When Australian real estate agent Ian Adams thinks about how to market a home, the first thing is he wonders about is whether the girls in his video should be topless or just mostly topless.
The managing partner at Neo Property stopped using print advertising a few years ago, opting instead to spend upwards of $15,000 per property to film cheeky online videos featuring dwarf rappers, SWAT teams and mostly naked men and women lounging around in the luxury homes he sells.
Its most popular ad features a lingerie model tied to a chair and talking to a 911 operator as a rescue squad races toward the home. To help them find the property, she describes the homes many amenities.
"Three-level home, contemporary design." she says. "Ocean access, it's right on the water ... Cinema, private lifts. And a lingerie model tied to a chair!"
The company sells high-end homes along the Gold Coast, a tourist-heavy region south of Brisbane on the country's East Coast. Prices are falling quickly in Australia as worries mount about China's fiscal health, and buyers are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens next.
But Mr. Adams has found a way to keep the buyers interested in his property with his high-budget viral advertising. The ads have become an Internet sensation, with millions of page views each. More importantly, they have helped the agent sell houses in a market that isn't nearly as hot as the models in his videos.
Reporter Steve Ladurantaye, easily scandalized by such racy videos, asked him to explain himself.
What's the house market like down there right now? What do you need to do to get people's attention?
The global market in property as well as other industries have been severely hit with the global financial crisis.
The Gold Coast, being a regional city based around tourism, had been hit even harder. Our challenge has been to reach an even bigger market on a fixed budget of two or three weeks of newspaper advertising.
I had worked on viral marketing concepts in my previous corporate career and understood for it to work you have two ingredients – humour and sex – either combined or on their own. The attraction to viral is that if you get it right, it can be very cost effective
Your ads appear to be fairly massive productions. How much work goes into each one – and what kind of budget do you keep for each?
The price of advertising in newspapers and magazines is thousands per week, hence the big move to online marketing for property which can be in the hundreds or less.
Our very first movie we put together was $1,500 and reached over 250,000 viewers very quickly, we made national TV and radio and created a huge response and offers on the house. Now, the movies are around $5,000 per day to make and shoot, depending on the house, vendors and idea.
The next movie we increased the budget and production (this was Queen Anne Court), the vendor came from seeing the first movie, it had over 1.2-million viewers at the time of selling and continues to grow.
And do they work?
We achieved $3.68-million in a very tough market. The house had been on the market before with another agency and they had spent $30,000 in paper advertising and not one offer. Our movie was under $15,000 and reached a global audience. We had world wide press coverage and TV, we had film crews from UK and Germany cover stories and interviews with us which again bought lots of attention to the house and Neo.
The vendors were delighted and we have built on this since, 92 Savoy Drive sold in three weeks and created many fans for our Canadian star Ryan. We did another movie at Royal Pines golf course and that sold in three weeks. Since I have started doing the movies I have sold $15-million in property in six months, large franchises are struggling to do that with a team of sales people.
Do you have a particular target audience?
Our audience is mainly 30 to 55, we measure the diagnostics with YouTube and can see who has viewed it, how many times, which country, time of day, male or female etc. Most of our listings would be $1-million and up, average around $2-million. That is the price point that has a reasonable amount of shoppers for this age group and demographic.
The ads rely heavily on near nudity, SWAT teams and midget rappers. Are you at all concerned that you are possibly annoying half of the eligible buyers for your properties?
I don't believe we are putting off any potential buyers or sellers, the opposite in fact, vendors want effective advertising. They don't want to spend thousands of dollars week after week to get one or two lonely neighbours wandering in.
The market has changed and those that don't change and hang on to traditional methods will eventually die out. Seventy per cent of agents believe the shop front is a waste of money, online and technology are the tools of the trade and getting face-to-face with people is always key.
Are these ads Internet only? What kind of data do you have on how often they've been watched and how widely they've been disseminated?
We host on Youtube, create a property landing page with its own domain and then we can measure exactly who is checking out the house, the important number for us is not the hits but the actual property page viewings, for example Queen Anne Court had 1.2 million eyeballs, 85,000 went and looked at the house page, hundreds came through the actual house with open houses running for two-to-three hours with the volume.
When you could open up a shoe shop with the number of shoes left at the door you must be doing something right. At the end of the day, results are the measure, we list and sell beautiful houses.