This article originally appeared in the REALTORS® Land Institute’s Summer 2017 Terra Firma magazine.
More than one real-estate agent, borrowing from humorist Will Rogers, has advised, “Put your money in land, because they aren’t making any more of it”.
When it comes to where to advertise that land, the adage does not hold so true. Plenty of media vehicles are launching all the time—a vast, renewable resource of print, broadcast, outdoor, online, mobile and social-media outlets to explore. A marketer could be forgiven for wondering exactly where to invest the finite resources of an advertising budget.
The trick lies in putting the money where it matters most, where it will connect with people who’d be most interested in that new-model car, custom shirt maker or ranchland for sale. While data-rich digital platforms offer new ways to target individuals, traditional media, such as newspapers and magazines, remain a vital part of a successful marketing budget and continue to offer distinct advantages.
In the midst of the digital revolution, newspapers and magazines continue to deliver, and so does print advertising. A wealth of research shows that the printed-and-published-on-paper word still resonates today, extending to favorable demographics, longer interaction times, greater trust and other indicators that make a positive environment for advertisers. The combination of print and digital often make an ideal partnership, particularly in real estate marketing, where print advertising introduces a property and peaks interest, even among people who may not be actively looking, and digital draws prospects in further with virtual tours, slide shows and all the important specs.
In 2015, consumer neuroscience researchers at Temple University released a study that explored how people responded to print and digital advertising. They concluded that each medium had its strengths, with digital grabbing sustained, focused attention and print ads engaging better emotionally.
The study, produced for the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, included test subjects looking at advertising in print and on digital screens, while receiving functional MRIs of their brains. While looking at paper ads, the MRIs revealed more activity in the areas of the brain associated with desire and motivation, indicating subjects had a more positive, subconscious response for the item being advertised—a great way to kick off the sales process.
Print and digital go hand in hand in other ways, too. A Wall Street Journal reader study found that subscribers read the print edition in the early morning (six in ten read the newspaper in print, according to the 2015 Ipsos Affluent Survey), later logging on to the paper’s website from a desktop or laptop during the workday and checking in throughout the day via their mobile devices.
Broader audiences display similar behavior. According to the Pew Research Center, citing a Nielsen Scarborough 2014 Newspaper Penetration Report, more than eight in ten people read the newspaper in print—fifty-six percent of people in print alone—with the remainder including online and mobile platforms through the day.
With morning tending to be the most popular time to pick up the newspaper, even in a world of twenty-four-hour news cycles, a print paper still provides an environment for advertisers to present their own big news. Reading the print edition is an engrossing interaction, a lean-in experience, with people engaging forty-five to fifty minutes a day with the print edition of The Wall Street Journal. In today’s content landscape, that is an incredible length of time to hold an individual’s attention.
Magazines have also retained vibrancy in the digital age. Samir Husni, the director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University Of Mississippi School Of Journalism has tracked trends in the industry for thirty years. Husni was happy to discover that during the first quarter of 2016, one-hundred and ninety-nine new titles launched, seventy-seven in January alone, compared to one-hundred and ninety-one which had debuted during the same period in 2015. In a blog on his website, Husni said, “One thing that I’ve noticed this year in following magazine media and the marketplace, no one is saying that print is dead anymore. That mantra has vanished.”
So who is the print reader? Demographics trend favorably to being able to make bigger purchases, with affluent, well-educated people indicating they read newspapers. A 2016 Ipsos study revealed newspaper readers have an average net worth that is thirty percent higher than total affluents–$1.64 million compared to $1.27 million. The same distinction holds true at The Wall Street Journal, where print-only readers report net worth of $1.8 million, twelve percent higher than total brand readership. Wall Street Journal print readers have net worths that are sixty percent higher than television viewers.
Environment counts in real estate and it counts in advertising, too. A Pew Research Center study found numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Economist, ranked high in consumer trust across differing political philosophies, outpacing newer digital news outlets like BuzzFeed and Yahoo News.
With readers, right demographics and environment in place, today’s advertisers use print to capture attention and craft the right image and digital to drill down the details.
In addition to capturing the attention of people who are looking for real estate and those who originally were not, print ads also elevate the brand identity of the brokerage and sales agent.
These objectives would be difficult to achieve in a digital-only campaign, as online, people tend to search for specific things or enter actual web domains—behavior is more directed. Print showcases the property, hooks the prospect and directs him or her further down the sales funnel with digital listings, virtual tours, property slideshows and agents’ websites.
In this era of information overload, another way print is evolving is through creative executions. A clean, simple style—not too wordy or crowded with different elements cluttering the layout—works best to draw the reader’s attention and spur action. According to researcher GfK MRI Starch, the qualities that work best in successful print ads are:
- Simplicity: A minimalistic design with not a lot of clutter. Copy that is equally simple to read.
- Boldness: Judicious use of vivid color to grab attention.
- Clarity: Memorable, direct headlines and similar body copy.
- Contrast: Visual play of light and dark tones to create sharp contrast.
According to a recent study of Wall Street Journal readers, more than eight in ten read the weekly Mansion section, appearing in the Friday edition. Further, a 2014 Wall Street Journal proprietary study conducted with Ipsos Media CT, revealed twenty-two percent of The Wall Street Journal’s print readers had contacted a real estate broker as a result of a Wall Street Journal real estate ad.
As for what real estate advertising stood out best in the section, according to Starch, top-scoring ads featured ample use of white space, putting the headline, copy and key images in crisp isolation. Of special note, contact information was easy to see and not buried at the end of a copy block, as real estate advertising, more than anything, is a call to action to visit the website and contact the broker.
Starch’s best real estate ads also featured compelling, professional photography. Layouts that featured one, dominant photograph, or a main shot with one or two minor images, scored well.
In a 2015 REAL Trends survey, done in partnership with industry image and virtual-tour maker Virtuance, found ninety-four percent of agents “felt passionate” about using professional photography, believing it attracted buyers to their websites and burnished their brand images.
Headlines, sometimes as simple as the property’s name or address, or maybe a few descriptive details, succeeded in their simplicity, directness and ability to grab readers’ eyes. Copy urged readers to take action, often directing them straight to the property’s website for details and video.
Successful print ads look a lot like strongly performing digital ads, which were even sparser and cleaner—one key image, a headline and a caption often sufficing. As for mobile ads, with minimal screen space comes more simple layouts and little copy.
Real estate marketers have more tools than ever to sell a piece of land, and print complements a broader campaign that might begin with a sign on a fence post and end with an online 3D showcase.
One does not replace the other, as history has shown. The popular media of Will Rogers’ era—newspapers, magazines, billboards and radio—are still with us, but today they work in harmony with digital, satellite, virtual reality and whatever is to come.
About the author: Marti Gallardo is Global Head of Advertising for Real Estate and Vertical Markets for The Wall Street Journal. She and her team work with real estate professionals on smart marketing solutions, helping them connect their luxury and investment properties with qualified prospects. RLI members can save big on print advertising opportunities with the Wall Street Journal as part of the Member Advantage Program (MAP).