As college students prepare for graduation or at least summer vacation, marketers are taking one last crack at influencing their future buying habits. It started when Serchlite Music, a marketing firm and record label based in New York City, approached the Scion Group, a Chicago company that manages dorm-style apartment complexes near campuses, with the idea for product placement in actual apartments.

At the end of this academic year, Serchlite will throw parties for prospective tenants at two of Scion's high-rent buildings adjacent to Marquette and DePaul universities. Apartments, some of which feature Herman Miller furniture, will be stocked with Vitaminwater and Bliss and Kiehl's cosmetics. Guests will also receive gift bags filled with $200 worth of swag.

College students are open to product-placement marketing, the thinking goes, because they tend to be early adopters and are extremely brand-conscious. "Students come in asking, 'What brand are the plumbing fixtures?' " says Scion president Robert Bronstein. "The irony is that they'll graduate and won't be able to live again at this level for a while."