The Sky Is Not Falling: An Open Letter to the Ad and Marketing Community

All the Data on the 50-plus Market Point to a Real Opportunity for Advertisers

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Jerry Shereshewsky
Jerry Shereshewsky
Magna Global last week announced that the age of the average network-TV viewer has reached the 50-year mark. This has caused no small amount of consternation in the media business and the trade press.

Suzanne Vranica of The Wall Street Journal announced "Pass the Geritol." This is, according to Ms. Vranica, "bad news for the networks."

Don Kaplan of the New York Post called it a "disheartening turn."

Michael Learmonth, writing for the Silicon Alley Insider, said it's "time for the networks to figure out the internet" (presumably because he doesn't know how many 50-plus users there are online).

An unsigned article in Broadcasting & Cable said: "As if the broadcast networks haven't had enough bad news this year."

Michael Schneider of Variety said the audience "wouldn't even be a part of TV's target demo anymore."

This type of sky-is-falling reaction is both sad and foolish. All the data on the 50-plus market point to a real opportunity for marketers, and most certainly not a disaster. It's not even "news"; we have (or should have) known this day was coming with the certainty of the sunrise.

As we all should know, baby boomers represent a monumental force -- culturally, politically and economically. This generation -- more than 75 million strong -- is the single largest identifiable group in the nation (after the "men," "women" and "white" classifications). Born between 1946 and 1964, they (like it or not) get older every day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Shereshewsky is CEO of Grandparents.com.
Today boomers control 70% of the country's wealth, according to a June 2008 McKinsey study, which says they are "the most economically important cohort in modern U.S. history."

Boomers now generate 41% of all U.S. disposable income, according to McKinsey, and will account for more than 50% of all U.S. spending by 2010.

Boomers are online in larger absolute numbers than any other demographic group, according to Pew Center research, which states that 72% of people 50 to 64 are connected.

Boomers will participate in the largest transfer of wealth in world history, to their children and grandchildren -- and they are increasingly doing it while being very much alive. They are significantly richer than their parents and greatly outnumber the two generations following theirs (Gen X and Gen Y).

Boomers, now largely free of their child-rearing obligations, are spending their money on their children, grandchildren and themselves. According to an NPD Group report, boomers "were, before having children, the most frequent users of restaurants. Restaurant usage declined with the advent of [their] children, but older boomers are now returning."

I could cite facts and figures forever, but that's not the point. We are in the midst of profound changes. But we as marketers should be taking advantage of them. That's what smart marketers do. Rather than bemoan this "recent" development, we should all relish the opportunities presented as the largest, richest group of Americans heads into their 50s and 60s.

Smart marketers know how to take advantage of changes in the cultural and demographic landscape. And the smart move now is to take a serious look at one's product offerings and make sure both the products and the messages are right for this critical audience.

With many years of consumer spending ahead of them, these boomers (who are TV watchers, web surfers, newspaper and magazine readers and radio listeners) are a savvy audience waiting to be persuaded. This has been coming for a long while, and those of us who have been watching and waiting are thrilled about what this "news" will mean.
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