Most every builder strives to help prospective buyers envision themselves in one of its new homes, to see themselves cooking dinner, creating family memories, or just hangin' out watching TV. But Centex Homes' Los Angeles/Central Coast division gave real life to that vision with a campaign called HomePlay, in which professional actors portray a family living in one of the builder's model homes. The staging takes place for a few hours on a given Saturday—typically the peak time for sales traffic.

“We thought this would be a memorable model-home experience [for prospects] and help them distinguish one home or community from another,” says Amanda Larson, marketing director for the division. Larson was also looking for better ways to engage and interact with buyers beyond displays and signage. “It enables people to experience the model in a different way.”

MEET THE FAMILY: Professional actors portraying a real family living in one of Centex Homes' models  are hired to engage prospects with information about the home's features  and amenities ... and perhaps a slice of birthday cake.
MEET THE FAMILY: Professional actors portraying a real family living in one of Centex Homes' models are hired to engage prospects with information about the home's features and amenities ... and perhaps a slice of birthday cake.

Indeed, when prospects enter the home, a family of four is in the middle of celebrating the actress/mom's birthday. In addition to being offered a slice of birthday cake, potential buyers can learn about the home's various features from the (well-trained) family of actors. “It's great, because buyers aren't necessarily ready to meet with a sales agent, but they can still get information,” says Larson.

The builder set the HomePlay stage in four different communities, the last one casting bilingual actors to suit the project's target market. Initially heavily scripted, the “play” has since been revised to allow the actors to improvise and interact with prospects on their own, to create more casual (read: real) experiences.

CAMPAIGN DETAILS Program: HomePlay (dramatized model-home experience); Builder: Centex Homes, Dallas (Los Angeles/Central Coast division); Advertising agency: Roddan Paolucci Roddan, Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.; Cost: Approximately $29,000 per event (includes actors, print advertising, sales literature, and production)

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.