The Launch of Far East SOHO

When you are tasked to launch an entirely new property brand for Singapore’s largest developer, you need to find the most effective way to stand out in a very crowded market place.

(Just look at the Straits Times on any Saturday to see what I mean.)

In this case, Far East Organization had created a sub-brand called Far East SOHO. Inspired by the warehouse apartments of the uber-fashionable SOHO (South Of HOuston) district of Manhattan, these residences are very stylish, compact high-ceilinged homes in various parts of Singapore that offer buyers the opportunity to create inspiring living spaces where they could work as well as live.

The challenge was that until very recently, SOHO (as far as most Singaporeans were concerned) actually stood for Small Office Home Office – a very commercial and distinctly non-luxurious definition.

So, not only did we have to launch an entirely new property brand, we had to redefine in no uncertain terms the very meaning of SOHO.

Clearly we couldn’t do this by following a traditional conservative property marketing approach.  And, all kudos to the client, they were only too happy to venture into very unexplored territory with us.

So, at a time when other property developers were busy zigging, we zagged.

It’s no exaggeration to say that this TV commercial reinvented the way property brands could be marketed.

We pushed the boundaries on every aspect of this commercial. Carefully crafted visuals, unusual camera angles, unconventional talent casting, a cool sound track that utilised a very indie music sound and feel, and no small amount of edginess resulted in a TVC that grabbed everybody’s attention.

Indeed, everybody involved in the Singapore property scene sat up and took notice. From other developers to marketing agents to the home buying public.

Our print ads were equally striking. Again we adopted an unusual tone and manner for a relatively expensive property. Cool, desaturated imagery and unconventional talent. A high camera angle looking down that emphasised the height of the typical SOHO apartment. And apartment interiors that were carefully dressed up to reflect the individuality of each of our Far East SOHO home owners.

SOHO Press Ad 3 SOHO Press Ad 2 SOHO Press Ad 1

The brochure we created for Far East SOHO took an equally unconventional turn. We gave it a distinctly rugged, industrial appearance and, instead of the usual perfect binding, we used spiral binding – almost like a note book. For one of the centre pieces, where we showcased the spatial possibilities of double volume living spaces, the centre fold not only folded out, it folded upwards and back across to really bring across the concept of expanding SOHO spaces. Please click on the link below to see the brochure PDF.

SOHO Brochure

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NV Residences

The biggest creative challenge faced when marketing a property development is clearly differentiating it from its nearest competitors. So, imagine how much more challenging it is when your client is in fact competing with itself.

This was the case in point when CDL began selling off a massive land parcel in Pasir Ris in five separate stages. We had barely finished marketing Livia, their first project in the area, when we were tasked with launching its immediate neighbor.

Our concept was inspired by this particular development’s elegantly understated architecture which subtly echoed Miami Modernist Architecture (MiMo) and its well planned communal facilities which included a series linear pools and a boardwalk that had an almost catwalk feel to it.

To our minds, although this project was marketed to HDB upgraders, it imbued an undeniable sense of glamour and sophistication. We felt the best way to portray this would be to showcase the project as a place where residents would feel like movie stars.

False Cover

NV Residences Launch DPS

NV Residence Ad 1 NV Residence Ad 2 NV Residence Ad 3

And so we developed a TV commercial that showcased a family’s glamorous lifestyle in this condominium and a series of print ads that were designed like movie posters.

This movie star concept extended into the brochure we designed with playful elements including a plastic band designed to look like a strip of film and copywriting that played up this celebrity theme.

NV Residences Outdoor-Sales Office

The concept was also extended throughout the showflat and sales gallery design and even on feeder busses from the nearest MRT station.

And then of course, the name. With its elegantly styling – but affordable pricing – this project represented a new standard for upgrader condominiums in Singapore. A New Vogue for living if you will. We shortened this statement down to just two letters and very simple but memorable name: NV Residences.

The launch of W Residences Singapore

Property advertising, for all its frustrations, offers plenty of creative opportunities to extend a concept beyond just print and broadcast media. As a creative person I always get a certain buzz out of seeing how I can adapt and extend my ideas to all kinds of applications.

The launch of W Residences Singapore for City Developments Ltd is a good example of this.

Essentially we had to introduce the international W brand to Singapore and sell the entire ‘W Lifestyle’ to a market that was completely unfamiliar with this brand. At the same time we had to balance the corporate protocols of Starwood Hotels (who owned the W brand) with the realities of marketing an expensive property in Singapore for our client, CDL.

No easy task.

However it did give us the opportunity to have a little bit of fun and throw in some very playful elements into the marketing mix.

W Residences Ad 1W Residences Ad 2W Residences Ad 3W Residences Ad 5

The launch press campaign featured a series of full page, full colour consecutive ads that introduced the W brand to Singapore, talked about W Hotels, revealed the property and finally explained the W “Whatever/Whenever” service philosophy.

Mr. Kwek Leng Beng, CDL’s chairman, loved our TV commercial and the W Residences brochure and floor plan booklets proved very popular with marketing agents.

W Residences Brochure

The box containing the brochure featured a glow-in-the-dark W and a die-cut carrying handle. The brochure itself boasted a brushed metal W bookmark. There were two versions of the floor plan booklet, the only difference between them being that one had a metallic purple cover and the other a metallic silver cover.

W Residences Game

As part of the press kit, journalists received a Tic Tac Toe game that featured a W, an O and W instead of an X and O. We also included a card that allowed them to view an augmented reality overview of the W Residences perspective.

Our colour scheme and graphic style was even extended to the on site Sales Office.

Outdoor-Sales Office

Far East SOHO’s Hillier

Hillier was the second Far East SOHO development to be launched, after The Scotts Tower. In this particular case, while another agency had developed the brochure and press ads, we were asked to create the TV commercial – which, as you’ll see, soon turned into 3 different TVCs.

Oh and we had about 3 weeks in which to get them all done.

First of all, in order to ensure some kind of continuity from the original Far East SOHO brand launch, we started off with a launch TVC with the first 40 seconds featuring the Far East SOHO brand and then transitioning into 20 seconds showcasing Hillier.

Now, although every Far East SOHO project shares similar features, they also have their own distinct characteristics and personality. So, while The Scotts Tower reflected a sophisticated, glamorous urban lifestyle, Hiller, with its suburban setting , retail centre downstairs and close proximity to the MRT, was more about offering a laidback, taking things nice and easy kind of vibe.

An additional challenge lay in the fact that Hillier was conceived as two towers of residential apartments, with each tower having its own distinct design personality. One tower was themed around a New York City styling while the other tower had a London-inspired design theme.

As a result, we found ourselves having to execute not one but two more TV commercials, each showcasing one of these towers.

These TV commercials depicted the ‘perfect Sunday at home’: Lazing around in the morning… Popping downstairs for food and shopping… Saying hello to neighbors… And having friends over for a relaxed Sunday barbecue… but as seen from  the point of view of a resident of the “New York” tower and a resident of the “London” tower. In other words the exact same day as seen from two different points of view.

The first to appear after the initial launch commercial shown above was the “New York” commercial:

 

This was followed two weeks later by the “London” commercial:

As you can see, we defined the very different personalities of each residential tower through our depiction of the homeowner, the way they decorated their home and the background music.

Despite the tight time frame and a certain sense of ‘Groundhog Day’ during the shoot, I was quite pleased with the results. Especially as each commercial tells its own unique story in just 30 seconds.

A typical property pitch – The Panorama

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Open the Straits Times on any Saturday you choose and you’ll be greeted with page after page of property ads.

They pretty much all look the same – a large image of the building with a suspiciously verdant and un-Singapore-like background, a location map that is anything but accurate and a star burst indication that this project is now 60% sold.

Apart from the differences in architecture – which usually aren’t really that different – all these ads are pretty much interchangeable. Swap the logo and the perspective and you’re good to go.

So, obviously these kinds of ads are easy to do, right?

Wrong.

Sure, the final ad might look pretty straightforward but the path you take to get there is long and usually very winding.

Every successful property pitch requires you to come up with a very strong idea. A positioning for the condominium that somehow makes it stand out from all the other projects that are in reality just like it.

Naming the damn thing can be an exercise in increasingly desperate futility. Virtually every name you can think of (and certainly all the good ones) has already been used. And the last thing you should do is tie the name too closely to your creative concept because if the client doesn’t like the name, your concept is screwed too. Then of course there is the “Taxi Driver Test” as in: will your typical taxi driver be able to understand the name? (To be honest, this is one test just about every condominium fails.)

If by some miracle you mange to tick all these boxes, you might actually win the pitch.

Congratulations.

Now watch as the client and their marketing agent change everything.

This proposal for a condominium located on the very edge of the city is a good example of what I do to try and win a property pitch. Although we were unsuccessful in winning this assignment, to my mind we achieved something quite special with our proposal.

The name we came up with – The Panorama – was very strong and reflective of the magnificent views the development offered.

The positioning very cleverly redefined the meaning of a location close to the city as one that actually gave you the most precious gift of all: more time.

The resulting creative executions depicted here in all their lorem ipsum glory were stylish and elegant yet still depicted a luxury lifestyle combined with a strong emotional message.

Even the slogan – A New Dimension in Luxury – was pretty clever (time is a dimension – geddit?), catchy and yet accurate.

I’m particularly happy with the way the mock TV commercial we created for the pitch turned out. Stitched together from many different video sources, backed by a superb read from a true VO professional (thanks David!), I think this would have made an awesome commercial if it had ever been produced.

I was very proud of this work. Alas the client decided they needed something more straightforward so this campaign never saw the light of day.

But that’s advertising.