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.