Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 2 » Images of Aging - Geezer Bashing, Invisible Elders, "old Warhorses" In U.s. Newsrooms, Advertising Rates Trump Ratings

Images of Aging - Advertisers' Misconceptions

age advertising spending lee industry

Maynard echoes another common misconceptions about older consumers: "While older people have the most money and spend a lot of it, mass media advertising influences them the least." This assertion is coming under increasing fire from others in advertising and marketing. Maynard goes on, "A number of high-end or specialty magazines cater to their tastes. The young women who control the family purse are the biggest target for the mass media, so advertisers pay a premium to get their attention." This convention of the advertising industry was criticized by Richard A. Lee. According to his 1995 study, "Advertising industry denial of changes in family structure that make per capita spending more important than household spending is a major contributor to ageism in advertising."

Lee describes the advertising industry's adherence to household spending "as a fixation on life as it was with the Cleavers," where mom buys all of the food and kids' clothes and dad buys the family car. He suggests that they would be better served by focusing on per capita spending, which the field's own data shows is more lucrative. He dismisses the "Leave it to Beaver" model of marketing to households as the primary consumer unit, calling this approach "a useful myth." He explains, "If the industry starts shifting toward per capita spending as the measure of consumer potential, [it] will be obligated to shift away from media advertising where economies of scale are based on the presence of household buying units."

Lee's research, conducted in cooperation with the Association of Advertising Agencies International, included 206 employees at thirty-eight advertising agencies in distinct markets across the United States. The study found that those surveyed generally ignore older audiences, even though one of their most commonly available sources of economic and demographic data, the Official Guide to Household Spending shows that "per capita consumer spending peaks in the 55 to 64 age range, and 65 to 74 year olds outspend 35 to 44 year olds." Lee found, however, that 80 percent of ad agency staff who completed the survey overestimated the number of consumers over age fifty; "75 percent underestimated the discretionary spending power" of older consumers, and 85 percent fell short in guessing the personal net worth of aging Americans.

According to Lee, advertising-agency professionals erroneously visualize mature audiences as "A lot of poor people with little consumer potential." Moreover, 54 percent of respondents agreed with false statements that "seniors buy price" or are mainly cost conscious, and "seniors don't switch brands."

Careful not to point blame at young ad executives, Lee criticizes industry leaders for unfounded notions revealed in statements such as: "We need to hire some young punks with attitude," and "the only thing that sells in America are youth, sex, and protection against aging."

Increasingly, the view that older consumers are under-appreciated is gaining support in the advertising and marketing industries. An article by the American Advertising Federation titled "Senior Spending" notes that, "while Generation Y is appealing to marketers, focusing on the senior population, an oft-forgotten group, also can be highly profitable." This article cites findings of a 1999 survey of six hundred people aged five and older conducted by Research 100 of Princeton, N.J. This proprietary study found that seniors are "neither frugal nor set in their ways" and spend "more time considering new brands and products than other age groups." Further, according to the article, Zona Research, Inc. "reports that seniors fifty-five and older spent three times as much on Internet purchases during the 1998 holiday season than the average holiday shopper." The article concludes that "To capitalize on this senior market, advertisers need to shed their misconceptions and age biases. . . .This exploding market can be of great benefit to advertisers, if only they take the initiative and target them." Brad Edmondson, former editor of American Demographics, emphasizes that ". . .The boomers are not the only market in America.. . .In particular, our data also show that generations older than the baby boom are gaining consumer power, so that robust spending on some products may be emerging among householders in their 70s and 80s."

Images of Aging - Hopeful Signs [next] [back] Images of Aging - Advertising Rates Trump Ratings

User Comments

The following comments are not guaranteed to be that of a trained medical professional. Please consult your physician for advice.

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or