For many buyers, advertising is their first introduction to a community. What makes them stop flipping pages in a newspaper real estate section or a magazine and take a second look at one community over another? It's all about breaking out of the pack and running in a space all your own. These three gold-award winning projects broke away from the norm and generated traffic and sales for the builders.

SHIFTING GEARS When Pine Creek at Briargate first opened in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1999, it was the only golf course community in the area. It was pretty easy to drive traffic. But as more competition entered the market, most of the golf course lots were sold and the buyer profile shifted away from golfers. Developer La Plata Investments decided to reposition the community as being close to everything that mattered to its buyers, says Nick Sabatello, director of marketing for the company.

“We could have done that with a picture of a house, mountains, and kids in the park, but it would have looked like everything else,” he says. “I said to cut through the clutter.”

Denver-based real estate branding firm Milesbrand developed a series of automotive-themed ads, starting with “Stick Shift.” (The visual, right, is a gear shift with just three gears—first, second, and reverse—and the tagline “Close to everything that's good. Really close.”) The second and third ads featured a gas pump and an oil change. “I got calls that week from real estate agents asking, ‘Where did this ad come from?' ” Sabatello says. “I got calls from media asking if we wanted to advertise with them. They never called us before.”

Milesbrand president Dave Miles says it requires that extra moment of consideration to understand the meaning of a shifter that doesn't go past second gear. “It's the ‘aha' moment,” Miles says. “When you can do that with communication, it elevates the experience and makes [the customer] think different[ly] about the planning and thought that goes into the whole community. ... You get a much better return on investment when you have work that breaks through like that.”

CAPTURING A MOMENT Rike Palese got that kind of return with his advertising for The Landmark in Greenwood Village, Colo. The director of sales for the luxury tower was tired of all the typical superlatives—“luxurious this and that, which is meaningless,” he says. He wanted to convey the level of upscale service residents would experience in a way they would remember.

The team from Greene & Birnbach wanted to use editorial photography—like the images they loved in Gourmet magazine—for its ability to capture a moment, but didn't have time before the sales launch to commission original photography. They spent hours poring over stock images that left them cold, partner Mindy Greene says. Then they found the dog shot (top left, page 166).

“You just look at it and you smile,” she says. “It's hilarious.” It also was utterly different from anything else in the media. “It was 100 percent us [The Landmark] and no one else,” Greene says. “We were lucky enough to have a good client who was willing to take that risk.”

The ad helped generate 4,000 phone inquiries, 4,300 Internet queries, and 300 names on a reservation list for 137 units in the four months leading up to the sales launch. On the first day of sales, 107 units sold in five hours.

“We had an event absolutely packed with people putting their money down,” Greene says. “People were begging strangers to trade units with them. I've never seen anything like it.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Denver, CO, Atlanta, GA, Colorado Springs, CO.