How to Make a Zillow Ad Using Only Stock

By Caleb Rexius

Recently, I was asked to make a branding ad for a real estate company.

They wanted a basic, uplifting video about people and their homes for social media. It had to be done fast, inexpensively, be high-quality, and be on-brand. 

I actually had to turn down the project. But, it got me thinking: how would I have produced this? Could I have used all stock? And could I do it in less than a day? Could it be good enough for a brand like… Zillow? Read on to see.

Let’s jump in here. We’re going to do this in 3 steps: EXPECTATIONS, AUDIO, VISUALS


Let’s get our expectations dialed in (this is a good life lesson, too), for the client, and for me. The first step is realistically thinking: what can I actually do here? If you start dreaming about how we can get custom footage from Manhattan to Southern California, with high-end luxury homes, and beautiful models in a pool with a perfect sunset and all that jazz – stop – just stop there. This isn’t for their Super Bowl spot. This is a small regional TV spot, with a very low budget. Big brand, but small budget (which happens more than you think). 

Basically, I have to assume I can’t custom shoot/film anything. And really, given the timeline and the budget, I have about a day to complete it.

This whole walkthrough tutorial would look a lot different if they gave me $100k.

The 3-step approach turns into a 10-step approach, and instead of 1 person working on the project, it’s a team of 10 or more. This is NOT our situation.

So, back to setting expectations, which is really a question of how much effort and resources I can put into this, and how much can the client expect to get from me. EXPECTATIONS!

#2 – AUDIO

We have a separate video, “The 5 L’s of Song Selection”, that details how I pick music for projects. But for this specific project, and for my workflow and creative process, I try to get the audio side as close to complete as possible before I really start working on the visuals. This is just something I’ve always done, and it has served me well.

Sometimes, the narration/script informs the music style and length, but sometimes the music can actually inspire the script and visuals. So there’s kind of a play back-and-forth there. It’s a bit of a dance. 


For music, I thought something with an acoustic vibe would help sell this kind of home, cozy, family, feel I’m after.  So I looked at Filmpac, as they have an acoustic playlist

The first song was nice, but not exactly what I was feeling. But the 2nd song seems to work. It’s talking about adventure and “following me to the unknown“, and that seems like a house hunting or moving kind of mood.

I’m working on 30 second target and this song has a long intro, and the first verse is a bit long, and the first part of the chorus maybe doesn’t quite resolve fast enough, so I’m going to need to do a heavy edit here. But I think it can still work.

Now it’s decision time as an editor. I could keep looking for hours for the perfect song, but is this good enough? Yes.

Is it perfect? We’ll see.


So my first thought was to have narration throughout. But actually, this song is about travel, adventure, and love, so it kind of works for this ad, especially in the context of a real estate brand. Viewers can easily contextualize it and it makes sense. 

So maybe instead of actual narration for this spot, I’m just going to do some simple text on screen. I think it can work. Zillow’s motto is “Think Big, Move Fast”. So we’re going to end with that and call it good.


Once again, the challenge here is to use all stock, so I’m using Filmpac stock footage and their exclusive model feature to grab a few quick storylines.

This model tracker allows us to follow one subject through a range of scenes, emotions, and settings, and I think we can grab some super relevant AND aesthetically consistent visuals for this. 

SUBJECTS – First up, I want to find our lead roles here. So I need a few specific home buying, moving, or realtor type of shots to establish the video. 

I want some non-specific clips too, like adventuring and romance and laughing and all that, but I have to have something that is pretty Zillow-esque, so I’m going to search for homebuyers or real estate. 

And after searching for a bit, I found a perfect cute couple. I clicked on their model profile to see what else is there, and look at that, they are all over the place. So, I’m going to start with some of the house transaction and moving scenes, and then we’ll build up to more of the adventure, active, and inspiring scenes.


And finally, we’ll add in that slogan slide. Actually, we’ll break it into 2 pieces to give a bit of a visual break, which is nice, and add a few final hard hitting shots. For the conclusion, we could do a number of clips, but I kind of like this selfie one; its pretty relatable and relevant to this millennial couple. We’ll do a nice fade out and call it done before rendering.

That’s it. Let’s watch this video:


Sometimes, these projects can seem overwhelming and complicated, but it’s really only as complicated as you want to make it. And if you can get started and follow a structured sequence of steps, that can really allow for your creativity to flourish.

I hope this was helpful, inspiring, and eye-opening to understand what’s possible when you have a high-quality and super useful stock footage library. Until next time, keep creating, and thanks for watching.

Caleb is the founder and lead cinematographer at Filmpac.

FILMPAC Filmpac is a premium stock footage + music membership library.