Close-Up: Newsmaker - Why Campbell is ready to take on might of Saga

With the launch of tgi50, Robert Campbell believes he can build a challenger brand to fight for the over-50s.

Robert Campbell is 50 this year and has realised there is no really effective way of companies marketing to people his age. He's also sick of working for big ad agencies. However, he doesn't want to launch another of his own - it's too easy, apparently.

But he also believes he has an entrepreneurial spirit that could be put to good use launching his own brand.

So he has teamed up with Toby Constantine, a former marketing director at The Times and The Sunday Times (who was his client at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R in the 90s), to bring all of those things together in one whole, and that whole is called tgi50 - or, for those that can't work it out, thank god I'm 50.

Extremely simply (because it does get much more complicated), the business will aim to allow contemporary brands to interact with the ever-expanding and culturally diverse over-50s market using a range of media.

Sound confusing? It is a little at first. Even the founders admit that they are pretty much making up the business plan as they go along.

It's not technically an agency because it won't be creating ads, but it will be promoting brands to a very targeted set of consumers. Campbell says: "It's more of an exclusive club."

"We will be acting as a conduit, almost like a dating agency, for contemporary brands who usually aim at under-35s, who now want to target the over-50s market, but wouldn't be seen dead in Saga magazine. Whether it's right or not, brands are self-conscious about targeting the over-50s or just plain don't know how to do it."

Campbell and Constantine's idea is backed by a substantial range of data, which will be used to tailor bespoke offers for every member - who will have their own website and a specific profile that they can create themselves. But it isn't social networking - the pair are adamant on that.

Despite not actually having any brands officially signed up yet, the pair see a host of opportunities in areas as diverse as entertainment, dating, divorce, wellbeing, money, music, cars, books, grandparenting and even parenting (Campbell himself has two very young children).

"From our profiling, we'll know exactly what each person is interested in and target them specifically, which means the cross-media opportunities are immense," Campbell says.

Campbell and Constantine are already thinking about putting on a festival-type music event or getting into TV shows and branded content. "The people we're targeting were into music, whether they were punks or glam rockers, and you don't just forget about that."

The bold claim of the founders is to have one million ABC1 members by 2013. However, all their ideas aside, they're not the first people to attempt to reach this market, and there have been a number of efforts that haven't quite made it, such as Andrew Cracknell's Long Trousers.

Cracknell says: "The idea will have to be very clever as the over-50s are very conscious of being advertised to - remember this age group grew up through the first marketing blitz from the 60s."

Because of this, a big part of tgi50's offer will be PR and events, and the first will be a soft launch of the business, timed for Madonna's 50th birthday on 16 August.

Initially the business will only aim at the early 50s and Campbell looks very pleased with himself when he reveals his newly coined definition - the "justfifty".

The rationale behind this is that they will be the ones most eager to take up the service and, as they grow older, tgi50 can continue to tailor its offers to meet their demands (while continuing to attract new members) and, therefore, see the company grow organically with its customers as they get older.

"Recruitment and retention will be vital and will make up a huge part of our team. Once people are signed up we'll build a deep connection that continues as they grow older. A 52-year-old has nothing in common with a 65-year-old," Campbell says.

However, Cracknell disagrees with this and offers a few words of warning to the fledging business, saying that only targeting a small section of the market is a mistake.

He says: "I'd beware of further age segmentation - it's patronising to those in the range and rude to those not. You also have to beware of grooviness - it cuts less and less ice the older you get.

"Believe it or not, but some of us view Madonna as comical."

Despite the warning, a main premise of the agency is to be much more energetic and, dare it be said, groovier, than anything else out there - mainly Saga, the grey market behemoth. A company that tgi50 will viciously target.

"We're a challenger brand, not just of the company, but of perceptions of the market," Campbell says. "Saga is a retirement brand: it's about old age and death. We're a celebration brand: it's about enjoying your life now. It's a new generation of people who probably won't retire - they have to live their life in parallel with their working lives."

However, Martin Smith, the managing director at Millennium, a Yorkshire-based agency that specialises in the over-50 market, says: "It is true that Saga doesn't appeal to people just tipping into their fifties, but it's still a strong brand and will still offer strong competition. Its revenues are more than half a billion pounds a year."

And so to tgi50's money. With three months until launch, Campbell and Constantine are touting the concept around town to venture capital groups for funding.

Campbell says: "They all want to know what will happen in five years, though, which is quite difficult because there is no precedent for conversion rates. No-one has said 'no' yet, though - even if they think we're bonkers."

They're now hoping that clients, who they admit they haven't really started talking to yet, will feel the same way.

Despite this, they're extremely confident in their idea and in their long-running partnership - something that has been described as volatile by both parties.

"We started working together in 1995 and have almost come to blows on numerous occasions, but we're both intent on making this work," Campbell says.

"Advertising is an experience not to be missed, but not something to do for the rest of your life. Toby and I have seen people like Richard Branson build brands and I want to do it for ourselves."

TEN FACTS ABOUT THE GREY MARKET

- There are 20 million over-50s in the UK. This will grow by 75 per cent in the next 40 years. The under-50s will grow by just 1 per cent.

- Two-thirds of all people who have ever been 65 in the history of the world are alive today.

- The over-50s control 80 per cent of Britain's wealth and 40 per cent of consumer spending worth £145 billion a year.

- Four out of ten marketing directors are under 35. Only one in ten is over the age of 50.

- The 2002 UK census showed there are more over-60s than there are children under 16.

- A survey of one million consumers aged over 50 found they believe that 86 per cent of advertising is of little or no relevance to them.

- While the population grows older, the reverse is true of advertising. Almost half the agency workforce is under 30 and little more than 5 per cent are over 50.

- "Silver surfers" now make up more than one quarter of UK web users.

- In Europe, the over-50s account for 45 per cent of all new car sales and 50 per cent of skincare product sales.

- Within a few years, half of Europe will be over 65, while an American turns 50 every seven seconds.

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