Anatomy of a Classified Ad: Mine
Classic classified ads are pure persuasion at its simplest. 65 words for volunteers to explore the Arctic. 100 words for part-time or full-time employment. 110 for houses or sublets. 130 for used cars or bikes. 230 including spaces for dating or ‘casual encounters’. Add in a photo for physical body part enlargements or warehouse reductions.
Classifieds might be a $30 billion dollar business, but you don’t need a professional agency to do classifieds. With modern tools available and easy to use, regular you can create and place them in local newspapers and penny savers or on web sites like Craigslist or through social networks like Facebook. You don’t have to be a professional art director or copywriter — or even a decent writer.
I had great fun self-managing my own classified campaign two years ago in an experiment to use social media to fundraise. Most good classifieds are short, with deliberately chosen words. This used to be out of price concerns (paying by the word in printed publications) but now more for search-engine friendliness or just timely appeal in a sea of competition.
My very own case study: My house.
We’re selling our apartment in Manhattan. My partner Bryan Fuhr and I both work in marketing, so you’d think we’d be running our own advertising campaign, and bringing in a photographer friend to shoot our apartment and hand-crafting each piece of collateral and running a massive measurement dashboard with real-time reporting of site traffic and leads. You might think we’d test different messaging. Nope, we found a great real estate broker with an expertise in places like ours, agreed on the right price and handed over control. He recommended a person to stage the apartment for photography, which is humiliating to a gay couple with excellent design taste, but we understood and respect the value of professionals in their field.
I’ve learned a lot just in the early days of advertising it. The listing itself is pretty fascinating and says a lot about modern marketing. Compliments to Josh, our broker, as we do a little analysis of the listing that went live this week:
“Stunning Penthouse Duplex…Private Terrace, Two Bed Two and a Half Bath atop Meticulous Townhouse in Mint Condition. Welcome home to this bright and airy retreat featuring large living room, wood-burning fireplace, hardwood floors, enormous formal dining room, washer/dryer, renovated bathrooms and good closets. 349 is a pet-friendly boutique co-op on treelined 21st Street in West Chelsea Step outside and find some of the world’s best restaurants, entertainment, schools and recreation within minutes of your front door.”
1. Stunning Penthouse Duplex — Yes, it’s a duplex on the top two floors of an 1846 brownstone. I hadn’t thought of calling it a penthouse before but it is the top. Cool.
2. Private Terrace — this was my suggestion to put near the very front of the listing. The deck is one of the best and most unique features and sure to bring in a lot of people to see it. Who doesn’t crave personal outdoor space. I had originally suggested Private Patio for the alliteration, but Private Terrace sounds more elegant, patio could mean tiny — which it’s certainly not.
3. Meticulous Townhouse — I think this means the building is in good shape, which is true. I think of the building as a brownstone, but townhouse is probably a broader term for non-New Yorkers. Townhouse also has connotations to me of suburban apartment developments but then again, if you think about it, these brownstones were all built at the same time too. Just 150 years earlier in the city.
4. Welcome home to this bright and airy retreat — When we first walked in to our apartment, during its first open house back in 2002, “home” is exactly what we thought. It feels like a home. We were so floored by the idea of a home-like apartment, I believe we made our initial bid for it within six hours.
5. Pet-friendly boutique co-op on treelined 21st Street in West Chelsea — “boutique co-op” is a great way to phrase our building. It’s a co-op but a four-unit self-managed co-op. Plus the word boutique is trendy. Kinda like bespoke. West Chelsea is important since Chelsea is so big and diverse now, we don’t want you thinking we’re on the cheesie strip along 8th Avenue. West Chelsea is also hip now, close to the High Line and waterfront.
6. The world’s best restaurants, entertainment, schools and recreation — The location really is convenient, with lots of new (and good) restaurants like Cookshop and the Meat Packing District. The High Line is just one avenue west and our dog run is by the water. In the original draft, I suggested adding in “education” not because we have kids (we don’t) but because right on our block is a great public school (PS 11 as well as a charter), which is always hard to find in New York City and over which we find most parents utterly obsessed.
In the very few days since the listing went live, results seem solid. Attendance to the first open house was great (full turnout), though the pictures, location, market, fall timing, and other marketing of course also help. We took our dog out for a long walk and lunch during the first open house on Sunday. Bryan mused that the next few weeks mean keeping the place clean and living in a ‘fishbowl”. I may not control the copywriting of the classified, but that is certainly one word I wouldn’t put in.
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