We spend a lot of space on this blog discussing the impact of advertising on the perception of elders and that old people are mostly invisible in print ads and television commercials except for products to relieve pain and suffering.
Because advertisers’ job is to create as many sales as possible, it puzzles me that they ignore – and sometimes alienate – millions of older consumers. So I decided to ask an expert.
Chuck Nyren, founder of nyrenagency, is an award-winning advertising video producer, creative strategist, consultant, and copywriter focusing on the baby boomer market. He runs a lively blog at Advertising to Baby Boomers and the newly updated, revised version of his book, Advertising to Baby Boomers has just been released. Please make him welcome.
1. What do you think is the importance, if any, of the new Dove campaign featuring over-50 women? Is it an inroad? Will it lead to more elder models being used to advertise other kinds of products?
That’s the big question. I hope it’s a watershed campaign. I love it. We’ll have to wait and see. A few years ago I predicted that there would be a watershed campaign. Perhaps this will be it.
2. One of the things that ticks me off big time is advertisers and media writers who use the phrase “baby boomers” when they mean all older people. Some real-life headline examples [with my comments]:
- New Electric Trike For Baby Boomers [Do they card you before purchase?]
- Skin Care For Natural, Radiant Baby Boomers [Formulated to work only on people 43 to 61]
- Baby Boomers Are Big Targets For Fraud [Everyone knows older people are too smart to be taken in by con men]
I am undoubtedly in the extreme, but I make a point of not buying brands that are advertised to baby boomers in this way. Here is what baffles me: why do corporations cut out 46 million people older than 60, either by name or with images, from their potential revenue pie?
Ronni, I try not to comment on the press – although I do every so often. I try to limit my observations and opinions to advertising and marketing.
Using the term “Baby Boomers” in news articles doesn’t bother me much (except that I’m getting sick of so many news stories lately). But using it in advertising (“Hey, Baby Boomers! Here’s the product for you!”) is pretty dumb. You don’t want to talk at people by defining who they are. This is insulting. Just tell me about the product, tell a story about it – and do this with the sensibility of the generation that you are targeting.
The problem is that in most cases the copywriters and creative folk are in their twenties and thirties. I talk about this in my book, on my blog, when I consult and speak.
And the reverse is true. You wouldn’t want someone 50 or 60 coming up with a campaign for people in their late teens/twenties. They would talk at’them. As I say in this blog post,
“It wouldn't be too bright to trust my gut to come up with a campaign for a product aimed at twentysomethings. My gut would tell me, ‘… Ummm ... ummm ... Wait! I got it! We get some twentysomething girl an' spike her hair an' give'er tattoos and a nose ring an' put an iPod on her head an’ bed some hip-hop music an' have her hold up the toothpaste! Yeah! They'll buy it! They'll buy it!’”
Cutting out people older than Baby Boomers: I’ll answer that in question 3.
3. There are 46 million people in the U.S. (one-sixth of the population) who are older than 60. Yet marketers and advertisers refuse to acknowledge that we exist except in commercials for pain and suffering remedies. There are no commercials for new cars, iPods or even laundry detergent that feature elders. Why?
It’s ageism. Something you write about almost everyday on your blog.
I get a bit queasy talking about ageism and racism as being too closely related. Racism was and is an issue that has affected and destroyed millions of people in this country since its founding. However, in the broadest senses of the terms – and in advertising – they are related.
Forty, 50, 100 years ago, the conventional wisdom was, “Why advertise to Negroes? They buy products anyway. And do we really want to associate our product with this group?” That’s what’s happening now with ageism and advertising.
4. Older baby boomers (let’s say 55-plus) have more in common with people my age (65) than with younger boomers in their forties, yet marketers lump all boomers together and ignore elders. How does this make sense in terms of targeting the right market for products?
I agree completely and I’ve written about this at greater length here.
I also agree that it doesn’t make much sense. However, even targeting people over forty is something new for advertising. Actually, most advertising was age-neutral before 1970, but since then the 18-34 demographic has ruled – and still does. It’s silly and shortsighted.
So my point is this: At the moment, just targeting anybody over forty is good news. Eventually, there will be more focused targeting. (Or at least I hope so.)
5. I’ve read that there are few creative types in ad agencies who are older than 40. If that is so, I think it has much to do with how off-kilter and tone-deaf advertising is when it does target older people. This must be reflected in fewer sales than would be so if they got it right. Hasn’t anyone thought of hiring some elders to point those “young ‘uns” in the right direction in regard to older consumers?
Ronni, this is my book. You’ve summed it up well.
Advertising agencies before 1970 or so had a good age mix. That’s what I preach about – bringing back a better age mix.
6. Ageism, which includes age discrimination in the workplace, is as serious a problem in the U.S. as racism and sexism, but hardly ever acknowledged as such. I read somewhere that Americans, on average, are subject to 5,000 marketing messages a day, many of which not only reinforce cultural ageism, but create it. What responsibility do you think corporations and their advertisers have in this regard?
I answered this with question 2. I’m not so sure it’s quite as serious as you do – but it’s serious. As far as responsibility, let me answer cavalierly: Forget responsibility. It’s just dumb business practice not to advertise and market general products and services to people over forty-five.
7. What do you think is the cultural impact of elders being absent from those 5,000 messages a day except for products to relieve pain and suffering?
This is one of the major themes of your blog, Ronni. I read it regularly. I also soak up the comments by your readers. I send people to your blog when they ask me about ageism. I agree with most of what you and your readers say on the subject, and don’t have much too add.
8. Do people you know in the world of marketing and advertising ever discuss targeting older people for products other than medical appliances, gastric remedies and painkillers?
That’s all we talk about. We’re evangelical about it. David Wolfe, Ken Dychtwald, Brent Green, Mary Furlong, Matt Thornhill, etc. If your readers are interested, Google these folks.
Whether the marketing and advertising movers and shakers are listening - that’s another story.
9. As you recently noted on your blog, baby boomers were the first generation to be marketed to in childhood. How does that make their demographic, from a marketing point of view, different for advertisers from people older than boomers?
Again, it’s how you define baby boomers. And at this point, I’m not sure that because we were marketed to as children has or will have any effect on marketing to us today or in the future.
As far as people over 70 (an arbitrary number on my part), I’m not an expert on that demographic. Most marketers and advertisers don’t care about baby boomers and they really don’t care about people over 70. That’ll change over the next 20 years as baby boomers turn 70. At least I hope it will.
10. I have a theory that marketers target baby boomers by name because they’ve got that cute name which other generations – younger and older – don’t have. Could they be this unthoughtful about what they are writing and presenting?
Again, it’s dumb to call baby boomers baby boomers in ads. The press calls them baby boomers, and when talking B2B (business-to-business), we use the term baby boomers. My book is titled, Advertising to Baby Boomers but it’s a business book.
11. In what situations would you recommend using older models and spokespersons to your clients?
I’m not wild about spokespersons. Older models? Absolutely. However, I think advertising to the 50-plus demographic is usually better off concentrating on the product. Often, you don’t need models of any age.
This link also helps to answer question 9. Make sure to read the comments attached to the above posting. I don’t agree with all the comments, but they’re interesting.
12. In using older models/spokes people, is there a difference in impact between choosing men or women? I'm thinking of a current TV commercial and print ads for TD Ameritrade with actor Sam Waterston. They've been going on a long time now, so they must be fruitful. Would using a similar type of woman of the same age be as successful?
I think so. However (and this won’t make you happy, Ronni), some research has shown that older women don’t respond favorably to older women alone in ads – at least ads for products other than cosmetics and whatnot. It seems to reinforce the fact that a huge chunk of women over a certain age are alone – divorced or widowed. However, this attitude is changing. That’s because women’s attitudes are changing. For more, read this blog post.