Upfronts 2013: Demo Doesn't Want to Sing 'Hope I Buy Before I Get Old'

Baby boomers may be exiting monetizable Nielsen numbers, but their value to advertisers remains high

Complete Coverage: Upfronts 2013

In just six years, the generation that once defined television will, by its own definition, “disappear.” That’s when the youngest of the baby boomers (people born in 1964, the cutoff year according to the U.S. Census Bureau) will turn 55, exiting the last monetizable Nielsen demographic. In fact, the last of the baby boomers are already halfway out the door—they turn 50 this year, leaving the so-called “advertiserdesired” 18-49 demo group behind.

And just like that, more than 80 million viewers—with an estimated spending power of more than $3 trillion—will no longer be considered relevant.

Alan Wurtzel, president, research and media development, NBCUniversal, who has been outspoken on the subject of baby boomers, disagrees. Though they are exiting the demo, “it doesn’t mean that they’re not there,” Wurtzel said. “But if they’re not being counted, we’re doing ourselves a disservice in terms of how we count people and how we monetize them.”

Wurtzel asked Nielsen to consider adding a new demo break in its published reports: 55-to-64-year-olds. Nielsen does provide demographic information for that age group, but most companies do not have the time or manpower to cull the numbers themselves, Wurtzel said.

“If Nielsen would put [the 55-64 demo] into the reports, I believe we could begin to get people to become familiar with how those folks are behaving,” Wurtzel said. “When we changed from household ratings to 18-49 as the currency…people got used to it. I think that over time, the same thing could happen.”

Marketers may be reluctant to adopt the 55-64 demo because, as Wurtzel addressed as part of a panel discussion on cable network RLTV’s Rethink 50+ Town Hall, if advertisers don’t have to pay for an audience, they won’t push to.

“There isn’t an agency or client that I know of who doesn’t secretly agree that this age group is extremely important, extremely influential and very powerful financially,” Wurtzel said on the panel. “They just don’t want to pay for it.”

Boomers Aren’t All the Same—And They Like Technology, Too

Even as boomers’ value skyrockets, a misconception is that their brand choices remain stagnant while younger consumers are more apt to make new decisions and are therefore more important to target. According to an August 2012 report from Nielsen and BoomAgers called “Introducing Boomers: Marketing’s Most Valuable Generation,” baby boomers are just as brand loyal as any other consumer— and that extends to television.

Targeting them all at once is a mistake, says Erin Vitellaro, managing director, client leadership at Mindshare Chicago, leading the Kimberly-Clark account.

“Age doesn’t really define a baby boomer,” Vitellaro said. “It’s more about their life stage and mind-set, and you need to plan accordingly.”

People are living longer and are retiring later; younger boomers may still have children in the house, while the older set are empty nesters. Counting them as one group can lead to missed opportunities, especially in regard to technology.

“We’re starting to play with more emerging channels, because we know that the younger baby boomers still with children in the household have a stronger relationship with technology. We need to treat them differently,” Vitellaro added.

Reaching consumers online has been a focus of advertisers, but the emphasis has been on millennials, not boomers. The Nielsen/BoomAgers study shows that boomers represent a third of all online and social media users; furthermore, an eMarketer study conducted in February 2013 shows that one in five digital video viewers is a boomer. By the time they all leave the Nielsen demos, boomers will represent 70% of all disposable income—a group most likely to purchase the pricey tablets and smartphones on which they watch digital video.

For one of Kimberly-Clark’s products, Depend Real Fit, Vitellaro says Mindshare specifically used online video to target male baby boomers. The shortform video features professional athletes and runs primarily in sports content, underscoring an important aspect of the way boomers view themselves—not as couch potatoes, but active.

Happiness, Health and Wealth

RLTV launched a new brand identity in November 2012 to capitalize on baby boomers’ adoption of technology and to move away from the “retirement” misnomer in its original name (Retirement Living TV). The relaunch included a “destination for video, linear programming, video-on-demand and online,” said Paul FitzPatrick, president and CEO of RLTV, which has boosted its Web traffic threefold since the effort began.

Its overall new tagline, “Experience Matters,” represents what FitzPatrick calls the network’s six verticals: exploration, finance aid, health and wellness, issues and answers, relationships and transformation. FitzPatrick says the network stepped up its programming investment, introducing shows such as Second Act, which premieres April 17. Second Act follows Extreme Makeover: Home Edition carpenter Paul DiMeo as he helps older people transition into a new career.

“There is clearly a desire to see content and advertising aligned with [baby boomers'] more aspirational, positive, optimistic view of life,” FitzPatrick said.

In fact, Nielsen/BoomAgers demonstrated it in its report: People get happier as they get older. Not only do they want to consume news (which they do in droves), they want entertainment that coincides with how they feel.

“Boomers are saying, ‘If you don’t speak to me and if you don’t deal with me, we’ll go find somebody else,’” Wurtzel said. “An advertiser can’t assume that they are going to be there— they have to follow them.”

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