Real estate marketers forgetting the location, location, location mantra

I am writing this column very early one July Monday morning in our house on Tobin Island in the middle of Lake Rosseau. The orange sunlight slanting across a section of the weekend papers illuminates someone else's column which happens to be about current cottage property values in Ontario.

I am writing this column very early one July Monday morning in our house on Tobin Island in the middle of Lake Rosseau. The orange sunlight slanting across a section of the weekend papers illuminates someone else’s column which happens to be about current cottage property values in Ontario.

Its basic premise is that if I was sitting in this same house on the same piece of lakefront property on, say, the north end of the Bruce Peninsula, instead of on one of the three big Muskoka lakes, our house would be worth four and a half times less than whatever it’s worth here.

Ah ha! you exclaim. That’s simply that eternal verity, the timeless law of real estate value! The three most important determiners of property worth are Location, Location and Location!

Okay, if that is the case, and everybody, let alone us branding geniuses knows it, how come in the next section of the Saturday papers every real estate ad is virtually devoid of anything resembling a sense of location?

Here is one man’s determination of how to wisely spend 30 grand on a Saturday morning. Four colours, full page, Introducing the Bloor St. Penthouses. Bellagio. One of a Kind Bloor St. Opportunity.

This, plus a floor plan of a two-bedroom apartment, (which is referred to in the body copy as a residence), a close-cut illo of what looks like a rather predictable high-rise apartment tower, and a tiny locator map placing The Bellagio sales office on, would you guess, Bloor Street.

Never mind that the word Bellagio that runs right across the page uses see-through letters, which seem to have sky visible in the top half, and some buildings and trees in the bottom half, sort of like midtown Toronto. We could be anywhere, folks. The Swiss-Italian border. Las Vegas. Cleveland.

Maybe anyone reading a Toronto paper with 1.6 million to 2.8 million to spend on a two-bedroom is supposedly steeped in the delights of every foot of Bloor St. from Runnymede to Pape, but geez, what if you just blew in from Hong Kong?

Would you know about the ravine trails, Holts, that quaint restaurant, the Cuban cigar store, that perfect baklava bakery?

Maybe the suburban realtors have an excuse for making ads for residences that lack any sense of location in that the suburbs, by definition are absolutely anywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Here’s a half-page four colour for the Avlear Palace somewhere near Bathurst and Steeles. It is dominated by a photo collage showing a gray-haired gent wearing a black bow tie (a butler from The Bellagio?) whispering sweet nothings into the ear of a laughing middle-aged blond in a Sears Catalogue living room sofa-and-coffee-table set. If you dig black-tie occasions at Bathurst and Steeles and have four hundred grand to spare, here you go.

Across the page, a photo of what I swear is a building I’ve seen on reruns of Coronation Street is dominated by a headline promising A New World Vision With Old World Values. Cathedraltown. And in VERY BIG LETTERS the word SOON and back to smaller letters Woodbine North of Major MacKenzie. And that’s it, folks! Blimy!

Another SOON ad shows a dad teaching a daughter how to ride a two-wheeler. Reassuringly, there are trees in the background (after all, it is Richmond Hill). Whatever else Richmond Hill may offer remains indistinct.

A giant ad for Harbour View shows us a four-colour tennis ball the size of a watermelon. The headline is More sweat. There’s a six-square-inch illo of two apartment towers. We’ll just have to trust ‘em about the view.

The account that helped get our agency on the creative map was real estate in the form of The New Town of Meadowvale. Three thousand acres beside the Credit River in Mississauga, to turn into a brand name community in 10 years. The client, Ken Comyns, was a marvelous guy who made everyone walk the land. Ken said unless you walked the land, you would never know what the promise was, what could happen there, how good it could be to live there.

After we’d moved 30,000 people into Meadowvale, Ken was hired to save a massive real estate disaster in south Florida. Seems three Canadian developers bought 20,000 acres after the big shots took a helicopter ride over it. From the chopper, you couldn’t tell that below the waving swamp grass, the average acre was eight inches under water. Walk the land.

Barry Base creates advertising campaigns for a living. He creates this column for fun, and to test the unproven theory that clients who find the latter amusing may also find the former to their liking. Barry can be reached at (416) 924-5533, or faxed at (416) 960-5255, at the Toronto office of Barry Base & Partners.