IF THE ENTRIES IN THE 24TH ANNUAL COMPETITION of The Nationals are any indication, new-home sales and marketing efforts have never been more innovative, competitive, and exciting. Ten judges from various segments of the industry critiqued approximately 1,200 entries in 53 categories during a three-day marathon in October.

Sponsored by the NAHB's National Sales and Marketing Council and co-sponsored by Whirlpool Appliances, KitchenAid, and Gladiator Garage Works, The Nationals are the premiere sales and marketing awards of the home building industry.

Both in the competition and in practice, the key to success was clearly identifying the target demographic and tailoring the message to meet its desires and demands. With a mandate to watch the bottom line, the judges also paid close attention to results. Beautiful photography and clever packaging might earn an entry a first glance, but it only made the final cut if it drove traffic and helped the builder reach its sales goals.

Representative of a growing trend in new-home construction, urban infill and high-rise projects were prominent in the group of entries. Designed to appeal to sophisticated urbanites, marketing efforts were notably stylish, contemporary, and innovative. That's not to say, though, that the entries from detached communities were stodgy. Far from it.

But it's safe to say that the sun is setting on standard subdivisions of detached homes with big lots and front-loaded garages. Neo-traditional design and master planned communities with mixes of detached and attached residential, commercial, and retail are becoming the norm as land values increase and lot sizes shrink. These communities each have their own unique vibrancy, and the marketing efforts to sell them are as individual as they are.

Here are some of the highlights from this year's competition:

Vistancia, Peoria, Ariz. Traditions At Historic Southbury, Southbury, Conn. Seabridge Villas, Huntington Beach, Calif. Playa Vista, Manhattan Beach, Calif. Firelight, The Presidio, Plan 1050, Denver KB Home Sales Center, Nationwide Seahaus, La Jolla, Calif. Estrella Mountain Ranch, Goodyear, Ariz. Veridian Homes, Madison, Wis. Legacy Cove, Stuart, Fla. Seahaus, La Jolla, Calif. Braeburn, Seattle Gold Winners Not Pictured Building a Better Web Site