EVEN BEFORE IT PUT A SHOVEL IN THE GROUND AT RAVENNA, a 42-unit “boutique” community of oceanfront homes in San Clemente, Calif., builder John Laing Homes' South Coast division had a pretty good idea of how it would theme the grand opening of the models and first phase of sales. “Our market research during the design phase told us that prospective buyers were very interested in the arts,” says Linda Mamet, vice president of sales and marketing, adding that most of the project's buyers were expected to come from the local area. “We started thinking about how to add that to the experience of visiting the model homes.”

The result: a two-day event during which a pair of commissioned seascape paintings by a local artist—who was on site to finish one piece during the first day—were silently auctioned off, with the $1,000 in proceeds going to a local nonprofit art association.

Mentioned in phone, e-mail, and direct mail invitations to its Advantage Program members for a private preview the first day, as well as in its media relations and newspaper ads to attract the general public for the grand opening two days later, the artist and auction helped generate local buzz and solid sales traffic during the events. Within two weeks, the builder had sold five of the first phase of eight homes (priced in the low $1 million range), and is on track to complete the project by early 2008.

CAMPAIGN DETAILS Program: Private preview and grand-opening events at Ravenna, San Clemente, Calif.; Builder: John Laing Homes, Newport Beach, Calif. (South Coast division); Cost: $20,000 (not including print ad purchase); Advertising agency: Roddan Paolucci Roddan, Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.

SCENE STEALER: The builder's strategy to commission a well-known painter of local seascapes  to capture the project's ocean views, then auction off the work to benefit  the town's art association, proved to be an effective incentive to boost  sales traffic at Ravenna's model openings.
SCENE STEALER: The builder's strategy to commission a well-known painter of local seascapes to capture the project's ocean views, then auction off the work to benefit the town's art association, proved to be an effective incentive to boost sales traffic at Ravenna's model openings.