Do advertisers get targeting the over-50s right?

By Staff, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 28 July 2011 12:01AM

The 50-plus age group is a growing and lucrative market but needs to be respected and understood, two experts say.

Tim Willis and Ian Maynard

Tim Willis and Ian Maynard

TIM WILLIS - EDITOR, HIGH50.COM

- Who is your target audience and how would you describe them?

Our sweet spot would be the "50-justs" - people born in the late 50s and early 60s who, far from feeling washed-up, haven't had it so good since their teens. Their mortgages are paid off, their kids have grown up, they're doing well in their careers - or are about to start new ones as "olderpreneurs" - and, for the first time since marriage, they have some "me time" and can indulge themselves. Remember, the over-50s in the UK represent a third of the population with 80 per cent of the disposable income. By 2030, they'll be half the population, and have no intention of being ignored by employers, customers or retailers.

- Is the over-50s market evolving and, if so, how?

Every day at high50, we get partnership offers from tour operators and hotels that specialise in tailor-made experiences for our target readership. Most young people can't afford to shop in Harvey Nichols, so who do you think is buying all the McQueen and Westwood? Add in home entertainment systems, cars, watches etc - the high-end would collapse if it weren't for the over-50s market.

- Are advertisers getting it right when targeting this audience?

Not particularly. They seem to serve "da yoof" quite well, and they have the incontinence pad and stairlift market sewn up. But, surely, advertising is about aspiration? I'm no more interested in elastic-waisted trousers than I am in alcopops. Also, I think the women in our age range find the advertising especially insulting and irrelevant. Dr Jean-Louis Sebagh, the famous cosmetic surgeon, always says his clients should want to look good for their age, not younger. Advertisers have been slow to understand that my contemporaries are happy with who they are, and are looking forward to the next two or three decades.

- Is conventional advertising the right medium to reach this audience?

Yes, but perhaps the assumptions behind conventional advertising need to be examined more. My peers can spot flannel a mile off. They're not impressionable teenagers. But if you can demonstrate the value or quality of a product, you can get their attention.

- Are you getting ahead of your audience by pursuing the digital route, or are they tech-savvy too?

Hardly. The computer market would be in serious trouble without them. Who else can afford the Kindles and MacBooks? Everyone knows the 50-justs comprise the fastest-growing sector of people joining Facebook, but they sometimes forget that the same people invented the technology on which it operates. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are both 56. Need I say more?

- What do you have in common with your audience?

I'm 53 and not crippled by a mortgage. My daughter is 21 and supports herself. I've been to two Bryan Ferry concerts this year and went to the theatre last week. I like skinny jeans by the Japanese brand Naked & Famous. I eat out regularly and walk half-an-hour a day to stay fit. I've had one career in the print media and now enjoy working in the digital arena. I'm excited by all the stuff I'm learning - not just about technology, but about the new marketing and media paradigms. I'm glad to have a lot of life experiences under my belt, and I'm looking forward to many more. And I've learned to love gardening.

IAN MAYNARD - MEDIA DIRECTOR, RAPP MEDIA

- Who is your target audience and how would you describe them?

The over-50s market is less homogenous than it has ever been, with clearly defined segments evident. One of the more interesting is the post-war baby-boomers who hit 65 this year. They will retire, have paid off their mortgages via high inflation in the 70s and have not had to pay for their kids to attend university. Also, attitudinally, a 65-year-old who was a teenager in the 60s is very different from a 75-year-old. It's an incredibly varied market that presents massive opportunities for those who really understand it.

- Is the over-50s market evolving and, if so, how?

Absolutely. A chunk of the over-50s market is increasingly tech-savvy. They are keen to research products and services online and are as likely as the population as a whole to buy CDs, clothing, and do their banking online and bargain shop on eBay. They are also thriving in social media - the over-50s have accounted for more new visitors to Facebook than the under-50s in the past two years.

- Are advertisers getting it right when targeting this audience?

Some 45 per cent of UK ad agency staff are under 30, with a staggering 82 per cent being under 40. So, you can understand why it's sometimes tricky to get the messaging right. In a recent study, half of the over-50s consulted said that advertising aimed at them was patronising and stereotypical, and 41 per cent think most advertising isn't relevant to them. Clearly, not all advertisers are getting it right. This is where a heritage in data and insight really helps, giving us a real-time perspective into a rapidly evolving consumer segment.

- Is conventional advertising the right medium to reach this audience?

It's not just a question of whether conventional advertising is right or wrong, it's more about how it is used in conjunction with newer forms of communication. More than 40 per cent of over-50s are active in social media and, as mentioned earlier, they also spend time researching products online. Our experience shows that, when harnessed properly, digital communications can be very effective when used in conjunction with traditional media.

- Are you getting ahead of your audience by pursuing the digital route, or are they tech-savvy too?

Obviously, we spend lots of time with our clients making sure their investment in digital is where it needs to be. We also have the benefit of having a blend of creatives, media and data planners focused on digital under one roof - a powerful combination, especially in the digital space. But we cannot underestimate the rate at which this audience is adopting new technology. Twitter, for example, saw a 65 per cent increase in the number of 50- to 64-year-old men visiting the site in May alone.

- What do you have in common with your audience?

I'd say that we have a common understanding of their feelings and behaviour because we place a huge emphasis on drawing out as much insight as possible to inform our decisions. There is plenty of data available out there, but it's how you use it that counts. The opportunity for advertisers marketing to this segment is massive, but it's essential to understand their evolution and influence.

Don't assume anything.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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