Zillow Launches New TV Ad; Prepare to Get Teary-Eyed

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Watch Zillow's (Z) new TV advertisement, launched Monday, and tell me if you don't get the least bit teary-eyed, which, of course, I did. That was the intention of the online real estate company's third ad in its "Find Your Way Home" series, a national advertising campaign the company debuted last year.

For the first time, Zillow is also launching national radio spots and print advertising to go along with its latest TV ad as well as mobile and digital elements, the company said Monday. The TV spot, titled "Family Search," will air in two formats -- a 30-second spot and a 60-second spot. The launch is to coincide with the busy home shopping season, the company said.

Zillow attributed the TV campaign to its significant increase in site traffic. The company boasted record traffic to its Web site in the first quarter of 77 million at quarter's end. Additionally, April traffic hit 79 million unique users, up 50% from the prior year, driven by both its mobile app and Web platforms. Zillow said more than 460 million homes were viewed on Zillow via a mobile device, which equates to 178 homes per second.

"A key driver of Zillow's success lies in attracting audience and delighting our users with great products and services. In March, traffic hit a new high of 77 million monthly unique users as mobile usage more than doubled year over year, and April just broke that record, attracting 79 million unique users," Zillow's CEO Spencer Rascoff said in last week's earnings release.

The new TV ad "chronicles how a modern family uses technology to propel their house hunt, while also highlighting the emotional significance tied to finding the perfect place to call home," Zillow said in a release on Monday. The TV and radio spots feature an original soundtrack by singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne and commissioned by Zillow.

"This ad campaign showcases the way technology drives how families collaborate, shop for and ultimately find not just a house -- but a place for their lives to happen," Zillow's Chief Marketing Officer Amy Bohutinsky said in the release. "We're thrilled to partner with Ray LaMontagne on this, with an original soundtrack that elevates our TV and radio creative to a really meaningful and impactful level."

The online real estate company, known for its "Zestimate" home appraisals, had previously said that it planned to spend $65 million in advertising-related expenses in 2014, up from 60% from the prior year, as competitors like Trulia (TRLA) and Move Inc. (MOVE), the owner of Realtor.com, up their game in the online real estate space.

Among its other proprietary products and tools,the company last week launched the Zestimate forecast, which will build on the company's proprietary home appraisal formula by forecasting what a home will be worth in 12 months. Zillow initially launched the forecast tool on 50 million homes and has plans to roll it out to the majority of U.S. homes, it said.

"Family Search" was produced by DeutschLA and directed by Eliot Rausch, who also directed Zillow's second TV spot "Long Distance," which recently won an Effie for advertising effectiveness, the company noted.

Last week, Zillow reported a first-quarter loss on a GAAP basis of $6.26 million, or 16 cents a share, primarily related to increases in advertising spending. A year earlier, the company posted a loss of $3.75 million, or 11 cents a share. On a non-GAAP basis, though, the company posted adjusted net income of $873 million, or 2 cents a share, compared to $399 million, or 1 cent a share, in the year earlier quarter. Non-GAAP earnings do not include share-based compensation expenses.

Zillow had record revenue in the March-ended quarter, up 70% from the year prior quarter to $66.2 million, a record for the Seattle-based company. Analysts, according to Thomson Reuters, expected the company to post a loss of 8 cents a share on revenue of $63 million.

Zillow shares were rising 2.2% to $99.75 on Monday.

--Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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