MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; Advertisers can’t afford to ignore us oldies any longer

You’d hardly call it a Road to Damascus-type conversion, but I recently changed my brand of toothpaste (to Colgate, actually). To be honest, I wouldn’t like to analyse why (take your pick from teeth falling out, mid-life crisis and so on) but it could also have been something to do with the advertising. Before, for more years than I care to remember, it was Macleans for me.

You’d hardly call it a Road to Damascus-type conversion, but I recently

changed my brand of toothpaste (to Colgate, actually). To be honest, I

wouldn’t like to analyse why (take your pick from teeth falling out,

mid-life crisis and so on) but it could also have been something to do

with the advertising. Before, for more years than I care to remember, it

was Macleans for me.



So what? Everything really, because I am now getting to the point where,

as conventional advertising and marketing wisdom would have it, my

propensity to change my consumption patterns could be said to be so low

that, for some advertisers, it wouldn’t be worth bothering with me.

Applying this theory to the sharp end of media buying might therefore

lead one to conclude that there is no point in putting a toothpaste ad

into the kind of programmes I might watch.



This is a curious state of affairs. But, after having been on the

receiving end of more ‘why does advertising ignore the older consumer’

rants than I care to remember from my mum and her ilk - not to mention

soulful pleas for more coverage from the likes of Saga - I am beginning

to wonder myself.



As a nation, we are obsessed with youth, and you can see it everywhere

in the media, which is ruled by a collective quest to find the new. This

in turn leads through to media-placement values for advertisers and

causes us to dismiss any new medium aimed at anybody over the age of 35.

But is it the media leading public opinion or vice versa?



More pertinently, perhaps, as a sorrowful punter complained in Campaign

earlier this month (5 April), we should ask ourselves whether the youth-

venerating culture and employment patterns of agencies - once you’re 40

you’re dead, so to speak - contribute in any way to this line of

thinking. I would suggest that they do.



Demographically, this seems like a dangerous, not to say wrong-headed,

line to pursue. As a nation, we are getting older and, given current

birth rates, this shows no sign of changing. Yet advertisers persist in

aiming their messages at the 15- to 34-year-old age group, while more or

less ignoring everybody else.



This is bad news, both for those in that age group, who are going to be

overwhelmed by the sheer volume of advertising aimed at them, and for

the advertisers themselves, who are going to find it much more difficult

to stand out from the crowd. Nor, for two reasons, does it make much

sense for media owners to focus excessively on such narrow, age-defined

strategies. First, there won’t be enough room; and second, how do you

keep readers/viewers when they outgrow the medium?



This is not to say that the Face should target advertisers like Stannah

stairlifts or MTV chase business from denture manufacturers. This is

merely a plea for a little more considered thought from all concerned

and a little less sheep-like behaviour from agencies.



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