Archive for June, 2008

A weekend of lifestyle living

June 30, 2008

Expressions Coquitlam

For all the talk about “lifestyle living” in the “world city” of Vancouver, the weather here is good for one, maybe two weeks a year. When mother nature bestows hot sunny days on the city — as we experienced this past weekend — Vancouverites explode with happiness, shed most of their clothes and head on down to Kits Beach for Western Canada’s ultimate body show-off.

Being the sexy urban professional that I am, I couldn’t help but join the pageant at the beach. It was a surreal experience, as if all the characters in Vancouver condo ads had come to life. Topless Babe in Shades played volleyball, the Happy Feet Couple strolled in the surf, the Coquitlam Dancing Princess did a little jig. It was beautiful. Then night fell and everybody went home.

For one weekend, Vancouver lived the lifestyle. No thought of mortgage payments or strata rules or the “100 security cameras” that help you sleep at night. Just a lovely weekend for all to enjoy.

For once, freedom.

Condo with a crotch mascot

June 26, 2008

The Ridge Resort

I once met a guy who told me he was comfortable with one-night stands so long as they didn’t involve interlocking fingers at any point during or after sex. As he explained, “finger interlocking is a sign of great intimacy and love” and he couldn’t handle that. What a guy, age 36.

Anyway, I never thought much of the remark until I caught this spot for The Ridge Resort. The innovative minds at Platinum Project Marketing are responsible for this treasure of an ad where the main selling points of a Harrison view condo are a crotch, a book and — here’s the kicker — the interlocking fingers of a lone man!

I don’t know what else to say, I just think this is really funny. Mr. Blue Shorts, you’re my new favourite condo mascot.

Meet your creepy neighbour at Predator Ridge

June 23, 2008

Predator Ridge

On the spectrum of good to bad publicity, with good being the iPhone launch and bad being the smell of Granville Street on a Saturday morning, how would you rate this ad for the homes at Predator Ridge?

I almost don’t have an opinion. The awfulness of this ad is so overwhelming, it took me twenty minutes before I regained consciousness.

Here we have a family development named Predator Ridge promoted with the image of a creepy, middle-aged man who looks like he’s straight out of an episode of Law and Order: SVU. What do you think he’s thinking about as sits and smirks all alone on his faux-wood porch? It’s not the “stunning amenities” I assure you.

I need a bath. This is disturbing.

Real estate coverage takes a shift

June 18, 2008

Vancouver Sun - B.C. housing sales slow

Now you can bet your granite countertop the real estate industry wasn’t happy to see B.C. housing sales slow bursting across the cover, above the fold in Tuesday’s Vancouver Sun.

For the last half decade, the local news nursed the impression that Vancouver real estate only goes up. The exuberance in the reportage was so overwhelming, it became impossible to distinguish condo news from condo ads. But with the latest market figures so irrefutably negative — sales are down by over 30 per cent — the media find themselves with no choice but to be the bearers of bad news.

Don’t expect radical changes in what you read in the paper or watch on TV — the hype is far from dead. Instead, be on the lookout for a shift in tone. Expect editors to be more comfortable with sensationalizing the negative. For example, the Sun headline I’ve mentioned bluntly emphasizes slowing sales. In the old universe of real estate coverage, the headline could’ve been “B.C. returns to a balanced market” or some other lingo-laden horsepucky. Not anymore. This is what I mean by a shift in tone.

Going forward, I’ll be keeping a closer eye on the growing tension between media coverage and industry spin.

Why I write condohype

June 16, 2008


Responding to my previous post, reader Paul argues that this blog has a role in making a positive contribution to the craft of condo marketing. In his view, our critiques of advertising should be free of biases such as “hating the market, feeling priced out, hating Yaletown, density, etc.” While I do not agree with Paul’s advice, his challenge brings up a larger question: What’s the point of condohype?

In simple terms, condohype is a satirical commentary. Through the blog, I attempt to deploy irony, sarcasm and wit — basically all the goodies in the humourist’s toolbox — to lampoon the hell out of Vancouver condo marketing. I’ve chosen this target because it’s so perfectly emblematic of what’s wrong with Vancouver. Think about it, what better symbol than the Vancouver condo ad with its celebration of arrogance, narcissism and indifference?

These ideas manifest themselves not only in the content of the ads but also in their construction — by way of typos, errors and an aversion to good design. I attack these “mistakes” not because I take pleasure in nitpicking, but to call attention to the gargantuan bluff that defines the industry. When the market tanks and all is revealed, my commentary comes to an end.

To return to Paul’s point about making a good contribution, I believe condohype is and always has been a positive blog. Condohype takes the real and widespread angst about the crisis of affordable housing and channels it into comedic expression. This makes the writing fun to read for the broadest possible audience — which also means getting the word out to the broadest possible audience. From the single college grad feeling priced-out to the developer looking to learn the trash talk about their condo, this blog has a little something for everyone.

As for what “good” real estate marketing looks like, well, some firms do it better than others. On the basis of its colour scheme and defined target audience, Onni’s ad for V6A deserves some respect. The copy is a weak point though, especially the last three sentences. “Stake your claim in Vancouver’s most up-and-coming urban environment. The time is right to make your move. Don’t wait until it’s too late.”

I mean, really, who needs this crap? That’s five seconds of my life I’m never getting back.

This will all end soon

June 11, 2008

Affordable Luxury Condos

We’re getting so close to the end of days it isn’t even funny. You know it’s desperate times when you see something like this in the Vancouver Sun. Special thanks to moongirl for pointing it out. This ad showed up in the Tuesday edition in full colour, spread across two full pages.

How ironic that what appears to be the most cheaply designed ad in the history of Vancouver condo marketing is backed by an ad buy worth tens of thousands of dollars. Couldn’t they have spared $500 for creative?

If I can say something nice, I’ll say that this ad does a good job summing up everything that’s wrong with the selling of real estate in Metro Vancouver. It shows how twisted things have become. Broken down to the basic elements, this is what we’re sold:

  1. Affordable condos = One-bedrooms starting at $149,900;
  2. Great location = Downtown Langley, close to a Starbucks, groceries and a casino;
  3. Fabulous luxury = Kohler faucets, garburator, soap dispenser in kitchen, electric fireplace, storage room in MOST suites, microwave.

I could keep going but it’s too depressing. To think that our economy is driven by this, that so many people have bought into this, that the “Best Place on Earth” is defined by this. It’s a tragedy. There’s no way this is going to end well. If you’re not scared now, you should be.

Friends, get ready for a walk into the basement. The market is going down.

The many mistakes of Indigo on the Lake

June 8, 2008

Indigo on the Lake

With rising gas prices doing their best to transform the summer road trip into science-fiction, I thought it would be fun to look at the marketing of a vacation condominium. The Indigo on the Lake condos in Osoyoos are about 400 km east of Vancouver, or roughly $125.00 in gas when driving one-way in your beloved Hummer H2.

Indigo on the Lake has been in the “news” for some time, provided you consider ads and coverage in Westcoast Homes to be news. As far as condo mascots go, the sandal-sporting rock-star wannabe standing in front of Indigo’s “actual waterfront view” is a good one — if by good you mean unintentionally hilarious. (Now you understand why I mentioned the Hummer H2.)

Indigo’s marketing is a text-book case of mixed messaging. The ad creative shows us childless couples but the ad copy speaks of family vacation homes. On the website, images of seniors drinking wine are everywhere.

Sometimes when you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.

Global BC and the moment of truth

June 5, 2008

Global BC News Hour

If you caught last night’s Global BC News Hour, you may have witnessed a turning point in mainstream media coverage of Vancouver real estate.

If you missed it, allow me to treat you to an excerpt from the reporter’s script. Ladies and gentlemen, what you are about to read is real:

The hot housing market has cooled off… According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, condo sales have dropped by 30 per cent since last May. Nervous investors who bought pre-sales recently hoping to turn a huge profit are now trying to get rid of them. Dozens of properties that have not even completed yet are selling on Craigslist and

A cooling market. Sales off 30 per cent. Nervous investors.

Think about these words. They are not the usual terms to describe the Vancouver market, at least not where the mainstream media is concerned. Yet here they are, spewed from the mouth of a reporter broadcast on the most watched newscast in British Columbia.

Of course, things can only change so quickly. Leave it to Deborra Hope to put it into context:

Does that mean we’re headed for a foreclosure disaster like in the U.S.? Most experts here say no; Canadian banks are much more conservative than American banks when it comes to lending and fewer Canadians are at risk of being buried at a rise in interest rates.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I think I’ll be writing for some time longer.

Six-metre art harms condos, deported to Calgary

June 4, 2008

Upside-Down Church, Vancouver

If you were to take the sterility and coldness of a walk-in clinic and apply it to community design, the result would be Coal Harbour. Situated in Vancouver’s downtown north-end, the C.H. is an underpopulated zone of melamine and glass — a barren IKEA showroom laid out as a neighbourhood. For the longest time, I thought nobody lived there. Sure, there are lots of condos, but walk around at night and the lights are never on.

The one thing I like about Coal Harbour is a world-renowned piece of public art — a sculpture that most locals have come to know as The Upside-Down Church. It’s the kind of cool, controversial art installation you remember. As a conversation-starter and meeting place, it’s first rate.

But don’t go looking for it now. The piece is gone. A victim not of controversy, but the Vancouver real estate machine. From the Globe and Mail:

While some U.S. Christians denounced the sculpture as blasphemous, the problem in Vancouver wasn’t so much religion as it was real estate. Residents of the spiffy Coal Harbour neighbourhood complained that the more than six-metre-tall (and wide) statue obstructed their scenic view. The Park Board agreed.

John Bromley with Benefic Group, the philanthropy-focused law firm in Vancouver that owns the sculpture, didn’t. “The condos seem to block the water more than the sculpture does,” he says.

And with that, the sculpture is off to Calgary. Bromley says Vancouver doesn’t deserve the benefit of the piece anywhere in the city. Essentially, if Vancouver were a true world-class city, it wouldn’t hold such a callous view of public art.

Bromley’s right. And once again, Vancouver fails to live up to its own ambitions. In a choice between condos and culture, condos rule. World-class, my ass.

But hey, the views are good, aren’t they?

Mr. Vain’s Miramar Village

June 1, 2008

Miramar Village

Miramar Village is one of those condo projects that seems stuck forever. Like White Rock’s big white rock, it’s going nowhere. Don’t be fooled by allegations of “limited opportunity” — this $721,000+ stinker has been on the market since at least 2006. The ad copy doesn’t lie; this is vintage condo hype:

At Miramar Village, you can reward yourself with a lifestyle that many long for, and few seem to find. A refined condominium lifestyle that offers the opportunity to enjoy weekends spent doing what you want to do, rather than things you have to do.

True to old-school Vancouver condo marketing, the narcissism in the copy is stronger than you’d find in the Yaletown Cactus Club on a Friday night, prompting speculation that 90s Eurodance group Culture Beat has been hired as a special consultant.

“I know what I want and I want it now. I want you cause I’m Mr. Vain.”

Now that’s a kick-ass condo theme song!