When Baderwals Infraprojects Pvt. Ltd decided to move from buying and selling land to developing homes, shops and offices, the Delhi-based company reached out to an advertising agency for the first time.
“They told us that ‘ours will be a company that will turn aspirations of people into achievement’,” said Aman Dhari Sinha, creative director, Latitude23, a one-year-old agency that now handles Baderwals’ account.
The challenge then became, recalls Sinha,“How do you express that?”
Latitude’s answer started appearing recently in full-page newspaper ads and on 110 billboards across Delhi and its suburbs. “At Baderwals, we pay tribute to the never-say-die spirit of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, which spurred them on to conquer Mt. Everest,” one ad reads, below a photo of the famous peak. “By envisioning the cities, townships, shopping hubs, office complexes and residential complexes of tomorrow, our endeavour is to turn aspirations into splendidachievements.”
The property boom has brought about an explosion of real-estate advertising, but not advertising that only sells bricks and mortar.
Builders, struggling to entice buyers suddenly faced with a slew of choices in a market with too many developments that look similar, are selling a lifestyle wrapped in promises and aspirations.
These days, apartments are marketed as places where people can flaunt and enjoy their money, often overlooking golf courses, and with clubhouses and swimming pools with vast swatches of blue, notwithstanding India’s many water-starved pockets.
“In such a clutter—every day there is a new (development) coming up—creativity becomes so much more necessary to make it stand out and memorable,” said Sinha. “If you touch a human chord, it gels well with people.”
A recent advertisement for Unitech Ltd’s Karma Lakelands villas in Gurgaon, shows a woman in a white robe leaning on the rail of her veranda, her hands clutching a coffee mug. Below her is an expansive golf course. The ad line: “Learning golf is optional. Enjoying isn’t.”
An advertisement for neo, an apartment project under construction at Shipra Sun City in Ghaziabad, simply shows the corner of an expensive-looking leather couch with the words: “Invite your office to your new luxury condo (just don’t let your wife tell anyone it’s actually a two-bedroom apartment).” Almost all of this new wave of real-estate ads have details about the actual projects relegated to small print.
“A lot of us are trying to talk about lifestyle they’re going to enjoy,” said Gullu Sen, vice- chairman and chief creative officer for Dentsu India, who represents Delhi-based developer Omaxe Ltd. “The rest they can see at the site. The developer can take them through a walkthrough of the bedroom, living room and Jacuzzi.”
These real-estate advertisements focus on feelings and lifestyle aspirations because new apartments often come with little more than the basics and require the buyers to add their own special touches, said Ashutosh Khanna, chief operating officer, Grey Worldwide, a leading advertising agency that isn’t currently handling any major real-estate clients.
“What’s happened in India is that advertising overall is (now) more sophisticated,” Khanna added. “Most of today’s builders used to be small builders and they used to work with suitcase agencies and one-man shops. They have gotten richer. They’ve gotten bigger budgets and they’re starting to see the benefits of really working with communications partners.”
It isn’t just the small builders that are going this route. Real-estate companies such as DLF Ltd, have sharply increased their advertising budgets, as they have become national players reaching out to different groups of buyers. DLF’s ad budget grew from about Rs1 crore to Rs65 crore last year, said a person familiar with the situation who didn’t want to be named.
“The series of ads we created for DLF was called ‘Building India’, and included a lot more than just the project details,” says Amitabha Mitra, vice-president of Percept Holdings, which handles DLF’sadvertising. Last year, for instance, DLF signed on Shah Rukh Khan as brand ambassador. The actor featured in a 90-second television commercial, where he “brought in the element of breathlessness while talking about the properties,” said Mitra. Another commercial, lasting 40 seconds, depicted a montage of families in homes, children playing, professionals at offices and people shopping in malls. “The idea was to capture all aspects in the ad,” said Mitra.
The increasing focus on advertising is being driven by a sea change in home-buying patterns. “There is a massive opportunity for people to own property now, which was never the case before,” said Preeta Singh, CEO of the sports sponsorship and celebrity endorsements arm of Percept. “There is more disposable income. Young people are buying homes and have high aspirations. They are well-travelled and have seen condos and apartments abroad. Now, real estate is built with the consumer in mind.”
Arvind Parakh, CEO, corporate strategy and finance, Omaxe, said tying a brand to a celebrity is also a good way to break through the real-estate clutter. Omaxe is using the music of sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan in Hindi television ads for its planned Forest luxury apartments in Faridabad. In the ad, Khan walks into a Forest apartment where his sons are performing and “tells them they are still hypnotized by the Omaxe project,” Parakh said.
“Today, we’re executing projects all over India so we have to be known in those markets,” said Parakh. “We have to do something different.”
Still, even this trend of selling a concept may be running dry. According to Grey’s Khanna, the larger issue that advertising agencies face is that they have little to work with in terms of interesting visuals.
“All real-estate ads are about green spaces and blue skies, and everybody’s got a swimming pool, and everybody’s got gardens and parks, so what’s the differentiator actually,” he said.
“You can swap the logo of any builder.”