By Rich Binsacca. Village Homes of Colorado in Littleton, Colo., devised a clever direct mail idea to get prospects to the then-empty site of its Village of Five Parks in Arvada, Colo., prior to the project's opening in early 2002. An oversized envelope emblazoned with the word "Boo!" included information about the upcoming 937-home development, a packet of pumpkin seeds, and an invitation to stop by for a free, full-grown pumpkin for Halloween.

This being October 2001, however, the locals were a bit twitchy when it came to receiving unsolicited, "bumpy" mail that rattled, thanks to anthrax scares on the heels of Sept. 11. "I received a call from the Arvada police telling me that people were taking our envelopes to local fire stations," recalls marketing director Jennifer Lambert. "It was absolutely horrible timing."

Instead of jail time, however, Lambert got prime time. Local print and broadcast news outlets quelled fears about the mailer and unwittingly provided publicity for the event. Attracting area homeowners with an interest in cashing in on appreciated value and a move up to the Village of Five Parks, the builder gave away more than 1,000 pumpkins at the event and added 250 names to its prospect list. The project banked 113 sales in the year following its January 2002 opening and is currently selling at a pace of nearly 14 units per month.

Lambert even revived the event for 2002 (and will again this year, with models serving as a trick-or-treat route), though she removed the scripted "Boo!" from the envelope. "We've taken the same idea to other communities and been successful there, too."

Photo: Jim Yost/Yost Photography

At $1.25 per unit, including list purchase, postage, printing, and creative costs, the Pumpkin Patch mailer by Village Homes of Colorado attracted more than its intended share of attention for Village of Five Parks. Campaign Details

Program: Direct mail; Builder/Developer: Village Homes of Colorado, Littleton, Colo.; Price: $245,500 to $389,500; Direct mail price: $1.25 each, including postage; Total drop: 11,000+; Ad agency: Greenhaus, San Diego