There's an old expression in the advertising business that says nothing sells like sight, sound, and motion. It was a mantra that emerged in the early days of television as stations began selling advertising time against newspapers and magazines, where most advertising was carried in those days. Television allowed advertisers to show their products being used and enjoyed.

So began the “slice of life” commercial, which dominated television from the late '50s through the '70s and into the '80s. Not coincidentally, that was the same period that consumers began to concern themselves with a new concept called “lifestyle.”

And it is that very concept that builders try to sell today. Until recently, though, selling the lifestyle of a project or subdivision required drawing customers into a sales center and physically showing them the amenities inside the home, as well as in the community at large. However, the Internet changed all that. Web sites are static representations of physical properties that can show pictures, give virtual tours, and convey almost unlimited amounts of information. But it still can't demonstrate lifestyle.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: The expense of producing VOD is minimal compared to traditional ads. Cost for first video is around $10,000; additional videos drop to about $2,500. Television can, but for builders, the confines of the standard 30-second commercial greatly restrict what can be shown. And commercial time is very expensive. As the market shifts to a buyers' market, tried-and-true selling techniques, with a lot of hand-holding and face-time, are making a huge comeback. But many potential home buyers simply want to find their own way to their dream and television and the Web are often the pathway to that first critical visit.

AIR TIME “Hot On! Homes” ( is a weekly half-hour TV program that airs in 10 markets, including Dallas; Houston; Austin, Texas; San Antonio; Denver; Las Vegas; Baton Rouge, La.; Oklahoma City; Phoenix; and Washington, D.C. It's a professionally produced real estate show featuring new homes from builders such as Centex Corp., KB Home, D.R. Horton, K. Hovnanian, Pulte Homes, Brookfield Homes Corp., Beazer Homes USA, and Ryland Homes. It usually runs on local broadcast stations on Sunday mornings.

Crozier & Henderson Productions, the Dallas-based producers of “Hot On! Homes,” have recently branched out into video-on-demand (VOD), also known as streaming video. VOD is, in essence, a high-quality, two-minute lifestyle marketing video created specifically for viewing on a builder's Web site. It can be used as long as the information is relevant and the community is being actively marketed.

The first customer for this service is Centex, which is planning on using VOD for its Minnesota; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix; Northern California; and Los Angeles Central Coast divisions. “We just recently started using VOD,” says Amanda Larson, marketing director for Centex's Los Angeles Central Coast division. “We've shot pretty much all of our neighborhoods, and it's been a really easy and pleasant experience.”

The VOD segments are now up on its Web site (, and Larson says, “I just got the first report yesterday. We are getting increasing hits. We are seeing that people are actually viewing the video on our Web site. The salespeople are providing us with positive feedback that it is helping to increase traffic.”

Tom Bevins, Crozier & Henderson's multimedia general manager, says the cost of doing VODs is minimal compared with the expense involved in creating and airing traditional advertising. Each video costs about $2,500 and costs less for larger volumes. For the first video shoot, between setup and production costs, the bill is going to come in somewhere around $10,000.

In contrast, the monthly rate for running in “Hot On! Homes” runs between $10,000 and $30,000, depending on the market the show runs and how long the contract runs. The bigger the market, the more it costs. Contracts usually run for either 26 week or 52 weeks.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.