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Advertising And Real Estate

( Originally Published 1924 )


What is the difference between publicity advertising and the advertising of specific offerings? What is the chief ad-vantage of publicity advertising? Does advertising actually "sell" real estate? How may confidence in advertisements be inspired? What types of advertising may the real estate dealer use? What are the elements of effective display? What are the means used in the advertisement to get attention? Why must attention be quickly turned into interest? Name some ways in which the dealer may obtain individuality in his advertisements so that they will be recognized at once as his own. Why should billboards be easy to read? What rules of effectiveness should be kept in mind in writing sales letters, How may an advertising appropriation be fixed! Upon what depends the usefulness of slogans and symbols? In what way does advertising act as an interpreter of the profession to its own members?

ADVERTISING IS the creative force in the real estate business. By its use the dealer goes out to those who are not acquainted with his work, creates a market for his services, and tells the world what he and his associates stand for in business. It is of two general types, general publicity and specific selling. General publicity is designed merely to call attention to the company and to keep it constantly before the public eye. Its results are not immediately evident nor measurable, for it is not possible to measure the degree of public attention or the amount of good will which a concern enjoys. But it is none the less effective and valuable. It is indispensable. It presents to the public the abstract aims and ideals of the company, and these are important. In order to assert the leadership which a real estate concern ought to enjoy, it is essential that the general public know what the concern stands for; there is no better way to tell it than by advertising. The dealer who is not satisfied to put a great deal into this sort of advertising with but little if any direct results can never secure the confidence and esteem of his community to the degree to which he is entitled to them. Even in small places where dealers are personally known to the entire community, advertising enables the individual to dominate.

The news columns of the newspaper offer an excellent opportunity for obtaining the benefits of publicity advertising. As a rule newspapers are glad to get news of large sales, particularly if they are furnished with a cut showing the property. Such "stories" demonstrate that the company is successful, and even if the sales are not large, it is good policy to show that the company is actually doing business.

The advertising which is directed toward specific selling is quite different. Because it presents definite offers and makes an effort to produce results, its effectiveness can be measured by the extent of those results. It must not be expected, however, to produce results that are too difficult. It is generally conceded that advertising does not sell real estate. When advertising leads to an inquiry, it must be given credit for accomplishing its purpose After the inquiry has been made, it becomes the -function of the sales -department to make the sale.

Advertising can attract attention, awaken interest, and in many cases actually arouse desire, but the ownership of real estate involves so many considerations of a legal and financial nature that advertising cannot logically be expected to meet all obstacles and produce sales.

Necessity for Strict Veracity. If advertising is to accomplish its purpose, it must observe the letter and the spirit of strictest veracity. It may as well be admitted that much real estate advertising has not been in strictest conformity with this principle. There has consequently developed on the part of many people a skepticism of what real estate advertising says. It may be that this attitude has been brought about by unconscious enthusiasm on the part of the real estate salesman; it is difficult to keep enthusiasm from exaggeration. But unless advertising is believed, it can accomplish nothing. It is of no use to tell people about aims unless they believe what is told.

The advertiser can avoid this danger if he will adopt the policy always of understating rather than overstating the merits of his article. Understatement carries with it a conviction born of reserve. The orator whose arguments are weakest usually shouts loudest; he who speaks in a subdued tone is able to do so because of the cogency of his argument. So the advertiser who tones down his statements until they are understate-, merits will thereby gain strength. It will be found of assistance in getting this undertone of conviction to avoid always the use of superlatives. While superlatives look strong, they are frequently very weak because they are too general. "The largest selling organization in Hometown City" carries much less vividness of impression to the reader's mind than "a selling force of ten capable and reliable men. Moreover, superlatives unfortunately are frequently untrue. There is no basis of comparison in most cases. And the juxtaposition of two firms claiming to be "the most," "the best," or "the largest" organization in the city is in itself a contradiction of the statements. For this reason some national publications will not accept for printing an advertisement containing superlatives.

Types of Advertising. Advertising may be classified as to type according to the medium for which it is pre-pared. Broadly these mediums may be grouped as (1) newspapers ; (2) outdoor mediums such as billboards, "for sale" signs, etc. ; (3) direct by mail literature ; and (4) miscellaneous.

Newspaper advertising of real estate is of two kinds, classified and display. It is a debated question which of these is more effective and preferable. In fact, it is doubtful whether any generalization will ever be possible. Every particular case presents features which make it impossible for a hard-and-fast rule to be given. In some cases, one form will be found preferable, in others the other. It is said that classified advertising brings inquiries at a smaller cost than display advertising, but not so many of the inquiries result in sales, so that the cost of sales from each of these sources is about the same.

Classified advertising does not seek to open up a new market; it brings a specific property before the person who is actually in the market. As a rule, strange as it is, classified advertising is better worded than display advertising; more specific language is used; an image is frequently created. But the man who is not in the market definitely would never see an advertisement in the classified column. He must turn to the page and go through it carefully in order to find the classified advertisement. It is generally said that the more information given in a classified advertisement the more effective it will be.

There are several simple rules of display advertising that, if observed, make it more effective. The first of these is to make the advertisement easy to read. A display advertisement has to compete for the attention of the reader with every other element on the page ; in order to convey the message it is designed to carry, it must present that message to the momentary glance of the casual reader. One of the ways to obtain ease of reading is to use a liberal amount of white space. Crowded type is hard to read, as well as ugly and cheap in its appearance, while white space invites reading and gives an impression of roominess and distinction.

The function of the display advertisment is to secure attention and arouse interest. The means which it uses are chiefly white space, headlines, and photographs or cuts. Large successful companies will sometimes employ a full page in order to present a message of only three or four lines in length; the large amount of white space calls out for the attention. The reader cannot ignore it. Obviously, this point can be over-stressed, for while white space secures attention, it presents no selling argument, and the mind of the person is left unimpressed except by a certain idea of dominance and perhaps extravagance.

A more effective means of securing attention is by the use of a good headline. It is impossible to discuss fully the writing of a good headline or to give definite rules which apply invariably, but some general principles will serve as guides. Ordinarily a headline should not consist of more than six words. If possible one of these words should be a strong, active verb. While it should be striking, it should not be over-emphatic; it may shout, but not scream. It is more important that the headline should present information. Psychologists say that attention cannot be held for longer than three or four seconds on the same point unless some factor of interest is introduced. The advertiser must fill the mind of his reader with definite information if he wants to hold his attention. In other words, attention must quickly be changed to interest. And interest cannot be aroused without some information.

Sometimes this end can be reached by the use of a question as a headline. The mind either answers the question or curiously looks for the answer in the copy. Even if the mind answers the question, it continues into the copy to see whether the answer it gave agrees with the copy. Trite questions, however, should be avoided. "Are you interested?" "Did you ever stop to think?" or "Do you know ?" are questions which have been asked so frequently in headlines that they no longer pique curiosity. Such questions, however, as "Can I own my home?" or "Will I always rent ?" are questions which are constantly presenting themselves to the mind of a person and are likely to secure his attention.

A consideration of great importance in securing interest is that display advertising present a picture. Desire is aroused by an appeal to the senses or to the emotions. Real estate advertising should appeal either directly or through the imagination to the sense of sight and to the emotions of love of family and desire for possession. In order to secure an inquiry, an advertisement must enable the prospect to visualize the home or the profits to be se-cured through the purchase of the real estate advertised. Photographs will play a large part in creating this picture in the mind of the reader. They should be used freely. When they cannot be used, the printed copy should be worded so as to achieve this end as nearly as possible. Specific, image-creating language will effect this result. Contrast the vividness of the pictures presented in-these two illustrations :


Vestibule hall with French doors, opening into an immense living room, dining room with two sets of French doors, kitchen and large breakfast room, three lovely bed-rooms, tiled bath with built-in tub and triple mirror cabinet, oak floors throughout, maid's room and all other 20th century conveniences, two lots, garage. Mr. C., the owner, has placed his price $2,000 under its real value to effect an immediate sale.

If you want a REAL Seventh Avenue Home for LESS THAN $15,000, phone us immediately for more information.


This New England Colonial on 48th and Sheridan South strikes you instantly as being unique. The white plaster walls with red brick base are delicately set off by the deeper shades of purple and green in the slate roof.

There are nine rooms, including a bedroom with bath, on the third floor.

The downstairs is finished in old ivory and no effort or expense has been spared ; in each detail the charm of those old-fashioned colonials is set forth. The fine old fireplace is of Kasota stone with an ornamental mantel. The coved ceilings, the colonial scroll staircases with especially designed millwork give an impression of careful study in building.

The kitchen will appeal especially to women with its "loads of cupboard space," and many conveniences. There is also a breakfast nook and service stairway leading up from the kitchen.

The sun parlor and sleeping porch have hardwood floors with double glazed windows for warmth in winter.

On the second floor there are three bedrooms and sleeping porch served by a large tiled bath.

Basement plastered and divided, laundry room, vegetable cellar and furnace room including Arco hot-water heat, Hoffman instantaneous water heater. There is also a shower room, together with basement garage which is heated.

This house is located, with 85 foot frontage, in an exclusive residential district, one block south of Lake Harriet and two blocks from the Penn Avenue Bathing Beach.

PRICED AT 25,000

which we consider very reasonable.

Another characteristic feature of good display advertising copy is that it presents not the object which it is designed to sell, but the benefits which the purchaser will receive from it. This point has been mentioned in the chapter on salesmanship. Note how it is utilized in the second and third of the following illustrations and the effect of its use:

Announcement—West Heights Gardens subdivision now open for inspection. Located at Market Avenue and Briar Road. Backed by the combined services of landscape gardeners, architects and engineers, West Heights Gardens will stand out clearly defined from the ordinary run of sub-urban divisions. Literature, plats, and prices may be obtained.

Watch the growth of Lake Grove, West Shore's newest village. Here the man of modest means may secure for his family all the comforts enjoyed by the wealthy residents of this garden spot on the shores of Lake Silver. You can build your home where you will have a golf course at your door, and only a short walk to the finest bathing beach to be found on the lake. All lots are 100 feet wide and front either on the lake or the golf course. Prices and terms within the reach of all.


Room to grow as Nature intended. Minds attuned to beauty and purity. Surroundings that safeguard their childhood and assure their future. Have you, too, provided?

Such bare announcements as the first of these advertisements are wasteful of opportunity. While some results may be obtained from them, their effectiveness can be greatly increased.

The same thing may be said of repeating the copy in an advertisement. Such a policy may bring results, but a change of copy is so much more effective that there is no question about the desirability of changing.

Several novel arrangements of display advertising may be mentioned. In all legitimate novelties, the effort is to obtain individuality of presentation so that at a glance readers will recognize the advertising as that of a particular firm. This end is attained by adhering to a particular form of layout, but at the same time making that layout original and striking enough to secure attention and to set the feature off from the rest of the advertising. Care must be taken not to make such advertising so freakish as to deserve ridicule. A good plan that has been used is that of occupying a single full column in the newspaper, with the name of the company at the head and foot of the column. This column is set apart by a fine border line. Usually an editorial paragraph upon the policies of the company heads the column, followed by the advertising of specific offerings. Another plan is that of setting up the advertising in the style of a small newspaper, with the name of the company occupying the place of the name of the newspaper. People become accustomed to this sort of advertising, and they look for it. It is distinctive and in good taste.

A word should be said here about the timeliness of the news element in newspaper advertising. There are very few opportunities that are greater than that offered by timeliness in newspaper display. The newspaper exists for the purpose of disseminating news; the advertiser who uses that fact adds another source of power to his advertising. A good opportunity for such use is presented in connection with advertising a new subdivision. A very successful campaign was run in full pages in a large metropolitan newspaper, telling from time to time of the progress of sales in that subdivision. The campaign began by announcing the opening of the plat; in two days a full page announced the sale of $152,000 worth of lots; and after eleven days the headline announced "$375,000 Now Sold." The subhead read : "Just eleven days ago the opening of the Park Edge Acres was announced. During the first two days $152,000 worth of lots were sold. Up to Friday of last week $196,000 worth were sold. Last Saturday noon the sales climbed to $220,000." "Nothing succeeds like success," and nothing helps success to succeed like timely, "newsy" advertising.

Outdoor Advertising. The outdoor advertising of real estate assumes chiefly two forms : billboards and "for sale" signs. The latter is more common than the former. Both are effective means of obtaining publicity. It is sufficient to point out that the outdoor advertisement has to perform its function even more quickly than the newspaper display advertisement. It should, therefore, he briefer and even easier to read. The message must be conveyed at one glance. Not more than half a dozen words, probably, will be most effective on the billboard.

"For sale" signs offer an excellent opportunity for publicity advertising when they are attractive in appearance and well kept up. They present the company in action, so to speak. But when they are left indefinitely at the same place, or when they are decrepit in appearance, they are not likely to give an impression of effectiveness. It ought to be said that in designing "for sale" signs an effort should be made to have them attractive as well as compelling. There would seem to be no reason why comeliness should be opposed to power, or why ugliness should be synonymous with strength. Strong color contrast, simplicity of design, well-chosen words,these are features to be sought in the outdoor displays.

One or two progressive firms have adopted the plan of placing a sign on all property sold or rented. Such a sign reads: "This Property Sold (Rented) by the Progress Sales Company." The effect of such signs can be easily seen.

Direct by Mail Advertising. Most dealers are agreed as to the effectiveness of direct by mail advertising, particularly letters. They give an opportunity for an intimate personal message which good taste eliminates from the general advertisement. They are most used as a means of following up inquiries that are secured by newspaper advertising. There are two features that should be borne in mind in the preparation of such letters and other advertising which is to be sent by mail. In the first place, they should be written to individuals, so as to contain a personal message. Because a form letter goes to a large number of prospects, it is frequently written with no one in mind, and fails to carry conviction. Each letter should be written naturally, in a personal tone, and enthusiastically. Secondly, results are likely to come slowly and prove discouraging. But persistence has been found to pay. Oftentimes as many as eight or ten follow-up sales letters have been sent out before satisfactory returns were received.

Miscellaneous Mediums. Among miscellaneous mediums for the advertiser's message may be placed all blotters, novelties, moving picture show slides, and so on. The question of how many of these forms of advertising should be used cannot be decided on any general principles. Again each case must be decided with all its peculiar characteristics in mind. It can safely be said, however, that they are all good mediums. In fact, all advertising, if well executed, is good advertising in the sense that it is capable of bringing results. The decision as to which form to use should be made on the basis of which is the most effective. This can be easily determined in different localities by trying and observing the effects of each form in that particular community. Advertising offers a great opportunity for constant study; the firm that succeeds most fully with it is the one that studies it most persistently.

Advertising Appropriation. There are a number of ways in which the advertising appropriation may be fixed, but no general rule as to any of them. It may be fixed as a certain percentage of the sales of the previous year, or of anticipated sales for the current year; it may be fixed at an arbitrary amount, disregarding sales completely. In no two cases will the factors determining the amount of the appropriation be the same. It ought to be set with the task which the advertising will have to perform clearly in mind. When strong sales resistance is expected, as in the case of opening up a new subdivision, the advertising appropriation will have to be larger than in selling in more familiar sections of the city.

The advertising appropriation should be considered in the light of an investment rather than an expense. Though the day may seem far away, sooner or later the firm that puts its money into effective advertising is going to see it return with interest. The firm that operates without advertising (if there be such) does so at a great disadvantage ; it uses the methods of twenty-five years ago in competition with those of today—it rides in an ox-cart instead of an automobile.

Slogans, Symbols, etc. Slogans, symbols, and so forth, may be more of a burden than an aid, unless they are wisely chosen; if well chosen, they are an aid. In the first place, a slogan or a symbol should present a selling argument; simply as a slogan or symbol it is almost use-less. A good example of a selling argument is the slogan adopted for a subdivision that was being opened up. "Walnut Grove A Contribution to a Beautiful City. Planned before built, then built as planned." This may be criticized as too long. The best slogans are less than six words in length. "We have the facts" j; "Under all, the Land" ; "We sell the Earth" ; "Your balance sheet is our salesman" ; "Anchor to the Earth"—these are examples of good slogans. They present a reason. So with symbols or emblems. A coat of arms suggests reliability because it is connected with an ancient custom.

Any slogan or symbol that is adopted should be used uniformly and constantly on all advertising that goes out from the office. Persistence in presenting the name and the "sign" of a company before the public eventually is bound to create a permanent impression on it. The lack of uniformity dissipates this opportunity; when a post-card, a blotter, a pencil, or a letter goes out from the office, it ought to contain the motto and name of that office, to reinforce every other appeal that has gone out, and to receive the benefit of all the advertising that has preceded it, bearing the same insignia.

Advertising as the Interpreter of the Profession. One of the peculiar features of advertising is the fact that it acts as the interpreter of its originator, and then it reacts on its own parent and largely molds the character of its creator. The expression of an ideal binds one more strictly to strive for it than does the mere general recognition of it. Thus when a firm attempts to set before the public the ideals for which it stands, it finds itself obliged to exemplify those ideals more strictly. Many large companies have advertised extensively for the effect such advertising would have upon their own employees as well as on the public in general.

At the present time when rapid progress is being made toward elevating the plane of real estate practices, this interpreting function of advertising assumes increased significance. It will conserve the effects of every victory, and establish permanently every principle won. The leaders in its progress have in advertising an irresistible ally. Through the medium of printed words they can interpret to the profession itself the principles for which they stand and for which every member must stand unalterably if real estate practice is to take its rightful place in the ranks of the professions practiced for the public good.


1. Advertising may be used either to get the attention of the public focused on a company or to sell specific properties. The first type of advertising is known as publicity advertising; it enables a firm to secure dominance of the market and leadership in the community, but it does not necessarily result in any direct sales. The second type more frequently results in direct sales of specific property.

2. In order for advertising to produce any results at all it must be believed. Careful statements must be made with a tendency toward understatement rather than overstatement if advertising is to be believed.

3. The general types of advertising which the dealer uses are newspaper, outdoor, direct by mail, and miscellaneous such as pencils and blotters. All these types are effective if they are properly used. The choice between them must be made on the basis of which is most effective.

4. Newspaper display in order to be most effective must be easy to read, have plenty of white space, present a picture, sell the utility, and contain the news element.

5. Outdoor advertising must be very easy to read, for it secures usually only a glance of the passer-by. It should, however, be attractive at the same time.

6. Sales letters must be simple, direct, personal, and sincere. Sometimes it is necessary to carry on a long campaign with letters before any results are noticeable.

7. The advertising appropriation should be considered an investment rather than an expense. It may be fixed upon the basis of previous sales, expected sales, or arbitrarily in order to meet the particular situation.

8. The value of slogans and symbols depends upon their content. A slogan or a symbol as such creates no impression upon the mind of the reader. The reason why some slogans and symbols are considered so valuable is that they have been so widely advertised. Their value is not in them-selves. The tendency seems to be to discourage the origination of meaningless symbols.

9. Advertising serves as the interpreter of the profession to the public and stimulates within the profession itself higher standards of conduct. The expression of the ideals of a firm contained in public advertisements frequently re-acts favorably upon the employees and members of the firm itself and enables the maintenance of standards.

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