Ad Industry Acting its Age?
Madison Avenue’s obsession with youth appears to be fading. Many
brands are said to be switching to targeting a much broader audience, including
those over the age of 55.
Examples given in a New York Times article include
youthful brands like Jeep and Shape-ups by Skechers advertising in AARP
The Magazine. But TV networks, introducing their fall programming lineups this
week, are also pushing for better advertising rates for shows reaching older
Shows targeting younger generations have received hefty advertising
rate premiums since the sixties when ABC found success with programs like “Batman” and “Mod
Wrote the Times’ TV industry reporter Bill Carter, “The idea
caught on, and even as the boomer generation grew older, advertisers continued
to court younger viewers — first on the theory that they had not yet
established brand loyalty, then because they were harder to reach than mature
viewers who watched far more television.”
Since then, the networks have
aimed at two main groups: those between 18 and 49 and 25 to 54.
those over 55 has become a bigger part of the discussion partly because the
old are recently doing better in the wallet. Those between 55 and 64 have significantly
lower underemployment rates and much higher median weekly earnings than two
particularly coveted groups, 20 to 24 and 25 to 34.
Moreover, maturing boomers
are also spending on categories not traditionally associated with older people.
A study on “Alpha Boomers” by NBC found
55 to 64 year-olds were just as likely as those 18 to 34 to have high-definition
televisions, digital video recorders and broadband service. The older generation
also spends more than the average on categories including home improvement,
large appliances, casual dining and cosmetics.
“People still think of their grandparents when they were 60 wearing
comfort shoes and baggy chinos,” Alan Wurtzel, NBC Universal’s president
of research, told The Wall Street Journal. “These guys are just fundamentally
The networks are also looking for more balanced ad rates as
the average age of the TV viewer has crept up in recent years.
Still, the Journal article noted that most marketers “prefer to reach
young consumers, whose buying preferences can make a product or service cool
so that it eventually catches on with older buyers.” They are also said
to be prime targets for mortgages, car loans and investment advice.
But the Times article inferred that brands can no longer ignore the old. Brent Bouchez, the
founder of Agency Five-0, said a big misconception is that older boomers want
to be young. He recently stopped asking for Ketel One at bars after the vodka
brand shifted to a younger-advertising tone. Mr. Bouchez said, “I
don’t want to look like the 53-year-old who’s trying to look 30.”
- In Shift, Ads Try to Entice Over-55 Set – The New York Times
- Television’s Senior Moment – The Wall Street Journal
Discussion Questions: Has the ad industry made a fundamental mistake in focusing on younger consumers all these years? Should brands be shifting their focus to cover a broader range of consumers, including those over the age of 55?