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“You are where you live”… really?

March 16, 2011

Advertising is amazing in that it simultaneously creates the monster of perceived need, while pushing some kind of product elixir to slake its thirst.   There is a great article on Dwell.com right now that takes a witty look at the psychology of perceived need and the Manhattan real estate ads that address them, no pun intended.  The author’s contention is that “the ads are a literary form dealing primarily with desire.”  

I couldn’t agree more and would further contend that the point of all advertising is to convert the “desire” into “need” in the mind of the reader.  This is why I have such a love/hate relationship with advertising.  I love it when ads are clever and  show me how a product works or how it will improve my life.  I hate it when someone has put a nice shine on a turd and then tries to sell it to me. 

When it comes to real estate advertising, there’s a lot of turd shining and it comes in two varieties.  The first is something I call Feature Fantasy and it goes something like this: Buyer reads embellished real estate ad and sees the phrase “stunning mountain views”.  Buyer then checks out the property and finds the views are only stunning when the neighbor’s RV is not parked on the street (which it always is), or worse yet, that the mountains are actually gigantic piles of the neighbor’s crap strewn throughout their yard.  

Akin to this (and more in line with the aformentioned Dwell article) is the Lifestyle Lie.  This advertising offers the would be buyer a look at what they could be if they only lived “here”.  A few years ago there was a Belltown condo project that went so far as to show a very hip looking 20-something with two gorgeous women hanging off his arms.  No words were necessary, the message was obvious: 

Living Here = Being cool and having lots of sex. 

5 years ago it was granite countertops, cherry cabinets, bamboo floors and radiant heat that brought people through the door.  Now in Seattle, similar to Manhattan, it’s Built Green/LEED certification, SIP panesls,  reclaimed materials and other eco-conscious features that are being offered to woo the would be buyer.  But no matter which city you live in or which features are offered it is all the same.  Beneath the veneer of real estate nomenclature lies the promise of being somewhere better than you are now so you can be a better person than you are now.   We’re not selling homes anymore, what we’re really selling is a new and improved you.

I have a friend that’s an interior designer.  She says that people always see themselves at two income levels above where they really are. 

Maybe the advertising slogan ought to change from “You are where you live” to “You wish”.

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