Ad Agency With Focus on Over-50s Opens in U.K.

As Madonna, Prince Hit Decade Six, TGI50 Aims to Celebrate Midlifers

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- This year Madonna, Prince, Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer, Gary Oldman, Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Burton all turn 50, and U.K. adman Robert Campbell hopes those landmark birthdays will help force marketers -- and society as a whole -- to redefine attitudes toward this age group.
Robert Campbell
Robert Campbell

Mr. Campbell, an entrepreneur and advertising creative by background who co-founded London agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe in 1993, is opening TGI50 on Aug. 16, the date of Madonna's 50th birthday.

TGI50 has ambitious plans to create an "elastic" brand with a "clubby" feel that will connect directly with over-50s via the web as well as through TV content, an annual rock festival, dating and employment agencies, and even a chain of hotels.

"Fifty is the most significant birthday," said Mr. Campbell, who, not coincidentally, turns that age this year. After an earn-out following the sale of Rainey Kelly to WPP Group in 1999, he became vice chairman of Y&R Europe, Middle East and Africa and then VP at McCann Erickson for the same region. Backed by venture capital, he is setting up TGI50 with Toby Constantine, who is a mere 44 and a former marketing director at Rupert Murdoch's Times Newspapers and a mobile-marketing pioneer. The business plan calls for revenue to come from pay-per-click web content and shared revenue on sales. No clients have signed on yet.

Septuagenarians need not apply
TGI50 is not interested in baby boomers, the affluent, high-achieving group that's starting to turn 60. Mr. Campbell said TGI50 will be pitched permanently at people in their 50s and adapt as each batch of 50-somethings emerges.

"It's for the '50-just' rather than '50-plus.' We will focus on the entertaining and brilliant things about life. We will be a vibrant and eternally youthful organization," he said.

Over-50s already control 80% of the wealth and 60% of savings and investments in the U.K., according to the Henley Centre, a WPP-owned forecasting unit. By 2020, more than 50% adults in the U.K. will be 50 or older, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Fiona Hought, managing director of Millennium, a U.K. ad agency that targets over-50s, said, "This is not a niche audience anymore, but they are not being catered to. Our survey shows that 86% of over-50s don't relate to the advertising they see."

TGI50 is talking to potential partners including credit cards, clothing retailers, travel operators and financial-services marketers about creating direct relationships between brands and affluent 50-plus consumers.

'Too valuable to ignore'
"Some of these brands are more used to talking to 30-year-olds and don't want to court older consumers out in the open," Mr. Campbell said. "But this age group is too valuable to ignore."

TGI50 sees itself as a challenger brand, far removed from the powerful AARP group in the U.S. or its U.K. equivalent, Saga. "The AARP is aimed at our parents' perception of 50-year-olds," Mr. Campbell said. "Our central purpose is celebration, not commiseration."

"On average, over-50s think of themselves as 15 years younger than their actual age, so 50 is the new 35. They hate being stereotyped, and they hate being patronized," Ms. Hought said.

However, TGI50 will follow AARP and Saga's lead in creating its own financial-services brand, a lucrative category for this market -- 85% of Saga's profits come from its financial-services business.

Market-research group CACI identifies over-55s as likely to be the most resilient age group in the economic downturn. They are more likely to be mortgage- and debt-free and have savings. Over-55s are 1.5 times more likely than the average household to have incomes of more than $200,000. They have money to spend on discretionary items, such as clothing, books and CDs, irrespective of a downturn.

TGI50 is not about social networking. "The problem with social networks, as people are discovering, is that they are pointless," Mr. Campbell said. "We will have a point: to connect people and brands."
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