Brokers glamming it up to get deals

<i>Brokers take it to the silver screen to woo clients </i>

As real estate agents look for new ways to increase their name recognition in a highly competitive market, some are trying their luck on the silver screen.

Susan Skinner, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman, recently started advertising on 12 screens at the AMC movie theater on Broadway and 68th Street near Lincoln Center and said the benefits far outweigh the costs to produce the 15-second clip. While Skinner started her movie ads a few years ago, she said her most recent ad speaks to what’s going on in the current down market.

She noted that in the down market, her appearances on the big screen have helped her differentiate herself from other brokers who do standard mailings.

“I do get a lot of people who recognize me who say, ‘Oh, I saw you in the theater,'” Skinner said. “And, there’s a certain glamour factor.”

Skinner — who currently has several Upper West Side listings, including a three-bedroom co-op on Central Park West with an asking price of $975,000 — said the time and cost of sending out 5,000 postcards was too much. She said advertising at the movies gives her a wider reach.

“Of the thousands of people who go to these movies, there’s got to be somebody who, over time, is going to see me and remember the ad and the name,” she told The Real Deal. “It’s very expensive to do the postcard thing, and I wanted to try [advertising] a different way.”

Her commercials come on during First Look, the pre-feature advertising loop that’s produced by National
CineMedia.

And according to Cliff Marks, CineMedia’s president of sales and marketing, Skinner is not alone.

Brokers are regularly among the company’s top 10 advertising clients, he said. Despite the down market, he said ads from brokers are about even with last year, if not slightly up.

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It also helps that theaters are most crowded over the weekend, when people are most likely to look at real estate, Marks noted. Plus, while there is always the chance that part of the audience will be standing on line for popcorn and Milk Duds right before the movie, those who are in the theater don’t have the option to change the channel.

Marks said the success rate for advertising in theaters is three to five times higher than it is for television.

Average costs run between $50 and $75 per screen per week in New York, Marks said. Production costs — like filming, editing, scriptwriting and hair and makeup — are additional.

Skinner said she got the idea from fellow Elliman broker Ann Cutbill Lenane, who ran her first cinema ad in 2001. Lenane said she was inspired to tape her pre-movie ads after seeing brokers advertising on billboards and bus stops in North Carolina.

“When [the movie theater advertisement] first went up [in New York], it was funny because people thought it was a personals ad and they didn’t know what to make of it,” Lenane said.

But, she said, now people recognize her on the street and it’s worth it.

“It’s really silly and fun, but it makes me feel a little bit more a part of my neighborhood, which is what I really enjoy,” she said.

Meanwhile, Corcoran broker Deanna Kory started advertising on the silver screen two years ago as part of her full marketing plan.

“[Initially] I didn’t like that kind of public display because I felt it was odd, but over time I just thought, there’s a little bit of fun when people remember you,” she said. “The main thing is just having name recognition, and it’s been very great.”