Spot Runner Announces Vertical Partner: Cendant
Also in the "real estate file" is a new partnership between Spot Runner and Cendant Corp. Cendant is the parent of many familiar travel and real estate brands. For example, Cendant is the world’s largest franchisor of real estate brokerage offices, 15,000 to be precise. It also owns Century 21 and Coldwell Banker, among other brands. Spot Runner is the recently launched cable TV buying platform for local businesses (think of it kind of like dMarc for local cable TV).
Here’s the WSJ’s piece (sub. req’d) on the partnership:
Under the deal, Spot Runner will create hundreds of TV commercials that local real-estate brokers and agents affiliated with Cendant’s real-estate franchises can customize and then pay to have played in specified local markets. Spot Runner is creating special sites to sell TV ads to the more than 9,000 U.S. real-estate brokerage offices and 260,000 sales agents affiliated with Cendant’s real-estate units, which include Century 21 and Coldwell Banker.
Spot Runner will give those brokers and agents discounted rates, normally less than $500, on creating the custom TV commercials, which may include digital photos of properties agents send them. Spot Runner declined to disclose financial details of the arrangement with Cendant.
I spoke to WSJ writer Kevin Delaney about the relationship and the final piece is sort of a "just the facts, ma’am" version of our extended conversation.
One of the things he and I discussed was the challenge that Spot Runner faces. It’s a great offering, but there’s the difficultly of not only building awareness among local businesses but also getting them to show up and actually set up the campaigns, which is relatively simple to do. This is another version of the familiar "push vs. pull" debate about local businesses and online marketing.
This "vertical" strategy (and it’s not yet a "strategy" for Spot Runner, but may become one) is very smart because Cendant’s brands and relationships give Spot Runner instant credibility with these local real estate franchisees. Cendant will also "push" (systematically market) the offering to those local Realtors.
This goes a very long way to overcoming the inherent challenges of getting local businesses to show up and test the product.
Kevin and I also discussed something of a paradox about Spot Runner and the Cendant deal. Even as large advertisers (think car companies) are questioning and, in some cases, abandoning TV for the Internet and as TV audiences are fragmenting, this cable TV advertising opportunity will be fresh and exciting for local Realtors. They haven’t had the ability to buy TV and Spot Runner now makes that possible.
I believe the partnership will be successful for Spot Runner and, with corresponding lessons learned, create a kind of "vertical template" for the company going forward. Other professional services categories are ripe for this: lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc.
Spot Runner Chairman and Chief Executive Nick Grouf will be on the final panel at Drilling Down:
The Future of Local Media Buying: The Integrated Online-Offline Platform
Until recently, online marketing was regarded with skepticism and ambivalence. In 2005, led by paid search, online marketing in general came to be seen as a credible medium. While newspapers and Internet Yellow Pages have long been selling online advertising on their sites (and more recently into broader networks), the Google acquisition of dMarc suggests a potentially new, more integrated online-offline media future. It also directly brings the harsh light of performance-based marketing and Web analytics to a traditional advertising medium. The panelists will discuss these and other recent developments and what the near and long term will hold for online marketing and interactive local media.
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Real Estate Pros have actually had these low cost services available for years. The only thing that has changed is the wrapper. By reading the fine print on the Spotrunner web site and comparing it to a semi-automated discount ad agency called Cheap-TV-Spots.com, I found that Spotrunner's only advantage is its user interface. Spotrunner offers no real savings or value over similar service paradigms. The automated Spotrunner airings actually cost more than the semi-automated Cheap-TV-Spots.com system (air time is the most expensive part of any TV campaign). Spotrunner offers an upgraded ad comparable to CheapTVSpots standard custom ad, but at a price nearly 5 times the Cheap TV Spots rate. Spotrunner does not appear to allow national airings (because of licensing restrictions), and it does not allow a web version of the commercial to be freely distributed by the client. Cheap TV Spots, by contrast, provides both local and national airings, and allows the client to freely distribute a web version via e-mail and web postings. Spotrunner forces the real estate agency to keep purchasing their more expensive air time or Spotrunner will re-sell their ad to the agent’s competitor in the same market. Again, by comparison, the Cheap TV Spots system delivers local and national service with maximum flexibility at a cost (including air time) which is less than the limited Spotrunner system. Cheap TV Spots does not insist on long term contracts for air time. Spotrunner, inconveniently, also charges to speak to a live person. There are Silicon Valley rumors about Cheap-TV-Spots.com acquiring Spotrunner. Cheap TV Spots actually has the better system and has been around longer, but to the average agent or broker, Spotrunner's interface could be appealing. A CheapTVSpots.com / Spotrunner hybrid model is actually the most compelling model for our business sector, and a real acquisition for Google, Yahoo, or even Ask.com.