If pictures are worth a thousand words, some home builders are figuring out that moving pictures on YouTube videos are worth exponentially more without costing exponentially more.

YouTube, the second most popular search site behind Google, has become a powerful advertising tool for some home builders.

“While YouTube has long been primarily thought of for entertainment, we are finding it as one effective way to get in front of the right audience,” says Deborah Wahl, PulteGroup’s chief marketing officer. The company uses YouTube to market its three brands: Centex, Del Webb, and flagship Pulte.

When Pulte rolled out its new Pulte Life Tested home designs last spring, it launched a video to explain the new designs and show what they look like in a home setting. It includes interviews of real people—sharing what they’re looking for in a new home— from the focus groups that helped create the new designs. The clip had more than 750,000 views in four months.

“Video is effective in communicating our home building brands because it allows viewers to get to know us,” Wahl says. “Video gives you the sense of what a company is all about and can truly support branding efforts like no other medium on the Web.”

YouTube is but one part of Pulte’s Internet arsenal in a day and age when more than 75 percent of people use the Internet to search for homes, some even before setting foot inside a community, and many before talking to a Realtor, Pulte says.

The videos Pulte uploads to YouTube give viewers a good idea of what the community looks like, what the homes and amenities look like, and plenty of images of local entertainment venues, grocery stores, and other nearby shopping.

Reeling in Prospective Buyers Clayton Homes, a large builder of manufactured modular homes headquartered in Maryville, Tenn., uses its YouTube channel to walk potential buyers through its products, but it also has become a tool to nurture them through its three- to six-month time period between first interest and purchase. Clayton sends video links to prospective home buyers to educate them about its products and processes, emphasize the structural integrity of modular homes versus old-style mobile homes, and show the construction and delivery processes.

While many of the videos are instructive and persuasive, some are merely entertaining, designed to foster warm home feelings about Clayton Homes. There’s one with the co-stars of Duck Dynasty, Phil and Kay Robertson, sitting in their kitchen, discussing how Clayton Homes are built in America as they cut into a sweet potato pie and talk about filling a home with love.

“Right off the bat we really weren’t sure what to expect” from the advertisements, says Jim Greer, Clayton’s lead generation manager. “It has turned out very well for us. We are excited about the results.”

Immediate Gratification Unlike some forms of advertising, results can be measured from YouTube and advertisers need to pay only for the traffic they get versus a newspaper advertisement that costs the same no matter the results. “You pump money into that and you know real quick whether it’s successful,” Greer says. “Digital mediums in general tend to be a lot cheaper cost.”

The Internet is changing the way many people are buying products, says Patrick Grandinetti, Google’s head of real estate industry. The old rule of marketing was that there were first and second moments of truth that determines what a consumer will buy and whether they will keep buying it. The first was during the three to five seconds when they are looking at a product’s logo in the store, and the second was after they took it home and used it. Now there is a new moment of truth that sometimes comes before the other two, says Grandinetti: The results of Internet research customers are doing before they even go to the store.
For tutorials on how Google advertising works, visit www.google.com/ads/video/index.html.

Teresa Burney is a senior editor for BUILDER.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.