San Diego Business Journal

Although retail profits flourish during the holiday season, sales in many other industries do not. But there may be a new way for industries typically stalled during the holiday season to cash in on the yuletide buying frenzy.

Until recently, mall advertising had been limited to posters on kiosks and the occasional one-time promotional event. But at San Diego's Fashion Valley Mall, a real estate developer and a health care provider have both embarked on marketing campaigns intended to catch the eye of otherwise preoccupied holiday shoppers. Large billboardlike signs, courtesy shopping bags, light pole banners and rearview mirror hangers left in cars parked by a valet service are just some of the ways Fashion Valley is promoting Concordia Homes' new Mission Valley condominium project The Lido, and health care provider Kaiser Permanente.

The condo campaign was launched Thanksgiving weekend, while Kaiser Permanente's ads went up last week.

"We've never done anything like this at Fashion Valley before and the response here so far has just been amazing," said Masa Liles, director of mall marketing for Fashion Valley, which is owned by Simon Property Group, Inc.

The Indiana-based retail real estate company, which is the largest in North America, has interest in 296 properties in the United States alone but only five properties in Southern California , Fashion Valley and four others in Orange County. The push to use Fashion Valley as a more aggressive ad medium is serving as a pilot program for the company.

Scott Curry, an account supervisor with Bailey Gardiner Inc., is coordinating the condo campaign for Concordia Homes, which is based in Carlsbad.

"It's a risk , the whole campaign is, and we're willing to acknowledge that," Curry said. "But when we evaluate the risk, we feel comfortable with knowing that if nothing else, at the end of this, we believe that everyone in San Diego will know what The Lido is."

Millions Of Shoppers

Nearly 4 million shoppers are expected to pass through Fashion Valley during November and December. For that reason, Curry said the timing of this unusual campaign is no accident.

"(The holidays are) without a doubt one of our bigger challenges in the real estate market," said Curry, who has worked almost exclusively on real estate marketing and public relations campaigns for the past three years. "You can either just throw in the towel during these months or you can build momentum into January, which is exactly what we're trying to do.

"We all recognize that November and December are a really hard time to sell real estate and there's a lot of clutter in the newspapers right now; we felt that we had to come up with a marketing campaign that would help us get the attention of not only consumers, but consumers who we think would want to buy at The Lido," Curry added.

In total, Concordia Homes has seven billboard-type signs posted strategically around the mall, including a 53-foot-by-6-foot ad on the arch top of the mall's movie theater and food court entrance. The panoramic ad is large enough to be visible from two parking decks from almost a full 360-degree viewpoint. The mall campaign for Lido also includes 10 bag stations where shoppers can grab large shopping bags to condense their smaller purchases into a more manageable carryall while simultaneously promoting The Lido.

"We didn't just do the bag to be nice," Curry said. "We know they're going to take this bag home, save it and maybe use it later to transport gifts to an aunt and uncle's house. So even if that shopper isn't going to buy, maybe a relative will see it and see the Web site we have on the bag and look it up and come by for a tour."

The Lido campaign also includes rearview mirror hangers being placed in all cars using the mall's valet service. The hanger encourages shoppers to take a tour of The Lido in exchange for a $50 Visa gift card.

During Thanksgiving weekend, five visitors toured The Lido after using the valet system, four of whom Curry called "strong, well-qualified prospects," and two of whom he called "serious potential buyers."

The Kaiser Permanente campaign, which rolled out last week, is less interactive than the condo marketing, but does include a large sign on a mall parking lot wall facing Friars Road and several dozen light pole banners.

Price Tag

Concordia Homes is spending approximately $345,000 on a three-month campaign, including radio and newspaper ads, to promote sales at The Lido. Curry declined to disclose how much of that cost is a result of mall marketing. Although Liles also declined to say how much Concordia Homes paid for the mall marketing, she said that the price is comparable to other ad mediums.

"If you were to buy an ad in a regional magazine for one month, a four-color full page ad would cost about maybe $5,000 or so, and for that you have a circulation rate of about 50,000," Liles said. "For that same price you can advertise with us at Fashion Valley and reach more than a million people in the same time frame."

While Curry concedes that using a mall as an ad medium to the extent of the Lido campaign is risky, Concordia Homes officials have been happy with the approach.

"It's been an interesting approach and we're very pleased with it so far," said Will Pfau, the president of the company's Urban Development Group and development manager of The Lido.

Liles said the San Diego Unified Port District is slated to bring pieces of its urban tree public art project to the mall next year to attract shoppers to the city's waterfront.