Allegro Apartments reach for neighborhood influencers

Allegro Apartments opened in late April in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC, continuing the neighborhood's revitalization process that has been taking place over the past few years.

Client: Metro Properties Inc. (Washington, DC)

Agency Team: Merrick Towle and Sawmill Marketing PR (Bethesda and Baltimore, MD)

Campaign: Grand Opening of Allegro Apartments

Duration: March-April 2009

Budget: $75,000-$80,000

Allegro Apartments opened in late April in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC, continuing the neighborhood's revitalization process that has been taking place over the past few years. Metro Properties promoted the grand opening to a young, urban, and hip audience through events, online buzz, and more traditional outreach.

Strategy: "The challenge was that a lot of these folks don't read the newspaper, so we spent a lot of time thinking about how to reach them," says Jeremy N. Rubenstein, president of Metro Properties. The company looked to its advertising and marketing AOR Merrick Towle to lead the campaign, with media relations and research help from its PR partner Sawmill Marketing PR. As the strategy was all about engagement, the team decided to have a cocktail contest in advance of the grand opening party.

Tactics: Metro Properties challenged local bartenders to create a signature cocktail, "Velvet Allegro," and the public voted on their favorite recipes on the apartment's Web site. Online, they could RSVP to the grand opening party on April 22, view photos, or connect with Allegro Apartments on Twitter and Facebook. For media and blogger outreach, the campaign "sought people who we thought were power players in the neighborhood, to really personalize it and make it a really approachable building," says Michael Hammerstrom, an AE and lead on the account at Merrick Towle.

Results: More than 600 people attended the grand opening event, and as of August 17, 129 of the 297 properties, or 43%, have been leased. "In the rental business, that rate of leasing is phenomenal," Rubenstein adds.

Future: Going forward, Allegro Apartments will focus more on residents and engaging with them, Rubenstein said, rather than big parties: "Our best marketing is them saying, 'Hey, I live at this place, and I really like it.'"

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