Pharrell Williams Makes Toronto Condo Buyers Happy

Photo via CNN

In yet another “outside the box” condo marketing initiative, a Toronto developer has once again looked for a celebrity association to build hype, headlines and (we can assume) a robust pre-registration list.

Just the latest project to launch with a splashy, media-focused celebrity endorsement that looks to link a global brand to a local real estate project, this week’s announcement of Untitled – a new condo project at Yonge and Eglinton, from Reserve Properties and Westdale Properties– featured a larger than life Pharrell “live” on the video screens at Yonge Dundas Square promoting his role in the project.

According to the developer’s press release, the “internationally acclaimed artist, musician and designer collaborated with an extended project team, including architects IBI Group, and interior designers U31, to deliver a new vision for residential living.”

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While it was acknowledged that the collaboration is Pharrell’s “first foray into multi-residential development”, it’s not the first example of such a star-studded collaboration.

Instead, this is just the latest example of the sector’s desire for “blurred lines”.  And, it follows similar celebrity-inspired crossovers from the last few years.

Google Freed and Capital Developments’ Art Shoppe condo, with lobbies by Karl Lagerfeld, and you will be overwhelmed by hundreds of images of the developers smiling as they stand next to the unsmiling artiste.

Look for news coverage of the ground breaking event in 2018 for Nobu Toronto and you will be inundated with articles extolling the presence of raging bull Robert DeNiro on stage with the developers from the Madison Group.

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Or think way back, to 2012 and the start of a prolonged dalliance between star-architect Frank Gehry and David Mirvish, as the two Canadian icons worked to raise the curtain on the impresario’s King Street development dream.

Big news, all of them.  Lots of hype.

So, it’s no surprise that coverage of the recent Pharrell announcement was everywhere – from Bloomberg News to Hypebeast – and even less of a surprise that in a condo market that’s the most competitive in the world, a local developer is once again looking to bask in the aura of a shining star.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t work.  Or that there’s something cynical in the effort.

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In fact, it’s pretty well understood that in today’s condo market – one that’s oversaturated and yet seemingly undersupplied – standing out is as important to a developer’s success as maintaining an upstanding relationship.

But while a clever brand affiliation (supported by sexy marketing collateral courtesy of Toronto-based agency Gladstone Media) will undoubtedly help with sales of Untitled, its developers (and those who seek to follow this marketing trend) must do so with caution.

Because today’s condo consumer is sophisticated, smart and savvy.

They may be swayed by fame, but their purchasing decisions will also be influenced by fundamentals. They will expect authenticity.  They will demand integrity.

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But judging from what I saw and read this week coming out of Yonge Dundas Square, and what I know about the teams involved, I don’t believe this is just another example of mere celeb-washing.

Instead, I think Reserve and Westdale understand what’s at stake and are committed to creating something real.

Their messaging speaks repeatedly to Pharrell’s role in the Untitled project.  They point to a sustained involvement between the artist and the development team.  They note that Pharrell pushed the development team towards designing spaces that “felt universal”.

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Williams himself is quoted as saying that “to live your life untitled means not having to live up to something or perform beyond a standard.  For the standard to literally just be this beautiful matrix that allows people to create their own world,”.

I have no idea what this means.  But I believe Williams said it.

And that’s just one more indicator for me that the artist is indeed actively involved.

In fact, when you consider this market and this superstar, the association makes complete sense.

Think about it … Who better to design Toronto condos that will likely be no bigger than his hat, than Pharrell, himself?

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