December 5, 2020

In Shift, Ads Try to Entice Over-55 Set

Marketers like Kellogg’s, Skechers and 5-Hour Energy drink are broadening their focus to those 55 and up, who were largely ignored in most of their media plans until recently. During next week’s upfront announcements, the annual preview of the fall television season, network executives are planning to introduce shows created to have broad appeal, including to older viewers, and the ad dollars they represent.

This amounts to a reversal in thinking that took hold during the 1960s, when advertisers first started aiming for baby boomers, the largest segment of the United States population. But the reasons for the shift are not just demographic, they are economic.

As a result of the recent recession, unemployment rates for younger age groups have been far higher than those for older Americans. The most recent unemployment rate for those 20 to 24 years old is 14.2 percent; for those 25 to 34, it is 9.4 percent. The rate for people aged 55 to 64 is only 6.2 percent.

Financially, the disparity is similar. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those people aged 45 to 54 and 55 to 64 had the highest median weekly earnings of any age segment in the United States: $844 and $860, respectively. Meanwhile, those 20 to 24 had weekly earnings of only $454. Those who are 25 to 34 earned $682.

Stephanie Pappas, a senior planner for BBDO NY, said there was now good reason for ad clients to seek the mature audience.

“In some ways, they are the ideal consumer. They have money, they consume loads of media, and they remain optimistic,” she said.

The bimonthly magazine for AARP has been pushing to attract new advertisers, according to Patricia Lippe Davis, the vice president for marketing for AARP media. Recently, products previously thought of as youthful — brands like Jeep and Shape-ups by Skechers — have advertised in AARP.

“The grandkids say I’m ‘really cool now’ but what they don’t know is I always was,” reads the text of the Jeep ad.

“We’ve seen an increase in advertisers targeting this booming demographic, many of whom are not the types of advertisers you’d expect to see in our media properties,” Ms. Davis wrote in an e-mail.

For decades, television has been the most determined proselytizer on behalf of the premium value of reaching consumers aged 18 to 49. In the 1960s, ABC found itself hopelessly uncompetitive with CBS and NBC in what was then the standard ratings measurement, total households. So the network adopted a strategy to appeal to younger viewers with programs like “Batman,” “Shindig,” and “Mod Squad.”

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, all advertising sales have been based on two main groups, those people aged 18 to 49, and those 25 to 54. Once viewers reached 55, they were considered all but valueless.

In the last decade, NBC has been a central force in pushing that view, as the home of youth-oriented hits like “Friends” and “The Office.” But Alan Wurtzel, the president of research for NBC Universal, initiated a study last year into a group he labeled “alpha boomers,” the leading edge of the baby boom generation, which is now turning 65.

For companies to avoid shifting advertising and marketing attention toward older Americans is “a big mistake,” he said. “You risk not only growth, but at some point you risk your brand.”

Mr. Wurtzel said that as NBC put together its lineup of potential new series for fall, he made the programmers in the company aware of the attractiveness of the 55-plus audience. He described it as “one of the things we look at when we look at pilots.”

The network has already ordered a new series, “Playboy,” set in the 1960s, and this week renewed the drama “Harry’s Law,” which stars Kathy Bates, who is 62.

Mature consumers also seem to be spending on categories not traditionally associated with older people. NBC’s study of those people 55 to 64 showed that they spent more than the average consumer on categories like home improvement, large appliances, casual dining and cosmetics.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3cfebf814d3de45c13db35f71e156484

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