Creating Cost Effective Advertising

By: Sheldon Greenholtz

    Horace Greeley, journalist and political activist, is famously remembered for his quote, “Go west, young man, go west …”  Although he was a product of 19th Century America, Greeley’s words resonate today, and while we may take the liberty to configure them somewhat differently, the core meaning of the quote is relevant, particularly to our area of specialization.  So, change Go west to go electronic, then we’re right on target. 
     There was a time in the very recent past, when multi-family and commercial property owners, landlords and managers relied solely on consumer classified advertising in the local and regional print media to attract renters and/or prospective buyers; and it was left to the talent and know-how of specialized advertising agencies to provide the methodology, graphics, media selection and the negotiating skills to execute cost-effective and successful advertising campaigns that were geared to specific client requirements and budgets.    The major thrust of classified advertising over the years has been dependent upon the printed word in tabloid and broad sheet newspapers and specialized consumer magazines.  But that was then, and this is now.  Times change:  film photography has, for the most part, been replaced by digital, the electric typewriter is a memory, and news reporting and marketing have partnered with the internet and social media.  It’s been said that the only constant is change, and the era we live in proves the point.  It is vital, therefore, that those who are involved with owning, renting/leasing, managing, investing in and marketing real estate have the ability, the wherewithal and, yes the need to acclimate to this ever-changing world.   
    One cannot and should not minimize the value of classified advertising in the print media, or relegate it to a secondary position in overall marketing strategies.  There is no question, however, that online advertising has assumed an ever-increasing role in the ability to reach consumers, particularly those in the real estate marketplace.  Hence, the agency-client relationship must be predicated on the ability to  multi task!   It should be noted that most of the parameters that dictate the success of classified advertising carries over to the online arena.
    Today’s advertising agency must offer the proven ability to create and manage classified advertising for varied print media, and it also must provide the same services for online placements working closely with media websites and a la carte online menus.  In either case, that same agency should provide property owners, managers, investors and landlords, direction, copy, print and digital alternatives and advertising and editorial contacts, all of which are critical ingredients that in combination assure a successful marketing program.
    While it’s true that electronic – eg internet – advertising has assumed a dominant role in today’s real estate marketing environment, it would be folly to minimize the role of classified print advertising, since the so-called target markets still look to the “classifieds”  as a meeting ground for landlords , managers, and owners with prospective tenants and/or buyers.  
    Irrespective of whether one opts for a print or electronic approach, the following elements are common to both in the search for effective, results-oriented advertising: these approaches are labor-intensive, require the professional services of an experienced agency, and embody many of the universal components indigenous to a standing ad or advertising campaign …  for example:
•    The ads should describe the item and include the price – keep words to a minimum.  In rental terms, define the number of bedrooms, baths, etc.
•    Price rental property below a round number.  For example, rather than price the property at, say, $800, $1,000 or $1,200, consider lowering it to $795, $995, or $1,195.  Psychologically, this minimal cost reduction is a proven technique to motivate a prospect to respond to an ad.

•    Size vs. frequency … repetition is more important than size! With budget constraints being an important factor in the planning of an ad program, consistency makes the most sense; the reader may have missed early ads, or needs reminding.  As to size, larger or display ads are more suited to investment properties or important commercial/industrial leasing or sales deals and should be positioned in or near appropriate real estate sections.

•    The classified sections in the print media or website classifications are like the Yellow Pages.  The advertiser has a captive audience, specifically looking for apartments, rooms, homes, offices, stores, industrial or commercial properties, or investments.

•    Positioning is important both to print and online advertising.   Classification or geography dictates where the ad will be positioned, but catchy copy, the creative use of type and graphics all conspire to demand attention.
The decision to go electronic or classified print or combine both is a serious matter, and it should involve the trust of the agency-client relationship.  In the long run, however, the final determination should be based on the expertise of the professionals, the requirements of the client and the target audience.  And while online advertising is the darling of today’s real estate advertisers, the role of traditional in-line advertisements remains a constant and should be a consideration in the overall planning of an ad campaign.
    In 1865, Horace Greeley Said:  “Go West, young man, go West and grow with the country.”  In 2014, we can paraphrase; “Go electronic and go with the flow, ‘cause that’s where the money is.”  

Sheldon Greenholtz is a principal with Kenneth Jaffe Advertising, a South Orange Agency that places print and internet ad copy for many POA members, as well as other apartment owners, landlords, developers, investors and property managers. Contact him at (973) 378-3200, or by email at