Maybe Peter Pan Should Move To Madison Avenue
And yet, the average age of an advertising agency creative person is 28. In fact, nationwide, less than 5% of agency personnel are over 50.
The boy who never wanted to grow up would feel at home in just about any of today's advertising agencies, right alongside other young, bright, talented people whose job it is to create messages for a world of consumers who look, act and feel just like they do.
In advertising parlance, it's called targeting the "sweet spot."
The sweet spot is people aged 18 to 34. Ninety percent of today's marketing dollars are spent trying to reach this group. Marketers lust after them, and media companies do everything in their power to lure them to their websites, magazines, and TV channels.
Which makes perfect sense. Or at least it did in 1975.
Because in 1975, people 18 to 34 were smack in the middle of the baby boom. They were the sweet spot of the sweet spot, the "pig in the python," the largest group of consumers in history with the most money to spend in history. In the '70's and '80's and even some of the '90's, boomers could make or break a brand.
They could also make or break an advertising agency.
Thanks in large part to the baby boom, Madison Avenue found itself in a gilded age. Agencies that knew how to reach the 18-to-34 age group attracted the best clients and the most income.
Along the way, 18-34 or "youth" became not only the sweet spot of marketing, it became the only spot.
Unfortunately, biology being what it is, 30 years later, the "pig" has moved to the other end of the "python." Today, the boomer group is still the largest group of consumers with the most money to spend. But their average age is 53, not remotely in the sweet spot or in the sights of most marketers.
If you find that surprising, the following will downright shock you:
- People 50+ earn $2.4 trillion annually compared to $1 trillion for the 18-34 group.
- According to McKinsey, people 50+ generate 41% of all disposable income.
- They buy 60% of all packaged goods, over half of all new cars and spend 75% more per vacation than consumers under 50.
- In 2007, people over 50 spent 3.5 times the national average holiday shopping online.
And yet, nationwide research by AARP shows that the majority of consumers over 50 feels that advertising and marketing either portrays them negatively or ignores them altogether.
Why? Because it's being created by people at least 20 years younger.
Last year, Adweek ran an article whose headline speaks for itself: "War of the Ages: How a host of new agency realities are pushing boomers out before their time."
In other words, the advertising industry is not only being run by Peter Pan, but, just as Peter didn't understand the adult world, today's advertising industry doesn't understand the aging adult consumer. It thinks people over 50 are simply kids with graying hair who want and need all the same things that 30 year olds want and need. The truth is, they don't.
While the average 55 year old might want the body of a 30 year old, s/he doesn't want the brain of a 30 year old. Boomers have become smart, savvy, worldly, respected and ready for the next chapter of their lives. And they want to be marketed to in a way that understands and respects not who they were, but who they are. In Neverland, grown-ups were the enemy. In today's economy, they are the people with the money who can buy your product.