While other communities around the Dallas market were trying to snare prospective buyers with home and furniture giveaways, Heartland took a different tack. For the first phase of the 8,000-unit planned community east of the city, targeted to first-time buyers and first-time move-ups (read “young families”), the developer and its advertising agency conjured up “Jane” and used her character in a comprehensive publicity campaign.

A trio of print ads, direct-mail postcards, and rotating billboards eschewed the tried-and-true photos of the community and homes in favor of depictions of schoolgirl Jane playing with friends in Heartland's parks, trail system, and sports fields. They also showed her attending school at one of the community's seven sites and winning a $50,000 college scholarship placed in a 529 education savings plan—the grand prize to one lucky registered prospect.

The agency supplemented the campaign with radio spots and a kiosk at a nearby mall (which garnered a few sales by itself) and kept a tight, three-month schedule to create urgency and get buyers out to the relatively remote location.

“When you do a good media mix, you see every aspect of it working,” says Ana Blanton, a principal of Anderson Hanson & Blanton, ad agency for the campaign. “You need to budget for all media so you don't get missed.”

The promotion netted Heartland 300 sales during its run, putting the project ahead of projections for a 1,500-unit first phase slated through 2009. The grand-prize winner was a single mother of three teenage daughters, one of whom was already attending college.

CAMPAIGN DETAILS Program: Comprehensive advertising campaign; Project: Heartland, Kaufman County, Texas; Developer: Hillwood Residential, Dallas; Cost: $500,000 (three-month campaign); Advertising agency: Anderson Hanson & Blanton, Addison, Texas

CHARACTER-DRIVEN: Heartland's “Jane” campaign successfully played  off the educational sensitivities of the target market of young families  and put a new twist on the giveaway concept to drive sales.
CHARACTER-DRIVEN: Heartland's “Jane” campaign successfully played off the educational sensitivities of the target market of young families and put a new twist on the giveaway concept to drive sales.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Dallas, TX.