Target Builds Life-Size 'Dollhouse' Inside Grand Central

Installation Shows Off Retailer's Threshold Home Décor Line

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The glory of Grand Central Terminal got a little touch of Target this weekend when the retailer built a life-size dollhouse in the middle of the station to promote its Threshold home décor line.

Created via agency Deutsch, Los Angeles, the 1,600-square-foot installation is made up of interlocking 4-by-8 panels that were fitted together in just 54 hours to create an open-plan house, as well as a patio and lawn area that will show off the line. There are somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 products on display in the house, everything from towels to lamps to throw pillows, and each one -- other than a couch, a dining room table and a headboard -- are for sale by Target.

The installation will be open to the public through Tuesday. Shawn Gensch, Target's senior-VP marketing, said that while Threshold launched in the Fall, the full assortment of items was only made available recently. Doing a pop-up installation is a way for the retailer to show off everything in a collection in one place, an opportunity that's not always possible at individual stores.

Kelli Frazer, senior VP-executive producer for the experiential group at Deutsch, said the house is "designed for exploration" for the more than 500,000 people who visit the Terminal daily for commuting, shopping and dining. There are "guest interactions" scattered throughout the house -- for example, in the bathrooms, there are makeovers being offered -- and staff members inside the house are on hand to show off products and encourage people to touch them and use them. The project coincides with the Terminal's centennial celebration, which is sponsored by Target.

Daniel Chu, executive VP-experiential creative director at Deutsch, said the brief was to create a pop-up that would meld fantasy and reality together. "Target is about the balance of the thrill of expecting more, and the reality of paying less," he said. "We wanted to take these two brands, Grand Central and Target, and look at them as connectors of fantasy and reality."

Mr. Gensch added that Grand Central and Target both also embody the "design for all" mantra, and since Target itself also celebrated its 50th birthday last year, it was a perfect match. Timing-wise, it worked, too, because any time the seasons change, "it's a time of natural discovery," he said. There's also the magic of Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall itself -- Tennessee pink marble floors, five enormous sparkling chandeliers and gorgeous, 48-foot vaunted ceilings that busy commuters rushing through often miss.

Ms. Frazer said that while for other campaigns, the team often goes through multiple rounds of ideas, this was a "butterfly moment" when they landed on the concept of a dollhouse. To tease the dollhouse, the agency placed moving boxes on the ramp at Vanderbilt Hall, as well as signage that will indicate what people can look forward to.

Of course, dolls aren't new to Target. The retailer's 2011 Marina campaign for Missoni at Target comes to mind. For that campaign, a 25-foot marionette doll attended New York Fashion Week and blogged about her experience. "A lot of our legacy in bringing marketing to life is by finding experiences and ways for guests to interact with and dive into the brand," said Mr. Gensch. "Live activations are a way to capture the hearts of our guests. We want them to be surprises," he said.

There will, be a photo station for guests to take a picture to capture the dollhouse and share it on social media. iPad photo frames in the house's living room and bedroom will feature photos taken throughout the day, while a "design inspired scavenger hunt" with select bloggers will be hosted inside the house as well.

Mr. Chu said that that while Marina, and other previous Target events, were on the team's mind, they weren't an inspiration for this project. Instead, they tried to "translate [Target's] heritage" of well-executed "shelf-out" approaches that build the brand experience outside of the store and bring it to the public. Small touches within the dollhouse link back to the identity of the campaign for the Threshold line, which includes a television spot that actually features a whimsical-looking house.

"Threshold has a distinct look that marries quality and design," said Mr. Chu. "We worked with Target's design team to have the same look and feel across the dollhouse, the direct-mail and the campaign." But there are also other distinctly Target touches, such as a door knocker with the bullseye on it, and a petite Threshold mailbox.

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