Archive for June, 2007

Legacy of green

June 27, 2007

Legacy Condo | Burnaby BC

Some weeks ago Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up in Vancouver for photos and handshakes in an apparent effort to “raise awareness” of environmental issues. The Governator even signed a non-binding deal with the Premier to let everybody know the importance of going green. (At one point Arnold praised members of a local First Nation as the world’s “original” environmentalists.)

Now photo opps are fine and dandy, but let’s not kid ourselves — raising awareness and affecting real change are different matters. From a marketer’s perspective, the only importance of any issue is how can it be channeled to serve the sales objective. What’s fascinating is that this doesn’t have to make sense; it just needs to sound good.

Today’s ad for the Legacy condo tower in Burnaby provides an excellent example. The marketer has jumped all over the green issue, transforming the pitch for an ultimately lame condo into a call to action for the hip and aware:

It’s easy going green when SkyTrain’s right outside your door. Save on gas and save the environment at the same time while skipping the congestion of rush hour, gridlock traffic. Living at Legacy means commuting to downtown and the rest of the Lower Mainland is effortless since you’re a mere half block from Holdom SkyTrain station in the Brentwood area of North Burnaby.

Legacy’s luxurious and spacious homes offer a lower price per square foot compared to its competition, proving that making less of an environmental impact can also mean getting the most out of life.

It is interesting to see how the marketer tries to connect the buying of a condo to a form of social activism by saying that taking the train works to “save” the environment. Of course, by save they mean “making less of an environmental impact” as a clarified by the last sentence. I give credit to the copywriter for being honest in that final line, notwithstanding the crap about getting the most out of life. That’s just the usual condo spin.

To learn more how you can let go of your green (ho hum) to purchase a piece of this landmark, go to

Breathe at Melville

June 25, 2007

The Melville Landmark Series | Vancouver

Vancouver condo marketers continue to showcase their asinine approach to the English language with The Melville Landmark Series — an “exclusive collection of signature residences” now erected in downtown Vancouver.

Starting at $950,000, The Melville is certainly intended for the well-heeled, though not necessarily the well-read. According to the ad, The Melville’s penthouse and eight signature residences offer views guaranteed to take your “breathe” away. (Click the ad for an enlarged view.)

Now I assume the marketer meant breath, but who knows? I’m not really in the demographic for this sort of property so perhaps throwing on the extra “e” is part of a secret language understood by the wealthy.

Kudos go out to Anson Realty, The Melville’s exclusive marketer, for the bonus vowel. In business since 1980, Anson Realty describes the key to its success as “the commitment of our well-trained and dedicated team of knowledgeable professionals….to deliver the best possible market results.”

I’ll let you be the judge on their commitment and dedication to proofreading.

Hell within reach

June 21, 2007

Esprit 2 | Highgate Village, Burnaby BC

Esprit 2 from Bosa Properties is the second tower of the Esprit development in Burnaby’s Highgate Village. The marketing campaign is anchored in a single image of a young model dwelling below a stormy cloud of consumer goods drawn in a clip-art motif. Each item is in itself a shorthand for the empty “lifestyle living” that defines Vancouver condo marketing. I can’t see how anyone looking back on this in a generation isn’t gonna laugh their pants off at this silliness.

Perhaps more silly is the suggestion that Esprit 2 is “sensibly priced.” Advertised at $377,900 and up, Esprit 2 is difficult to accept as an example of “affordable” accommodation. But never mind that. Trust the marketer. At Esprit 2, you can “dwell within reach.” Barf.

Here’s some more insight into this masterpiece straight from the pitchman’s pitch:

Personal style is the centerpiece at Esprit 2. Interiors have been designed leaving nothing to be desired; from a kitchen friends will envy, to lavish baths that welcome relaxation. Two sophisticated finishing palettes of warm wood floors, natural stone countertops, light or dark oak finishes and accents, and sculptural contemporary fixtures provide the perfect backdrop for your life.

So glad that my friends will “envy” the kitchen and that the “sculptural contemporary fixtures” will provide a “backdrop” to my life. Thank goodness. I would hate to have to define my personality by being me. Let the drywall do the talking and all will be fine.

Watercolour blues

June 19, 2007

Watercolours, Burnaby BC [Condo]

When I was in university, I came across an essay by a guy who as an experiment recorded each and every minute of every single television channel available to him, recording each channel for a full 24 hours. He spent the next semester (or three) watching the tapes and hoped to discover the fundamental message of television. In the end, he concluded television’s message is that you are the most important person in the universe.

Notwithstanding the academic’s dubious method — did he really need to watch all that TV to come to that answer? — his finding is consistent with what most of us consider common sense. But make no mistake, the celebration of narcissism isn’t exclusive to the tube. In fact, TV is but one vehicle in a parking lot full of vacuous media hype machines forever reminding you of your incontrovertible magnificence.

Condo marketing is no different. As the hucksters pitching Polygon’s Watercolours condo in Burnaby gleefully point out, sometimes the world does revolve around you:

At Watercolours in Burnaby, you truly are at the centre of it all. Take the SkyTrain to a downtown restaurant or a hockey game at GM Place. Visit Deer Lake Park or walk to the shops at Brentwood Town Centre. Urban living with a spin.

The last line gets me the most. Urban living with a spin? That’s the understatement of the day. If you’re looking for overstatement, take a browse at the write-up on Watercolours in New Home Buyers Guide:

Animating each face of the [Watercolours] tower is a series of winged private balconies. At ground level, over-height glazing imparts dramatic visual impact to the soaring entry lobby and resident’s amenity area. An impressive water feature, lush landscaping, and a decorative paved drive-in courtyard highlight the grand entry.

Grand indeed. Can you think of any more spectacular way to communicate that the condo comes with a front door and a paved driveway?

The comedy continues as we move into the suite and learn about the kitchen and bathroom:

The family gourmand will slip on an apron with pleasure; superior quality stainless steel appliances by Whirlpool make for effortless mealtimes. Goodbye takeout, hello inspiration…. Let your hard day meet your inviting soaker tub with a heavy sigh. Relax and unwind in your exclusive ensuite and primp and preen to your heart’s content: oversized vanity mirrors lit by elegant designer lighting will transform your grooming and styling into an art form.

The article goes on with even more stylistic flourishes, at one point calling the nearby Burnaby Mountain Golf Course an opportunity to “unleash your inner Tiger” — this is a direct quote. The tower itself is described as residing in a “protective enclave” off the Lougheed Highway. Consider that image. Now that’s a sad painting.

Foxy by the river

June 15, 2007

Foxridge Homes - Pitt Meadows

A few times a week I do scans of the local media, looking for ads worthy of analysis on this site. About a month ago, maybe more, I came across this oddity for Foxridge Homes in Pitt Meadows. Astonishingly, the developer offers no website for us to learn more — not that much learning is possible by way of a condo website.

Regular readers of condohype know how much fun I have with quotation marks. I’d say half my posts try to sneak a laugh through clever use of the inverted commas. In this ad, the designer — a term I am using very loosely — has taken the peculiar step of putting quotes around the “now selling” declaration. This automatically raises a flag about the claim. Perhaps a way of calling the whole notion of “pre-sale” into question?

The inclusion of the price in dollars and cents is a welcome touch. As a fan of full disclosure, I support this. Who knows, maybe other realtors are secretly adding 99 cents on top of the advertised prices? This demands an investigation. Somebody send a note to Chipman.

I’m at a loss for what is meant by the development being “By The River.” What’s with the capitalization? A stolen line from M. Night Shymalan’s script for The Village? “We’ll be safe, we have the magic rocks. They’ll protect us from Those We Do Not Speak Of.”

That’s a movie, by the way, about a master plan community. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. I’m sure the developer wouldn’t mind the box office take. (Never mind the regret felt by most moviegoers as they sulked out of theatre realizing the bad choice they made in seeing that train-wreck of a film.)

Don’t Think I’ll Be “Buying.”

Market correction

June 14, 2007

Crescent West - Click to enlarge

In the 48 hours since I took them to task for their deplorable copywriting, the folks behind Crescent West have taken action. Ladies and gentlemen, it is confirmed. The developers are reading condohype. Click on the image to view a full-size screen capture. What was once a cradle of mistakes is now error-free.

Crescent of contempt

June 12, 2007

Crescent West, UBC, Vancouver

As the Robert Ledingham Collection at Stirling House proved with its “cutlery-love” campaign, marketing to rich people demands close-ups of objects that most of us consider trivial in the context of buying a home. Crescent West, a luxury development coming soon to UBC, revels in its fascination with the ridiculous. Never mind the 2,000+ square feet of the floor plans, the focus of Crescent West’s advertising is a pillow and a well-upholstered chair.

I wish today’s post could be as trivial as this ad and I could simply poke fun at the silliness of its imagery and messaging. But as I browsed through the Crescent West website, I found myself overcome with revulsion.

It all begins with a page about the project’s developers in which they are described as having “an absolute commitment to old-fashioned value” and “quality craftsmanship.” The copy goes on to describe their knowledge, skill and passion and how it has resulted in “landmark homes” across the Lower Mainland. It is a bold description.

Now look at this copy taken from another page on the very same website — a website, I might add, that appears to be a modest seven pages in size:

A serene, private place for restful and reflective moments. Or the warm and welcoming venue for entertaining guests. Whatever the day holds in store, your impecable [sic] home is at the centre of it all — and [sic] exquiste [sic] setting for your treasured possesions [sic]. Here are the light-filled interiors, open floorplans, innovative features, and flexible spaces you can define.

[A screen capture of this passage as published on the developer’s website is available here.]

Consider the audacity of this paragraph. It goes beyond the carelessness that we’ve become used to, moving into territory suggesting contempt for the reader. Hell, forget the paragraph. Just take that one sentence. Four extraordinarily obvious mistakes. All within the context of developers who pride themselves on quality. It is shameful.

At condohype, I’ve been very open that I do not provide real estate advice. I’ve never worked in construction and I have no knowledge of what it takes to build a proper home. But what I do know is that the marketing out there does not bode well for the industry. It suggests disregard, haste, and neglect.

Today, we’re in a era in which homes are sold before homes exist. The “pre-sale” is a defining element of the Vancouver housing market. In fact, it’s Bob Rennie’s claim to fame. When buyers are asked to commit to what’s likely the biggest single purchase of their lives, they have little more to consult than the developer’s marketing materials. So when a developer is so careless with his communication, what are we to think?

The marketer behind Crescent West is Platinum Project Marketing. The developer is Redekop Group.

Consider this a divorce

June 8, 2007

The Private Residences at Hotel Georgia

This ad for The Private Residences at Hotel Georgia is the defining portrait of the failure of the Vancouver dream. Look closely. This is the new Vancouver.

The perfect marriage. An ideal pairing. A beautiful melange of historic elegance and ultra contemporary design. Announcing The Private Residences at Hotel Georgia. 155 luxurious condominiums in a sleek 48-storey tower united with a totally restored and extensively renovated dazzling world class hotel. In the heart of Vancouver. Delightfully cosmopolitan. Deliciously exquisite. Decidedly exclusive.

It’s stuff like this that makes you wonder if the Anti-Poverty Committee is on to something. Only it’s not just the poor that are getting forced out by this wave of real estate mania. It’s anyone who has to work for a living.

The most sickening message of all this condo hype is how home ownership is positioned solely as a lifestyle choice. To the condo marketers, it’s as if the only thing stopping people from owning a home is a matter of taste. It’s the Pepsi Challenge played out in a different product category. The ultimate message is those that don’t buy don’t buy because they don’t have good taste.

The perfect marriage? An ideal pairing? You need it to live in Vancouver. And by perfect and ideal I mean a marriage arranged to allow for maximum access to wealth. And even then, it might not be enough to afford a closet. But then again, those people probably don’t have good taste.

Have a great weekend everybody.

Dreaming of White Rock

June 6, 2007

Waterford Place - White Rock

It would be an interesting project to look back at Vancouver condo marketing and find out when things really started to slide into the extreme.

Specifically, I would like to know at what point did a 777 square-foot apartment in White Rock become a dream? Sure, White Rock has a nice big pier and the beach is home to a big white rock. But a dream? I don’t know when the precedent was set for this claim, but we’ve now got another case before the courts. Waterford Place in White Rock is the culprit.

The charges against this development include “granite and stainless steel kitchens, spa like bathrooms, multi layered European-style hardwood floors.” Evidence suggests the developer is targeting “discerning buyers” who “appreciate luxurious living in a truly elegant setting.”

That’s all fine and dandy but I fail to see how this dreamland is really all that different than everything else on the market. And what the hell is a “spa like” bathroom?

If you’re brave enough to visit their website, you’ll find it littered with misplaced apostrophes and clumsy copy. It also looks like the site hasn’t been updated in a year or more, judging from the claim that completion is expected by summer 2006.

Come live the dream? Sounds like this project is stuck in a coma.

Thinking in Port Moody

June 4, 2007

Corbeau - Port Moody, BC

I’m floored by the obliviousness of this campaign for the Corbeau rowhomes in Port Moody. It’s as if it’s half complete. Did someone forget a block of text?

“A better home. Think about it. We did.”

Intriguing. OK, I’m listening. Tell me your thoughts. I want to learn more.

“Our idea of an exceptional home is one where hundreds of design details come together perfectly — details you may not notice, but will certainly feel. It’s something we’ve thought a lot about and are very proud of a Corbeau. When you live here, you will be too.”

Yes, very nice, but that’s so vague it’s useless. So what might these details be?

“Register today.

You were right about the details I might not notice.