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MONDAY MIXED MEDIA ADVERTISING SMACKDOWN: Retirement Housing

apartment advertising retirees

While one is eating a shrimp burrito at Eduardo’s Border Grill, one will read pretty much anything.

On this day, the only reading material was a thick advertising book filled with ads for housing in southern California.

I’m sure the full-color ads are expensive, and I found myself agog at the consistently terrible copywriting — no doubt written either by the advertiser (sound familiar?) or by some underpaid publication employee who has no real education in ad copywriting (sound familiar?).

The front of the book was devoted to “senior living.”

I’ll omit the name of this advertiser. But I noticed the identical boiler plate copy was used in at least one other ad by the same company.

There actually was some good stuff in this ad. But it was overshadowed by the bad stuff.

The Bad Stuff

“This is your personal invitation to experience X’s many services and accommodations.”

Well, no, it’s not a personal invitation. It’s an impersonal magazine ad. And that ad promotes your “services and accommodations”?? Ooh, irresistible.

“At X, hospitality abounds with good taste and quality appointments throughout.”

Hospitality abounds? Was this written in some other language and then run through Google Translates?

If you say your place has “good taste,” of course I believe you. Even though your taste and mine might be very, very different. (Oddly, I didn’t see a single ad that described the property as being in bad taste.)

“Quality appointments” — Okay, c’mon, you’re kidding me, right?

In The History Of The World, These Words Never Have Been Spoken


“Marge, you’ve got to come over and see my new apartment. You won’t believe the quality appointments!”

“We continually raise the standard of excellence for retirement living.”

Oh. Uh-huh. Sure. And aren’t you special?

“…our outstanding, caring staff…”

I admit that does contrast with the other ads that declared, “Our mediocre staff really couldn’t care less.”

“X, where your lifestyle deserves truly special living opportunities.”

Which is more stupid? The supposition that a lifestyle “deserves” something? Or the term “living opportunities”? (I suppose if the ad were for a hospice, that might possibly be appropriate…)

The Good Stuff

The few readers who hadn’t already moved on to the next ad might finally have noticed, toward the bottom of the page, these features:

“Gourmet meals, maid service, planned activities, and chauffeured transportation”

“Planned activities” isn’t especially compelling (albeit, perhaps, reassuring to the prospect’s adult children). But gourmet meals? Maid service? The availability of chauffeured transportation? Those have genuine appeal to affluent retirement community dwellersl

The one really good thing in this ad — which, alas, is easy to overlook due to the page layout — is a large, black & white photograph, appearing to be circa 1943: a smiling man in uniform lovingly embracing and gazing into the face of a radiant, attractive young woman.

While I suppose it could be an especially grateful patron expressing her thanks to the postal carrier for having delivered the gift wrapped package she holds in one hand, it looks very much like a young couple reuniting after the husband has returned home from the war.

Why is that a brilliant touch? Because it gives meaning to the otherwise corny (and almost meaningless) title of this ad: “Celebrate Your Life.”

Most of the “senior living” ads feature photographs of…senior citizens. Which only makes sense.

But this ad presents an image not of their prospects as they are today, with the aches and pains and physical “conditions” they’ve earned over a lifetime. It presents the couple at perhaps the happiest time of their lives.

That is the life this advertisement claims to be celebrating. Too bad the rest of the ad celebrates nothing but cold, lifeless, dumb dumb dumb writing.

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  • Jon Brooks September 27, 2010, 2:36 am

    Good calls on the copy and the photo. But I am a bit concerned that you are checking out this particular ad. Has that much time flown by already?

  • Jim McAleese September 27, 2010, 10:56 am

    Wow, most ads try to get the reader or listener to picture themselves in the future but this one goes the other way! Love it.

    I’ll bet, with a bit of tweaking, this ad would draw a lot of “quality appointments”.

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