I never got this one. Ever since TV advertising began some 50 years ago, the 55 and above age group was considered completely unimportant to advertisers. Actually, those who weren’t in the main 20-something to early 30s, didn’t matter much either.
The backwards thinking behind this focus stemmed from the perception that younger audiences are extremely malleable and more apt to become loyal than their older generational counterparts. Just as importantly, these pre-middle aged audiences possess a much longer tail of purchasing power across their lifetime, so marketing to them made a lot more sense. Finally, when it came to what’s cool, hip and in, it was all about what younger audiences wanted at any particular time versus the tastes and preferences of the older folks.
Guess what, that’s all changed. According to this article (link to NY Times Sunday article: In shift, TV and Marketers try to entice over-55 set), Network executives have all together changed their thinking, largely because of the lingering bad economy (many young people have no purchasing power because they have no job) and the reality that there is a very large and important 55-plus baby boomer audience. Now, for the first time, they’ve created entire fall series lines aimed at 55-plus audiences. This is so they can directly build lots of advertising $$$ from sponsors who create products for middle aged and senior audiences.
It’s nice to see that a giant constituent base that was once completely forgotten has now become mainstream. But, I truly never understood why they were ignored for decades. For a brief period, we represented one of the networks. Any idea that we developed which wasn’t exclusively focused on hitting young, hip adults was instantly thrown in the garbage. What killed me was that no one even gave a second thought to going beyond what the industry accepted blindly.
If they stopped acting like robots to understand real demographics, someone would have changed this mindlessly accepted industry norm a long time ago. Fifty-five and over audiences have always held enormous sway over so many different components of our society— from determining the fate of national and regional political contests, to playing roles in how entire towns and communities are built and developed, to brand loyalty and purchasing power on thousands of products and services. Add in the fact that the affluent 40-something crowd plays a key role in deciding what’s accepted (or not) from a luxury brand standpoint (mainly because younger audiences can’t afford these products yet) and we’re talking about a significant consumer base that should have been targeted through television advertising from the beginning. Lastly, because these audiences are more mature, they will be less fickle in becoming loyal to any particular brand. One would think that would actually be a very appealing reality for any marketer.
Because public relations is a much more cost-effective medium that can be very flexible for marketers, our industry has always been able to segment and target different audiences very naturally. If a luxury watch brand is largely bought by wealthy individuals in the 50+ range, then our campaign can focus exclusively on reaching those people by marketing to the media and channels that influence them (and that includes network shows and news). We’d take a similar approach with a health or security product aimed at senior audiences, as well.
Unlike the networks, our industry has always welcomed all marketers, regardless of the age group they focused on. The irony is that every fall the networks live and die with advertisers based on their new season line ups. If at least a few shows don’t appeal to the younger, erratic and unpredictable audiences, you can bet that this will have a direct impact on advertising revenue. Life might have been a lot less stressful many moons ago for them, if they had just evolved their programming to include middle aged and older audiences. It’s just a lot easier to comprehend how more mature people will react to any given story, show or brand. But, no one ever thought of that.