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« The Age of Transcendence Revisited | Main | One Reader's Reasoning Why Older Markets Are Still Being Ignored »

June 24, 2005


John Michael Day

Who determined that only 10% of marketing dollars are targeted toward the 50+ markets? We are watching trends that would suggest that in local and national TV advertising arenas the 50+ sector is being romanced heavily. Insurance and retirement, pharmaceuticals like Cialis, cholestorol reduction, iagra, mobility products and the like are swallowing up inventory across the cable TV platforms and broadcast television. The top 50 money spending advertisers of 1995 seem to have morphed into moving targets for consumers, which explains why sales for many brands taken deep hits. Your comments?

David Wolfe


I've tried unsuccessfully to find the original source of that figure because I too have found it suspicious. That's why I qualified the statement with "reported 10%"). Ken Dychtwald could be the original source because I've seen him quoted from time to time as making that statement, and Ken is know to make, shall we say, dramatic statements.

While you are right about the products you cite as being heavily marketed to the 50+, the three industries that spend the most on advertising -- autos, household products and personal grooming products -- have do not spent all that many dollars courting older people. Youth and young adults remain their #1 targets.

Thanks for your comments, John.


Chris Busch

The 18-25 crowd is attractive to advertisers for a few reasons methinks - (1) Companies will spend a lot of money to establish their brands with younger adults in the belief that they will remain loyal at 50+. (2) Large consumer product companies want to be cool. No one can measure the effectiveness of most of the ad budget, so internal company politics make it a better idea to waste it on the 18-25 group than on the 50+ group. (3)Similar to #1, the future lifetime spending of someone 18-25 is judged to be higher than some 50+. (4) 50+ people are perceived to be stuck in their ways and/or experienced at shunning the pitch man and therefore are not as susceptible to the wiles of the advertisers.

David Wolfe


You're right on all four reasons you cite for why agencies and advertisers fail to give older markets due amount of attnetion given their numbers and affluence -- although as John Day indicates, this is beginning to change. I would add that no research exists in support of reasons #1, #3 and #4. In fact, recent research goes the other way.

Thanks for your comments.


Jason Kerr

I'm a Lost Boy if ever there was. I think I could almost count on my fingers and toes the hours of TV that I have watched in the last 8 years (since I turned 18).

Most guys I know my age, if they watch any TV, then it's sparse, happenstance, and for many, mostly sports related - although I like an intellectual drama if I stumble on it.

David Wolfe


In your words, "although I like an intellectual drama if I stumble on it," lies an important clue that television suits have not yet picked up on: "Give Lost Boys someting worthwhile to watch and they will do so."

A few months ago I quoted a 26-year-old Lost Boy who said he no longer looked to television for news because it came later and with less depth than what he could get from the Internet.

It seems quite clear to me that TV producers in general suffer a profoundly shallow understanding of their audiences.

Thanks for your comments.


Dale Wolf


First of all, thanks for your blog – always insightful, always worth reading, and frequently cited on my blog.

Now to your challenging question.

Being part of the older generation, you won’t find me reading AARP Magazine. I might be in my mid-sixties, but I don’t see myself that way and I suspect a lot of other people my age still see themselves as living, acting and interacting younger. The media by and large capture me when I am viewing Survivor, Big Brother, Real World, Desperate Housewives, Lost, basketball. If I see one more commercial for Cialis or Viagra, I think I will puke. Like many younger people, I get most of my news on the Internet and I spend more time with Google than Readers Digest. Newspapers are no longer part of my life. I read magazines, but mostly professional ones cause I am still very active in marketing and it is tough staying on top of content issues, marketing processes, marketing technologies. I stay more on top of issues that impact my children than on “elderly issues” cause I want to stay in tune with my children – so their media reach me. I still buy a lot of expensive gas, a wardrobe for business casual clothes, movies and travel. The other stuff I buy is largely for them because I have most of what I want. I am not alone … which is to say, older people are not necessarily older.

So if I am typical, at least a lot of the +50 generation is acting younger than the stereotype might play out. We’re still out there making a living and spending on things that younger people buy.

The BMW commercials perhaps appealed to my personal self image, so I bought one. It might be that marketers actually know how to reach us … by not making us feel old.

Second, but related theory.

With increasing capability to market to narrow segments, we create campaigns that are relevant to the context of individuals and their needs, wants and expectations. The +50 is too rough a cut and does not necessarily align with the mindset of people in that demographic who are still acquiring stuff. I can promote to the mindset instead of the age and my messages will be more relevant.

Now, to another theory – perhaps a bit off the wall but likely holds some truth.

Having spent two decades running a pretty large promotional marketing agency, most of our staff was in their late twenties or early thirties. The campaigns they create may reflect their age and way of thinking – even when they are targeting older demographics. Just human nature to see the world through your own eyes. The clients buy into it cause it’s more exciting than a bunch of blue hairs around a coffee table.

Rod Newbound


At 55 I suppose I may fit into that "older market" category, although I seriously doubt I am typical. It's been 3 years since I turned on the TV for anything other than to play a recorded movie. I sometimes listen to talk radio, but usually get bored or angry at the stupidity of many callers. I have never joined AARP & don't think they represent my generation. I make many of my buying decisions by careful & thorough on-line research. I love the Internet and am a voracious reader on many subjects. I have 3 automobiles which include a 65 truck, 84 car & a 95 4-Runner. When I make a purchase I am mostly looking for quality & long-term usefulness. My last 3 automobile purchases, for example, have been the same brand because it's reliable mile after mile & year after year.

Thanks for your blog.



Rod,You are typical in that you are untypical, that is, you are more your own person than you ever were. Thus your likes, dislikes and behavior cannot be as easily predicted by what your age peers like, dislike and do as was true when you were younger. Thus, traditional market segmentation is not as useful in today's older consumer universe.

Thanks for your comment.



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