Effective Advertising: It’s All About ‘HOODOO’

The key to creating ads that work is knowing what consumers you want to attract and how they’ll benefit from working with you. Learn more.

March 12, 2012

First, a bit about me. I’ve worked all over the world on advertising and other consumer-oriented ventures. I’m the director of IGM Global and head of Ian Grace Business Training, and I’m based in Queensland, Australia. I’ve spoken several times at the National Association of REALTORS® Conference & Expo, as well as a number of other real estate events around the world, about the topic of advertising.

For me, advertising starts with one word: “HOODOO.”

Remember that word and you will always remember what effective advertising is all about, not just a week or two after you have read this article, but for the next several years. It’s the best way I know of to grasp the formula for creating ads that hit the mark.

Once you understand this, it will drive you nuts while you are watching TV. You will see this concept at work in every good ad and notice when an ad fails because it’s missing this quality.

Have you ever seen an ad that merely describe the item and then states its make or brand, its condition, price, and the person to contact? We all have. They get the information out, but in a dreary way that fails to inspire enthusiasm or motivate consumers to take action.



Sadly, most real estate ads are doing the same thing: merely describing the property for sale. That isn’t effective advertising.

Professional advertising agencies know what product or service they are selling, but they won’t write anything about it — or take any photos or video — until they have first determined who will see the most value in the product or service they are advertising. When it comes to real estate, these are the people who will always pay the highest price.

Once they have established who they are aiming at, they know how to talk to that group. Make sense?

When it comes to real estate, families with young children, retired couples, career couples, and singles all have very different needs, and their values should be addressed appropriately. (Obviously, be aware of anti-discrimination legislation, such as fair housing, in all of this.)

Now, proceed to show and tell the target audience what they will be able to do as a direct result of the purchase. “HOODOO” is ultimately a memory device that will always help you to remember who you’re trying to reach and what you want them to do. That’s the essence of effective advertising.

Have you ever seen an ad on television for some kind of stain-removal agent? One where a mother is trying to get the family’s clothes clean, but the kids are always rolling around in grass and mud, or dad comes home with grease and grime all over him due to his job? Then, along comes the product representative to save the day. All of a sudden, the laundry is cleaner than clean, whiter than white.

These ads have been around for years. As you can see, it’s all HOODOO: In this case, the mother is the who and as a result of her purchase, her family’s clothes are cleaner without any extra effort on her part.

With real estate advertising, this concept is mostly ignored. Listing agents merely describe the house for sale, but that is not what they are selling. Instead, they should first establish who will see the most value in the property they are selling and the area where it’s located, depending on their particular value structure at that stage of their lives. Then, show them and tell them what they will be able to do as a direct result of their purchase. With that perspective, you’ll produce ads that will achieve the best end result for your sellers.

I’ll be going into greater detail about how to create great ads in future articles. Later, when we look at putting together an effective media mix advertising campaign, we’ll explore when and where ads should be placed.

This article is part 1 in a 10-part series on writing great real estate ads. Read more here: 

Part 1: Effective Advertising: It’s All About ‘HOODOO’
Part 2: Write Ads That Sell
Part 3: Match Powerful Photos With Powerful Headlines to Get Ads Noticed
Part 4: Show What It's Like to Live in a Home
Part 5: Humanizing Your Ads
Part 6: Different Ads for Different Markets
Part 7: Media Match: Make all Your Ad Media Work Together

Part 8: Keep the Same (Good) Ad Running
Part 9: Pricing: Take Your Sellers for a Ride
Part 10: Getting Your Sellers to Pay for Advertising
Bonus Tip 11: Research Your Advertising to Guarantee its Effectiveness

Ian Grace

Australian-born Ian Grace, one of the world’s leading authorities on real estate advertising, is the director of IGM Global and head of Ian Grace Business Training. For 16 years, he worked in and researched advertising and customer service in England, South Africa, and the United States.