Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shifting Media Dollars from TV to Digital

FEBRUARY 20, 2009

Beverly Thorne, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Century 21 Real Estate LLC

In a category caught in the middle of the economic crisis, Century 21 earlier this year announced it would pull all national TV advertising and redirect its focus to the Web.

Beverly Thorne leads strategic development and program execution for consumer, broker and agent marketing programs for the real estate company and its 8,500 franchisees. She manages all direct marketing, national advertising, interactive marketing and technology, agent and broker marketing, and targeted market and partner promotions. Ms. Thorne spoke with eMarketer about her strategy.

eMarketer: You made the decision to shift most of the company’s media budget from offline/traditional media—national TV, print, radio—into digital media and marketing efforts. What was the rationale behind this decision?

Beverly Thorne: We are clearly using some offline media, but we made that move because as we looked at the new year, we focused on making our investments in those media that have the greatest relevancy to our target audience and the greatest return on our investment.

Our own empirical results showed us that our online investments were performing substantively better at generating leads. We have a clear obligation to our franchisees to stimulate clear and tangible leads, not just positive preference.

eMarketer: How did you figure that online media gave the company the best results in terms of the lead generation?

Ms. Thorne: Well, we used both internal metrics and tools and external third-party measures. We made media investments in 2008, and each week and each month we measured what came from them in terms of leads generated. The most important metric we have is an internal proprietary tool which tells us what kind of leads are being generated.

We did classic display advertising, some online partnerships that are typical for a real estate company—that is, partnerships with Websites for displaying our property listings—like Yahoo!. We make our property listings available to them, and to varying degrees we enhanced those or modified those, represented them differently and at different investment levels.

As we looked at each of those campaigns or programs, we measured the number of leads that we got from them and the ultimate cost per lead. Of course we made some investments where we didn’t get a lead back.

eMarketer: Can you share the ultimate cost per lead?

Ms. Thorne: I cannot, but I will tell you this: From December 2007 to December 2008, we improved the efficiency of our lead generation by reducing our cost per lead over 60%. At the same time, we multiplied our number of leads by over 235%.

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