Who is the Target Audience?

 In Blog, Carol Arcus, Lessons and Ideas, Neil Andersen, Secondary

Ian Pettigrew, a valued friend of the AML, sent us a real estate ad that he found compelling and thought might make a good media study. We agree.

Someone once observed that the higher the price, the less we use logic when purchasing. We might anguish between the store-brand or name-brand cream cheese, but then purchase houses and cars based on gut feeling or intuition. Of course, we then rationalize our decisions with facts and figures. But rarely do we admit, “I just want it!”

Real estate is often sold using life-style and values messages—maybe more so in Toronto than other places. Terry O’Reilly (Under the Influence) recently reported that Torontonians are prone to indulging themselves in expensive homes, whereas Los Angelinos do so with luxury watches.

Many Toronto condo and housing developments use classy names and designs to appeal to buyers’ aspirations because ‘location! location! location!’ is an aspirational quality. (If I can’t live in Forest Hill, could my condo model at least be called ‘The Forest Hill?’)

Which brings me back to Ian’s recommended ad for Rialto Towns, a development in Richmond Hill.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 3.24.01 PM

This is a great graphic design. Who might it be attracting? How might it be selling?

What’s in a name?

Rialto is Venice’s ancient financial district as well as a popular name for neighborhood movie theatres before the multiplex age. It is retro. Who might want to live in a place with a retro name? Why?

What’s in a model?

She has upswept hair, blue eyes, red lipstick, and a ‘picture perfect’ complexion.

She is also ‘picture perfect’ in gingham and an apron.

Does she recall memories of mid-century actresses, like Ava Gardner, and simpler times?



Or does she evoke the memory of a reminiscence: Jessica Paré as Megan Draper, Don’s third wife, in Mad Men?



Are those milk and pastries on her tray? Why would a martini pitcher and canapés be a mistake? How would they dis-invite the target audience? What positive associations might the target audience make with milk and pastries? How might that help sell a townhouse?

Why might a designer use a white scalloped-edged frame and a pink background? What is the effect of placing the model’s face inside a frame? Is this what ‘snapshots’ looked like back in the day? What historic times and shapes might they evoke in the audience’s memory? How might that help sell a townhouse?

Do women with trays of food evoke feelings of domestication? And might a domestic feeling help sell a townhouse? How might the meanings change if the model was male? Might this be a sexist ad, or is it just playing with stereotypes?

Does this ad play with codes and conventions of design? Does the audience see it as a reference to mid-century American stories or as a reference to stories about mid-century America (Mad Men, Far From Heaven, A Christmas Story)? People who remember mid-century America are in their 60sand 70s. People who remember Mad Men are in their 30s. Which group is likelier to be in the market for a townhouse? If your answer is, ‘They could both be in the townhouse market,’ how might this ad appeal to each group, but in different ways?

Is the ad a parody? A parody of a parody? Could it be both?

How might waking nostalgic feelings about a simpler time—even one portrayed in movies and television—help to sell townhouses?

-by Neil Andersen, with files from Carol Arcus


(The ideas in this post may be applied to the Secondary classroom, across the curriculum. – ed.)

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