Letter to the Editor from Don Draper

The following article was written as part of an exercise that required the writer to imagine how Don Draper, the main character from the television show Mad Men, would reinvent senior living advertising. 

Dear Editor,

Don Draper here.  Remember me? Suave, debonaire, loyal. I read your article, “3 Tips For Better Senior Living Marketing Over The Holidays,” and believe your article and industry is missing the mark.


There have been a few pitches that caught my eye, but overall, you’ve failed. To make matters worse, this publication has not covered advertising enough. These industry professionals in your articles are fixated on marketing, especially digital marketing. I’m an ad man. Not a marketer and especially not a digital one.  With that being said, let’s get right to my pitch on what the industry needs:

Clarity. Simplicity. Happiness. This industry lacks these and one other thing: imagination.

Nearly two years ago, Brookdale Senior Living’s advertising campaign was the closest I’ve seen to hitting the mark. Staff profiles talking about “making a difference” makes me want to appeal to a higher calling, just after I finish my second martini. Those images and advertisements made my heart twinge and brought happiness and love, things that are needed in a successful campaign. Environments are always changing. Everyone should embrace the waves and take more chances. Ride the successful waves when we catch them.


Even though advertising and marketing are related, the pitch for senior living is unclear: you are selling lifestyle, dining, housing, health care and other amenities. Too many choices. Remember my pitch for Hilton? Failed because I missed the moon. You are missing it, too.

You’ve done yourself a disservice. These insidious acronyms such as Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) start to creep up after the fact. SNFs? Please, get me a Kleenex. In order to obliterate the awful CCRC name, the powers that be chose to rebrand this to a Life Plan Community. A Life Plan? Who knows how long of a life we’ll have, and does anyone really have a plan? They all think they have a plan until they get punched in the face (according to my good friend Mike Tyson). The only certainty of my Life Plan is a stiff drink, death and taxes.

Building brands takes time, I get it. But without a trusted, tested brand, ad men like myself can’t help sell this product. Names like Argentum, LeadingAge and HumanGood sound lovely, but too esoteric for my tastes.

The only other ad pitch that is worth looking at for this industry is the Gillette Razor ad. “Gillette, the Best A Man Can Get.” Did I write that? If I didn’t, it’s damn good. The TREO drives such an emotional connection but they’re selling razors, not senior living residences.

How can you connect emotionally with your consumers? Emotion and happiness. Simplicity.

Here is what I see when I look at your ad pitch: Please come manage your personal health and wellbeing during its decline in this 800-square-foot space until you die.

Damn depressing. More emotion, more happiness. Make it so simple, even a Vulcan would understand: Live Long & Prosper.

Don Draper

P.S. Never mind that I’m a morally bankrupt fictional character from the 1960s.