StreetEasy Illustrates House-Hunting Odyssey as Renaissance Art

StreetEasy Illustrates House-Hunting Odyssey as Renaissance Art

StreetEasy’s new campaign uses Renaissance frescoes to depict the epic journey of buying a home in New York City. This eye-catching campaign leverages “if you know, you know” NYC references to resonate with residents and showcase StreetEasy’s resources for home buyers.

A confluence of factors, from the pandemic to rising interest rates, has created what has been described as the most unaffordable housing market in generations. Navigating the market, from open houses to mortgage approvals, is difficult for many consumers. In New York City, that experience is particularly fraught, with the addition of apartment brokers, co-op boards, and a dwindling housing supply that gives renters less than a 1% chance of finding an apartment that costs less than $2,400 a month.

If finding a place to live in most places is a journey, finding one in New York is an epic odyssey. That insight is illustrated classically in the latest campaign from StreetEasy, the New York-focused real estate platform Zillow owns.

“The strategy behind this was being able to talk about the buyer’s journey in New York City, knowing that the journey in New York City is unique,” said Jason Ferguson, creative director at StreetEasy. We get NYC, we get New Yorkers. How do we find a way to connect with New Yorkers and show them that StreetEasy has the tools and the resources and can connect them with the right people?”

Created with Mother New York, “Let The Journey Begin” kicked off last month and will run throughout the year. The campaign spans Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest, YouTube, Spotify, and connected TV. On the out-of-home (OOH) front, the effort appears on MTA subway cars and taxi tops. It includes a takeover of the Broadway/Lafayette station and large-scale, hand-painted murals in the Williamsburg and Nolita neighborhoods.

Those OOH activations are perhaps the campaign’s most effective element as they imagine the steps of the buyer’s journey in the style of Renaissance frescoes — a “natural” look for the campaign, according to Nedal Ahmed, executive creative director at Mother New York.

“When we talk about words like ‘odyssey,’ you can see where your brain gets this place of drama and the illustration style of the time,” Ahmed said. “With the Renaissance, there’s such a great, iconic visual vocabulary there. I think New York also has an iconic aesthetic, so having these two really interesting aesthetics come together is a really fun treat for us.”

Along with pairing two iconic visual styles, the campaign extends the brand’s work of speaking to a New York audience that is particularly adept at tuning out advertising that is part of the Big Apple’s visual clutter.

“[New Yorkers] are savvy enough to appreciate a message that’s clever, aligned with beautiful visuals, and speaks to the experience of what it’s like to live in New York,” Ahmed said. “Having that creative excellence and that comfort of targeting our creative to New Yorkers was exciting.”

‘If you know, you know’

Like any hero’s journey, the buyer’s journey spans different scenarios, setbacks and successes. StreetEasy and Mother worked together to come up with seven ideas that would resonate with New Yorkers and be translated into art, included deciding whether to rent or buy, getting pre-approved for a mortgage, visiting open houses, dealing with co-op boards and, eventually, becoming one’s landlord.

“Our strategy team was a big part of this, as was working with the StreetEasy team and being that bridge between business strategy and creative strategy, down to the actual creative execution,” said Ahmed.

After turning StreetEasy’s insights into rough ideas of visuals, Mother relied heavily on its business affairs unit to clear “if you know, you know” local Easter eggs peppered throughout the campaign. References include the iconic “Dan Smith Will Teach You Guitar” ads, establishments like Barcade and the New York Public Library, and familiar figures like Leh-Boy, a city character who rides his bike with a basketball balanced on his head. Then, Mother engaged the creative company Buck to bring the concepts to life.

“I was a fan of [Buck’s] work even before we worked together, and it felt like a no-brainer,” Ferguson said. “They were going to be perfect for this because they care so much and so deeply about the craft and getting every little thing right — every brushstroke.”