Brands are ignoring or irritating a vast swathe of the UK population by failing to target over-50s effectively, which is a massive missed opportunity given they have far greater spending power than younger consumers.
Type ‘50-year-old’ into a search engine and you’ll be inundated with images of people with greying hair and wrinkles looking pensive or smiling inanely, many of whom are actually far older than half a century.
Madonna, Mary Berry, George Clooney and Gary Lineker are all over the age of 50, and apart from the fact there is no beige cardigan or walking stick in sight, they couldn’t be more different from one another.
Yet when advertisers target over-50s, not only do they treat them as one homogeneous greying group, they also portray them as Werther’s Originals-wielding grandads or someone in dire need a funeral plan, not someone with their own life, hobbies and interests. Or worse still they ignore them all together, as is the case at some fashion brands contacted for this feature, who do so on the assumption that by targeting over-50s (who, by the way, are already their customers), they will somehow devalue the brand and make it less appealing to their target audience of 35 to 45s.
But these brands are missing out on a wealth of opportunity. There are more than 23 million people aged over 50 in the UK, according to the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics. That’s more than a third of the population. And it’s the third with the highest level of disposable income.
People aged over 75 buy five times as many cars as those aged 18 to 24, as Ad Contrarian blogger and former ad man Bob Hoffman has pointed out, yet do you ever see a 75-year-old featured in a car ad?
“We’ve got an ageing population in this country where most of the economic power resides, and most people are healthier, more active, more alive in their skins than people our age might have been in generations gone by,” says RBS CMO David Wheldon. “That strikes me as a majorly untapped market who aren’t being communicated to as effectively as they should be.”
Wheldon himself feels increasingly angry that advertisers focus entirely on his age when targeting him. He says he uses Instagram often, which should be a clear indication of what he is personally interested in. “Yet as I scan down the advertising that’s currently being served up, there’s not a single thing that’s relevant to me,” he explains. “I may be of an age type but most of the targeting I actually see is to do with that and nothing else.”
As well as being a waste of money for the advertiser, bombarding consumers with irrelevant marketing could have long-term implications for brands and destroy any chance of a future relationship. Wheldon says: “They have no idea their [poor targeting] is actually causing me to dislike their brand, because I don’t yet need a walk-in bath. If I’d had a major hip operation and they could see my medical data and served me an ad then maybe, but there’s nothing I have done digitally, other than be the age I am, that made them decide to serve that.”
Wheldon’s thoughts are reflected in a study by Gransnet and Mumsnet, which shows 78% of those aged 50 or over feel under-represented or misrepresented by advertising, with 49% saying they actively avoid brands who ignore them. Plus 69% suggest they would be more receptive to brands if their advertising represented over-50s more accurately.
To better understand the market, insurance firm Sunlife undertook a study of 50,000 people over 50, which revealed that far from winding down and resigning themselves to a life of daytime TV watching, this group are picking up new hobbies, setting up cottage industries, travelling and seeking out new experiences.
This was brought to life in Sunlife’s 2017 campaign ‘Welcome to Life After 50’, which challenged stereotypes by showcasing the different behaviour, attitudes and activities enjoyed by those past the half century mark. The campaign, which won Marketing Week’s Masters Award for financial services in 2017, helped increase brand consideration by 8%.
“We want everyone in the UK to look forward to being over 50 because actually people who are in their 50s, 60s, 70s are very often enjoying the best years of their life. But people under 50 are told they should dread it because it’s a decline,” says Ian Atkinson, marketing director at Sunlife.
While Sunlife describes itself as an over-50s financial services company, Atkinson is clear this is just shorthand for letting people know what it offers rather than being a one-size-fits-all brand for the over-50s. That means it will target someone in there 50s in a different way to someone in their 80s. “We do psychographic and behavioural segmentation, something that’s absolutely vital if you want to understand your customer,” he explains. “We have customers who are taking out equity release, customers who are taking out an ISA and customers who are taking out a funeral plan – they are all completely different products, so we have segments for each of those propositions.”
Given over-50s have far greater spending power than younger consumers – they hold 75% of the UK’s housing wealth, for example – the rewards for brands that get it right are huge.
Atkinson says: “If people find a brand that isn’t patronising and has made an effort to understand them and be authentic, they will respond very positively to that, which is very good for brands commercially as well.”
He adds: “[Over 50] is a massive group, but they have historically been neglected. Our research shows that in all sectors they feel under-represented and ignored by brands, so they’d be very happy to see any brand that does make an effort to understand them and represent them more effectively.”
Age is a blunt instrument for targeting
While some brands are drilling down further into the over-50s market and better defining different consumer types within this sector, others are choosing to move away from age altogether.
Microsoft, for example, chooses to target by use and adoption of technology instead, from technology natives and early adopters all the way through to tech avoiders and those who struggle to see how technology could benefit their lives.
“We don’t target by age because we feel it’s a very blunt instrument for targeting,” explains Paul Davies, Microsoft’s consumer marketing director. “We also believe that age doesn’t define us as much as it perhaps did in the past. That’s partly driven by technology because tech doesn’t discriminate by age, tech platforms are open to all.
“We see some very tech-savvy 50- and 60-somethings being more active on Facebook than perhaps a busy millennial who is juggling the demands of a busy career and an expanding family life. And because of that we think age as a targeting tool has become a bit outdated.”
Davies says moving beyond age will enable brands to understand consumers on a deeper level, which will deliver better ROI. “Brand owners can maximise their efficiency by interrogating their audience much more deeply, beyond just age alone, by understanding attitudes towards their brand, their usage of the brand, and how familiar they are with the category in question.”
By not doing so, brands risk becoming homogeneous and less relevant to anybody. “A brand might be known and appreciated by many, but it will be truly loved by very few,” he warns.
Likewise, BT looks beyond age alone when targeting older consumers. Nearly half (44%) of its core audience is aged above 55, so David Stratton, general manager of marketing for BT’s consumer division, says it’s important this group is “strongly reflected” in its advertising, particularly as older, more affluent consumers tend to have the disposal income to spend on a premium provider like BT.
“With an ageing audience and the new gradient of how wealth, and property in particular, is allocated in the UK, these groups have more time and spending power than older equivalent generations did. And that manifests as behaviour,” he says.
“We’ve got more specific activities and behaviours to be able to target on for this group than we did in the past and [the data available is] growing fast. So rather than targeting purely on age ranges there’s far more opportunity to target on how [these consumers] act.” BT has used this approach for its Complete Wifi product, targeting and serving creative based on the type of online activity it identifies in audiences.
“We’re targeting those more interested in entertainment, music, movies or games while remaining age-agnostic,” he says. “Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne would be grouped together looking at traditional socio-demographics – both males born in England in 1948, have children, remarried and wealthy. Yet lifestyle, beliefs and behaviours clearly differentiate them and provide a more nuanced and accurate view of both as individuals.”
According to Forbes, Americans over 50 account for $7.6 trillion in direct spending and related economic activity annually and control more than 80% of household wealth.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch notes that the global spending power of those over 60 will reach $15 trillion annually by 2020. That’s a lot of green in that grey market. Boomer spending spans many product categories. Health is an obvious area but, in addition to pharmaceuticals, it also includes biotechnology, devices and services.
Forbes notes that “when it comes to housing, transportation, entertainment, food and alcohol, older people already have their checkbooks out. Americans 60-plus are expected to account for at least 40% of consumption growth in those areas between 2015 and 2030.”
And let’s not forget finance and automotive, where older Americans have the money and the interest to spend heavily.
Boomers are hardly technophobes, having lived through a period of great technological advancements from the advent of mobile phones (the size of shoeboxes) to viewers’ choice (with remotes, cable TV and VCRs). The embracing of new technology continues. Today, “the greatest consumer group for Apple products is men over the age of 65,” noted David Harry Stewart, Founder, AGEIST.
But in a lacerating speech on Friday, Madonna — the highest-grossing female touring artist of all time, who in March wrapped up a tour that took in $170 million — resisted the notion that all was well and fair for women entertainers, particularly as they get older.
Accepting a Woman of the Year award at the Billboard Women in Music 2016 event, the 58-year-old musician brought a hush over the crowd as she spoke in deeply personal terms.
I HIRED a candidate with 30 yrs experience. You wouldn't believe the opposition I got!
The HR Manager said he is "too old" and won’t 'fit into our culture.' She was not impressed. This guy had been laid off by his previous employer due to restructuring at the age of 53 years. He kept applying for jobs but was rejected for being 'Overqualified' which led to his 'Employment Gap' reaching almost 1 year.
Everyone is looking for that 18 year old with 20 years experience. This guy brought an abundance of experience and taught me a lot that I never learned from all my years in the industry. You can’t Google Experience!
Employers if you want the best talent, you need to be considering the 'OVERQUALIFIED' candidates. The truth is 'Overqualified' is really the code word for age discrimination. AGEISM in the workplace is very real and sadly quite acceptable. Our society needs to change. All that should matter is if the candidate has the right skills and attitude to do the job. It’s time to STOP discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age.
Shannon Liss-Riordan on Monday filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan on behalf of three former IBM employees who say the tech giant discriminated against them based on their age when it fired them. Liss-Riordan, a partner at Lichten & Liss-Riordan in Boston, has represented workers against Amazon, Uber and Google and has styled her firm as the premier champion for employees left behind by powerful tech companies.
“Over the last several years, IBM has been in the process of systematically laying off older employees in order to build a younger workforce,” the former employees claim in the suit, which draws heavily on a ProPublica report published in March that said the company has fired more than 20,000 employees older than 40 in the last six years.
The lawsuit comes as IBM faces questions about its firing practices. In exhaustive detail, the ProPublica report made the case that IBM systematically broke age-discrimination rules. Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has consolidated complaints against IBM into a single, targeted investigation, according to a person familiar with it. A spokeswoman for the EEOC declined to comment.
As an award-winning investigative reporter for CBS4, Michele Gillen used to shine a spotlight on misconduct in South Florida.
Now, after she was let go two years ago, Gillen has sued her former employer and accused ex-colleagues of age and gender discrimination along with bullying and harassment.
Gillen, 63, who joined WFOR-TV as a news reporter in 1997 after working for another CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, says in a lawsuit that the culture of the newsroom was “toxic” toward women.
Her suit, filed Friday in Miami federal court, says it was “CBS’ practice that news beats and projects developed by Ms. Gillen were ignored or taken from her to be worked on by younger reporters or male reporters, while she, in turn, was assigned less desirable projects and was given little to no support in producing the assigned projects.”
More than a third of adults over 45 are lonely, according to a new report from the AARP Foundation. While that percentage (35%) remains unchanged from a 2010 version of the survey, the over-45 population has increased substantially during those eight years — meaning about 5 million more adults, almost 48 million in total, can now be considered lonely.
The number of households in the United States grew by 1.4 million between 2017 and 2018, according to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. Household growth appears to be back on track after anemic growth between 2016 and 2017.
Since 2010, the nation's households have expanded by 10 million, rising from 118 million to 128 million. But only one age group accounts for most of the increase. The number of householders aged 65 to 74 grew by an enormous 44 percent between 2010 and 2018, accounting for 58 percent of total household growth during those years..
Households by age of householder (and % change, 2010-18)
Total households: 127,586,000 (+8.5%)
Under age 25: 6,211,000 (-0.4%)
Aged 25 to 34: 20,264,000 (+5.2%)
Aged 35 to 44: 21,576,000 (+0.3%)
Aged 45 to 54: 22,542,000 (-9.4%)
Aged 55 to 64: 24,020,000 (+17.8%)
Aged 65 to 74: 19,006,000 (+44.4%)
Aged 75-plus: 13,967,000 (+15.4%)
Consumers 65+ are a force to be reckoned with:
Average household spending, 2017 (and % change since 2006; in 2017 dollars)
In recognition that good work is not the province of youth, this year Advertising Age is debuting its first 7-over-70 list. Our honorees not only have great accomplishments in their past, they're still deeply engaged in their work, proving that age really is just a number.
Hector and Norma Orcí
For the entire article and to read all the bios, click on the picture
I was lucky enough to work directly with one (David), meet another (Billet) and make the acquaintance of one of the most influential Hispanic professionals (the Orcis). Here are their bios.
David Bell, Senior adviser, Dentsu Aegis Network
David Bell is an Advertising Hall of Famer with a resume littered with accomplishments. For starters, he led two holding companies, first as CEO of True North and then as CEO of Interpublic Group of Companies in 2001 after it acquired True North. He helped create b-to-b agency Gyro. He advised AOL and Google. He was once chairman of several industry groups, including the American Association of Advertising Agencies, now known as the 4A's.
But slowing down is not in Bell's blood. "I try to go where the heat is," he says. Today, Bell is a senior adviser to Dentsu Aegis Network, visiting the holding company's offices multiple times a month. He's also a senior adviser to several startups. "I love being part of the lives of young people that are making a difference in an industry that I love," he says.
Nick Brien, CEO of the Americas at Dentsu Aegis Network, says that Bell, who declined to give his actual age, is one of a kind. "I've never met a person with the wisdom of a 70-year-old, the energy of a 50-year-old and the curiosity of a 20-year-old," he says. "I want to grow up to be just like David Bell." —E.J. Schultz
John Billet, Non-executive director, ID Comms
Known as an inventor of media auditing, John Billett, 74, says bringing the practice to the U.S. is one of his most memorable achievements. A native of Exeter, England, Billett has had a long history in the media agency industry, from his start in Unilever's media department to the founding of the media-auditing business Billetts International, which he eventually sold (and was rebranded as Ebiquity).
Billett, who says he has "banished the word retirement," from his vocabulary, is non-executive director of the media consultancy ID Comms, which ran major media reviews this year for HSBC and LVMH and recently opened an office in New York. He and his wife, Glynis Billett, also run the music management company JBGB Events, which manages and presents live jazz and classical performances.
Reflecting on his career, he mentions the song "I'm Still Here" from Stephen Sondheim's musical "Follies." "'I'm still here' is the best thing I can say about my life at the moment," he says. "I'm still doing something, I'm still making a difference, I'm still having a ball." —Megan Graham
Hector And Norma Orcí, Chairman, Orcí, Vice chairwoman, Orcí
Hector and Norma Orcí have been working together since McCann-Erickson recruited them in 1982 to open a Hispanic agency in Los Angeles. Even then, the Mexican immigrants, who had been married 18 years, were seasoned executives: He got his start at Procter & Gamble and went on to run DDB in Mexico. She was a copywriter at a Mexican agency and before that an anchor at a Mexican radio station.
In 1986, the couple negotiated a spinoff from McCann, forming what is now known as Orcí. Norma oversaw creative and Hector led accounts. "I was a creative that liked account executives—a very rare person," she jokes. "And Hector was a guy who got along with creatives, so it was an easy fit."
Orcí put itself on the map early by winning an assignment from the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service to promote an immigration reform law signed by President Reagan. Today, clients include Honda and Dole. Hector, 76, and Norma, 74, handed the agency reins to their son, Andrew, in 2011 but are still active in the company. "We are involved more than in charge," says Norma. —E.S.
Almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60.
By 2050, 2 billion people, over 20 per cent of the world’s population, will be 60 or older. The increase in the number of older people will be the greatest and the most rapid in the developing world, with Asia as the region with the largest number of older persons, and Africa facing the largest proportionate growth.
With this in mind, enhanced attention to the particular needs and challenges faced by many older people is clearly required. Just as important, however, is the essential contribution the majority of older men and women can continue to make to the functioning of society if adequate guarantees are in place. Human rights lie at the core of all efforts in this regard.
Living up to the Secretary-General’s guiding principle of “Leaving No-One Behind” necessitates the understanding that demography matters for sustainable development and that population dynamics will shape the key developmental challenges that the world in confronting in the 21st century. If our ambition is to “Build the Future We Want”, we must address the population over 60 which is expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030.
The 2018 theme aims to:
Promote the rights enshrined in the Declaration and what it means in the daily lives of older persons;
Raise the visibility of older people as participating members of society committed to improving the enjoyment of human rights in many areas of life and not just those that affect them immediately;
Reflect on progress and challenges in ensuring full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by older persons; and
Engage broad audiences across the world and mobilize people for human rights at all stages of life.
Mr. Ochisor was one of six professional drivers to commit suicide in New York in the last year — a crisis that has prompted a flurry of legislation to address the despair plaguing the industry. Most were men in their 50s and 60s anguished about their finances and feeling hopeless about being able to retire.
Suit contends dismissal was part of a pattern of 'systematically eliminating older employees.
Hernandez’s lawyer claims Landor exhibited “the same ageism that is standard in the industry,” citing several publications’ reports on the allegedly widespread nature of ageism in advertising, including a 2016 AgencySpy story, a Digiday story from the same year, a Forbes story asking if “ageism” is the ugliest “ism” in the industry and a recent Wall Street Journal story about AARP enlisting former advertising executive Cindy Gallop to take on ageism.
Laura Bensman has worked in the advertising industry for more than three decades, but in all those years she has only attended one retirement party. There's a reason for that: In advertising, and at agencies in particular, it's rare employees ever reach retirement age. They're often squeezed out long before.
If you are in marketing, advertising or any of the creative industries: what's your story? Share!
Credit: Illustration by Franziska Barczyk -- if you want to read the whole article, click the picture
Like all pioneer settlements, Margaritaville is not just a place but an idea — an imagined utopia, in this case inspired by a Jimmy Buffett song’s reference to a frozen cocktail.
To be sure, Margaritaville is not representative of how most of us will spend our retirement years. Fewer than 14 percent of Americans 75 and older occupy some form of senior housing today. Three-quarters of those over 50 say they would prefer not to move at all.
And untold numbers of seniors who might need or want to enter an age-restricted or assisted-living community won’t be able to afford to do so; 30 percent of those 65 and older have an annual income below $23,000, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The least-expensive homes in Margaritaville are more than 10 times that, before the monthly association fee of roughly $200 — and those sums don’t include meals or care. (For statewide comparison, a private room in a skilled-nursing facility has a median cost of $9,000 per month, and in an assisted-living residence, $3,500 per month, according to LeadingAge Florida, an association of elder-care organizations.
Continuing-care communities that guarantee all levels of lifetime care on-site have charges that range from $2,500 to $5,400 per month, plus substantial entry fees.)
Starbucks has opened a new café staffed entirely by senior citizens in Mexico City, teaming up with the National Institute for the Elderly (INAPAM) to promote a programme of labour inclusion. To accommodate the special needs of its older employees, Starbucks adapted its outlets, making sure branches are one floor, and lowering the shelves. The senior staff enjoy additional benefits to those provided to younger employees, such as two days off, a working day of 6.5 hours, and health insurance that covers their medical needs.
“According to 2017 data from the INEGI, Mexico is home to 12 million senior citizens, which represents 10.5% of the national population. Companies are starting to see the benefits of targeting seniors with employment opportunities and services that will help them get the financial or emotional support they need. Singapore’s National Library Board, for example, is to launch a suite of digital readiness services targeted at adults and seniors. While Chinese online shopping platform Taobao has posted a job vacancy online to recruit over-60s influencers, who will be responsible for assessing new products aimed at middle-aged and senior consumers.”
He sold his company for $1.4 billion. Now this Miami legend is starting over again. Read Manny Medina's story and see how age, yes, it's an important number, but grit wins every time.
The resumé of one of the city’s most storied entrepreneurs reads like a history of the city’s last 40 years: boom, bust and reemergence. Immigrant. Accountant. Real estate tycoon. Failure. Billion-dollar success. Tech cheerleader. Startup entrepreneur.
And though he’s in his seventh decade, Medina is no more finished reinventing himself than the city itself.
In May 2017, Medina created Cyxtera, a Coral Gables firm whose mission is to help companies better protect their data, whether it sits in a server or in the cloud. It has already grown to more than 1,300 employees spread across the globe, with more than 100 located in Miami.
Americans 55 and older are the fastest-growing group of electronic wearable users in the US, according to eMarketer’s latest wearables forecast, largely due to the devices’ enhanced health features. In 2019, 8.2 million Americans age 55 and older will use a wearable device, up more than 15% over this year. While the group still represents a small share of users, it has the highest growth rate among all age groups. In fact, eMarketer has increased its projections for older Americans due to faster-than-expected adoption of wearable devices.