When Southern California real estate started to head south last year, Mark Paolucci decided to head south, literally. He landed a client in La Paz, Mexico, who wanted the marketing services his firm offers.

Paolucci's public relations and advertising agency, Roddan Paolucci Roddan in Palos Verdes Estates, specializes in real estate and has responded to the domestic downturn by winning contracts for marketing real estate in other countries. Since last year, the company has landed jobs in the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Mexico promoting development projects.

The strategic shift to international customers happened partly by circumstance, but mostly from a strategic decision by the agency's brain trust. The change in direction grew out of a management retreat in El Segundo in fall 2007.

"Part of the vision that came out of that session was diversification outside real estate and outside the U.S.," said Paolucci. "When you get a clear vision of where you're going, events line up and make things possible."

Then John Laing Homes, a major client, was purchased two years ago by Emaar Properties, the largest real estate developer in the world, headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As Laing's employees joined the parent company, one emerged as a champion for RPR and started steering work from Emaar to the agency.

"A big part of John Laing's creative work was done by RPR, and I felt there was an opportunity to bring that sensibility to international real estate development," said Joan Marcus-Colvin, a senior director at Emaar Design Studio in Irvine, which does interior design work for the company.

The first job Marcus-Colvin sent to RPR was the marketing campaign for a five-star resort Emaar plans to build on Lombok, an island next to Bali. The island has little name recognition among the international clientele that buys condos in exotic locales, a problem RPR hopes to solve with advertising in travel magazines, billboards on Bali and a Web site.

"The buyers will come from Australia, the Middle East, Asia and Europe," said Marcus-Colvin. "It's remarkable for an agency in Los Angeles to work on a market with that geography and demographics."

Flexibility, research

For other entrepreneurs looking to diversity overseas, Paolucci stresses the need for flexibility and research. Dubai is 11 hours ahead of Los Angeles, so he often has teleconferences at 5 a.m. or late at night.

Marcus-Colvin said the advertising business puts a premium on fancy face-to-face presentations, which aren't possible when you're doing business across continents.

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