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CoStar Group Makes Super Bowl Debut With Four Ads

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CoStar Group, the $34 billion real estate analytics company, slammed into its Super Bowl debut with four high-gloss commercials on Sunday night, buying up more airtime than Pepsi and even the perennial favorite Budweiser, which each only purchased two multimillion slots on football’s biggest night.

The commercials — three for CoStar subsidiary Homes.com and one for another subsidiary, Apartments.com — were just the kickoff in a planned yearlong advertising barrage for the upstart home-search portals. The CoStar chief executive, Andy Florance, said he hopes the media blitz will earn the company dominion over rival home-search sites. Last year, Homes.com announced it had reached 100 million monthly visitors, trailing behind Zillow but placing it ahead of both Redfin and Realtor.com.

On its website, Homes.com touts a $1 billion marketing push, describing the investment as “the biggest marketing campaign in real estate history.” In the weeks following the big game, the website promises, “Homes.com will be everywhere morning to late night,” with an ongoing advertising rollout that will include radio, streaming platforms and prime-time television.

The combined two minutes and 15 seconds of ads that aired while the Kansas City Chiefs battled the San Francisco 49ers likely cost $35 million, according to Ad Age. The four ads were anchored by the celebrities Jeff Goldblum, Dan Levy and Heidi Gardner, with a cameo from the rapper Lil Wayne, whose alter egos negotiated with aliens and smashed a high-rise office building’s windows with a larger-than-life champagne cork. In each bit, the actors created minor havoc in residential communities while performing neighborhood reconnaissance for prospective home buyers. And in not one but two of the ads, Mr. Levy and Ms. Gardner escaped peril in a branded Homes.com helicopter, its blades whirring and droning above a football game and a quiet cul-de-sac.

It’s a bid that is likely to pay off, advertising pundits said on Monday.

“Companies sometimes make the mistake of running a Super Bowl ad and then disappearing,” said Mitch Burg, a former president of both MediaEdge, a media buying company, and the Syndicated Network Television Association. “If you do that, your name recognition will also disappear. But if you’re running in the Super Bowl as part of launching a campaign you plan to sustain, then it’s a very smart way to get reach.”

And for a cash-flush company, taking out four ads rather than just one can have impact, Mr. Burg said.

“If you break down the commercials, beyond Dan Levy and Heidi Gardner and Jeff Goldblum, really what they kept bringing it back to was simple: name recognition,” he said.

CoStar, which acquired Apartments.com in 2014, added Homes.com in 2021. Since then, the company has been actively courting both real estate agents and home buyers, while thumbing its nose — and its deep pockets — at competitors.

Mr. Florance, who founded CoStar in a dorm room in 1986, refers to a trio of rival sites — Zillow, Realtor.com and Redfin — as “Ziltorfin” and has accused them of using bait-and-switch tactics to lure in home shoppers and then sell their contact information to dozens of anonymous real estate agents.

Representatives for Zillow declined to comment, and representatives for Realtor.com did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alina Ptaszynski, a spokesperson for Redfin, pointed out unlike on Redfin, agents are charged fees to advertise themselves on Homes.com. She said that while brokerages and the National Association of Realtors face legal challenges over commission rates, sky-high marketing budgets would only drive up their costs.

“The billions being spent on Lil Wayne and this whole Super Bowl extravaganza are just a sideshow if all that doesn’t help people move to a better life,” she said. “And with these huge lawsuits over high brokerage fees, the real question is: Who’s paying for it? Agents spend thousands per month to appear on these portals, costs that are passed onto the consumer.”

In November, at the flagship real estate conference for the National Association of Realtors, CoStar sponsored the largest booth in the exhibition hall at the Anaheim Convention Center, plastered its logo on shuttle buses used by agents and hosted a private, free Goo Goo Dolls concert for attendees.

The Super Bowl ad buy was the latest salvo.

In an interview with The New York Times in December, Mr. Florance recalled having dinner with Mr. Levy in London and laughing about a 2021 skit on Saturday Night Live that included Mr. Levy and Ms. Gardner. In it, several members of the S.N.L. cast scrolled Zillow.com late at night in a manner similar to phone sex, and then were bombarded with calls from real estate agents.

On those sites, Mr. Florance said, “You’re typically sold off as a lead to some unrelated agent,” leading to home shoppers being bombarded with cold phone solicitations. “That’s a bad customer experience,” he added. “As a real estate agent, you don’t want Saturday Night Live parodying the consumer experience.”

At the time, Rich Barton, Zillow’s chief executive, made light of the ribbing on the website formerly known as Twitter, writing, “Wait. Have we been marketing @zillow wrong all these years?”

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