Watch a few news shows on television and you’ll see lots of commercials aimed at seniors. This is not unusual. Advertisers with products and services appealing to a mature audience know a disproportionate number of this demographic group can be reached with this type of programming. However, what’s disconcerting to me as a pre-boomer is the apparent lack of understanding on the part of the media and ad agencies as to who seniors are and how we view ourselves.
Having spent my business career in the advertising business, I know the younger consumer is king. This is predicated on the fact that these folks follow fads, want peer group acceptance and will be in the marketplace for years to come. Therefore, over the years they will buy more of a particular brand, especially those age 18 to 34, assuming they remain loyal to it. From an advertising standpoint – this applies to programming, too because audience composition ultimately determines what type of products will be purchasing the TV time – once you reach 50 you’re dead.
So the advertisers interested in those 65+ treat us as if we’re all “over-the-hill.” The OTC products (over-the-counter: non-prescription medicines, skin creams and denture items) sold on the evening news is an indicator as to what marketers think we need. The ads for prescription drugs range from erectile dysfunction (E.D.), to bladder and prostate problems, to cholesterol and diabetes control. Services advertised include reverse mortgages, long-term care insurance and funeral arrangements. What a deadly line up of advertisers this is.
For pre-boomers (those born between 1930 and 1945), the actors in these commercials are either too young and hip for us to relate to, like the guy who spirits his wife away on a motorcycle to try out his new virility now that he no longer is impotent thanks to an E.D. pill. Or too old and inactive for our age group, such as the woman of 85 who decides to go with a reverse mortgage in order to make ends meet. These are examples of the extremes that surround our generation of 30 million vibrant consumers ages 65 to 79.
We have saved for our retirement. We spend money on the goods and services we want and need. And we will continue to be viable consumers for years to come. Not only have advertisers overlooked the “forgotten generation,” the politicians have too. Pre-boomers account for 30 percent of the votes cast in off-year elections. And we’re concerned about the records of our representative when it comes to issues affecting us: taxes, health care, national security and more. Many of those we trusted have let us down; that’s why incumbents have plenty to worry about in the 2010 elections.
It doesn’t matter what’s being sold, advertisers need to realize that pre-boomers are not old and we represent an important audience to them. These marketers, including politicians, would do well to accept this and start talking to us in our language about our needs and deliver on the promises they make. That’s easy enough to understand.