Things are happening fast at AdWerx
, the real estate advertising technology company spun out of ReverbNation earlier this year.
At least 37 people are working out of the company’s brand new Durham office, located next door to Tyler’s Tap Room on the American Tobacco Campus. That's up from 21 when we covered the spinout in February
. The staff count could hit 55 by year’s end.
Nearly every major real estate brand in the U.S. has partnered with the company to offer its agents access to software that makes it easy and lucrative to advertise online. More than 15,000 agents have placed an ad using AdWerx.
And yesterday, AdWerx announced a new product that lets those real estate agents advertise their services on mobile and tablet apps.
It’s a necessary step in providing a one-stop shop for digital advertising for the real estate industry. It also preps the company to expand to other industries.
“This was a must to get done before we expand to other verticals,” AdWerx CEO Jed Carlson told me during a demo of the new product last week. When I asked about future expansion beyond real estate, Carlson said there could still be other product additions but, “We’re keeping that to ourselves at this point.”
Part of the reason for that is the immense opportunity in an industry that is still adapting to the digital world. Investment dollars continue to fuel real estate technology companies as major mergers and acquisitions have occurred. Zillow bought Trulia in February and Realtor.com was acquired by News Corp. last November. In the Triangle, two other real estate-related startups have recently raised venture capital—First, for a predictive analytics platform for targeting potential homebuyers with relevant messaging and SOLOPro, which attempts to unbundle the real estate process and save homebuyers money.
“I love it when there is a lot of money pouring in,” says Carlson on the trends. “All boats are going to rise—there’s a big opportunity for everybody.”
He feels especially bullish on AdWerx because it's so unique from other advertising options—it lets Realtors automatically generate a set of ads that show up everywhere a potential homebuyer visits online rather than just on Facebook or Zillow or Redfin. Those homebuyers are initially identified by the zip code in which they appear to be searching for homes. Realtor ads then show up on any site they visit online after that point—from Facebook to The Weather Channel to ESPN. Now, ads show up within mobile apps too. You might see a Realtor’s face at the bottom of your Candy Crush game or a New York Times article you're browsing on your iPhone.
AdWerx isn’t in the business of placing the ads—it uses ad serving technology from other vendors. It’s about simplifying the advertising process so Realtors need no design or marketing skills to place an ad. They simply pick the zip codes they want to target with ads, upload a logo and headshot, choose a color scheme and then approve the automatically generated designs and pay for the spots available and the reach they desire. The same is true for the mobile offerings. Nine months were spent building the new platform and making the user interface as simple and seamless as the existing desktop offering.
“It used to be hard to plug into advertising technology and only multi-million dollar ad campaigns could use it,” Carlson says. “Now there are ways for everyone to plug in and AdWerx is at the front end of that movement saying, ‘We don’t make the ad tech but we connect people to the ad tech that already exists.'”
And that’s without logging into Google AdWords or Facebook and without knowing advertising vocabulary like CPC and conversion pixels and behavioral targeting.
Mobile was critical for the company—more than half the traffic online happens on mobile devices and the initial AdWerx was only available on desktop. Realtors want to appear tech-savvy to a generation of homebuyers used to searching for stuff on their phones. The mobile ads are as much about that kind of brand building as they are about advertising a Realtor’s service, Carlson says.
The biggest competition to AdWerx in the real estate industry remains traditional strategies like word-of-mouth, print media advertising and outdoor signage. But more Realtors are recognizing the importance of reaching potential customers online. Tools like AdWerx make it feasible for them to do something about it without sacrificing the time they should be spending helping customers find the best homes.
“These are small businesses," reminds Carlson. "They aren’t taking marketing classes at night."