the home-buying journey into three phases—preparation, taking action and finalizing the deal. There are easter eggs throughout that only New Yorkers will recognize—such as Leh-Boy in “The Couple Concedes” (above) and a “Dan Smith Will Teach You Guitar” flier in “New Yorker Basks,” the final ad in the series. There are also local coffee shops, restaurants and even famous animals.

Ferguson said “The Couple Concedes” is a good example of how StreetEasy really gets New Yorkers.

“It was such an intricate piece to create since we wanted to make sure we got that exact part of the East Village right, and that attention to detail really shines through,” he said. “I find many campaigns try to connect with New Yorkers by playing into tired tropes, but we really want our creative work to reflect how we are the Zillow brand that was truly built just for NYC. We know the unique problems of the city, the unique people of the city, and the unique solutions for real estate in the city.”

Ad #3 in StreetEasy's new outdoor campaign

The middle ads in the campaign, “Lady Plays a Banger,” “Brooklyn Man Discovers” and “Newlyweds Set Sail,” show home searchers feeling empowered, enlightened and excited by what they’re seeing and experiencing. 

Ad #4 in StreetEasy's new outdoor campaign

“It was an enormous task to manage getting all the permissions needed, and I think most brands wouldn’t think it was worth the time and effort,” Ferguson said of including real New York people and businesses in the ads. “But ultimately it makes the work stronger and we really appreciate our partners at Mother New York for highlighting that value and coordinating the work to get it there.”

Ad #5 in StreetEasy's new outdoor campaign

The final two ads—“Co-op Board Investigates” and “New Yorker Basks”—complete the series.

“The campaign underscores just how different the NYC real estate market is by highlighting some of the unique milestones specific to the homebuying journey here —like co-op board approval—to showcase the complexity of buying here that requires such specific support,” Ferguson said.

Ad #6 in StreetEasy's new outdoor campaign

The campaign will run throughout the year, beginning on MTA subway cars and taxi tops, and in digital and social channels including Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest, YouTube and CTV. 

Ad #7 in StreetEasy's new outdoor campaign

Audio ads will break on Spotify in mid-March. April will see a takeover of the Broadway/Lafayette MTA subway station, as well as large-scale, hand-painted murals at Wythe and N. 14th Streets in Williamsburg and Spring and Lafayette Streets in Nolita.

The campaign will also include an influencer campaign with personal finance and interior design professionals, including Mrs. Dow Jones and Bright Bazaar, to educate consumers on how to determine if they’re ready to buy, and how to begin their buyer’s journey.

StreetEasy has a long history of using illustration in ads, though it departed from that in photography-based ads from Preacher a year ago. It also regularly uses the MTA system as a venue for its work.

“We’ve found the subway experience lends itself to reaching the NYC audience very effectively—varying travel times, windows without cell service and high frequency,” said Ferguson. “In the past, we’ve found this to be a captive audience who really appreciate our uniquely New York take on real estate, and that’s especially true when we incorporate easter eggs into the artwork like we did this year to give them a wink and nod to our understanding of what it takes to live and navigate this city.”