For some large shopping center developers and owners, promotion is becoming much more complex than putting up a few splashy billboards, making personal connections and buying newspaper ads.
As retail centers have become more like theme parks and real estate firms have gotten exponentially larger, promotion has become more media savvy. Some firms have begun airing television spots in an effort to cultivate a name brand, much like Levi's or Haagen-Dazs. Others have hired consultants to help them bring in the ultimate draw: their own television show. "The Today Show," for instance, is filmed in Rockefeller Center in New York.
No centers in the Southland have lured television production, but Canadian developer TrizecHahn Corp., has hired one of entertainment's big guns, William Morris Agency, to help it negotiate with television and film studios for entertainment attractions at its $300-million Hollywood & Highland retail center under construction in Hollywood.
"This project is all about entertainment. We thought it would be helpful to hire someone who could help us understand how [studios] look at the world and how they do business," said David Malmuth, TrizecHahn senior vice president.
Besides wrangling for a TV show, TrizecHahn also is trying to use other unusual promotion techniques such as corporate sponsorships and special exhibits to promote the center. And they're trying to use the agency to screen show promoters and talent for the Academy theater, the project's centerpiece, which will host the Academy Awards after the center opens in 2001. A decade ago, experts say, entertainment was rare in shopping centers, limited to occasional concerts and book signings. Now, with more shopping centers per capita, competition demands there be something compelling happening every day at a center to hold customers' attention.
"It's becoming more and more difficult for companies to get above the noise and differentiate themselves. Entertainment provides the biggest bang for the buck," says Johnny Levin, a vice president with the corporate advisory practice of William Morris.
Developers of more traditional malls are starting to advertise on television. Los Angeles-based Westfield America Inc., the country's fourth-largest mall owner, began airing the first of several millions of dollars in television and radio spots earlier this year to help set itself apart from competitors.
The commercials, which ran in major markets around the country, touted "Westfield Shopping Towns," a uniform moniker given to all company malls. By developing a recognizable name for itself and its centers, Westfield is able to save on promotion, says Randy Smith, executive vice president. It can buy all the same uniforms for its maintenance workers, strollers for the kids, and it can even use the same television spots in St. Louis that it does in Los Angeles, with a few minor changes.
The city of Manhattan Beach last week picked a firm to redevelop its only vacant downtown property, the former Metlox Pottery site, which it purchased earlier this year for $5 million.
A plan submitted by the Tolkin Group of Pasadena for the 2 1/2-block site that stretches from Manhattan Beach Boulevard to 14th Street, consists of 130,000 square feet of shops, offices, a day spa and a bed-and-breakfast in a series of buildings facing a central courtyard, with an underground level of parking and a lookout tower with interior stairways, said President Jonathan Tolkin.
Scattered throughout the project, will be tile fragments and frescoes from Metlox, which went bankrupt and closed in 1989.
The project could be as many as 18 months away from an actual groundbreaking as Tolkin and its financial partner City Center Retail Trust of San Francisco, negotiate a sale or long-term ground lease with the city and hold plan review meetings. Tolkin specializes in developing urban retail and has completed projects for restaurants and shops in Old Pasadena and Santa Monica's Main Street and Third Street Promenade.