AARP Wants To Rethink The Older Set
Not in the 50-and-over readership it serves, mind you. Rather, the title's parent group, AARP Publications, has launched a marketing blitz designed to awaken younger media buyers and planners to the opportunities the magazine affords advertisers. The campaign, dubbed "Rethink 50+," includes everything from direct mail and aerial advertising to street stenciling and bar promotions.
By targeting young buyers and planners who work in and around New York City, AARP Publications is clearly trying to modernize its image among the media community. "To this younger crowd, we're probably talking about their parents," says AARP Publications marketing director Carol Davis. "Well, they probably don't think their parents seem old." The median age of the AARP The Magazine reader is 62; median household income is $45,466.
Of course, long-standing perceptions aren't easily reversed, so the campaign freely acknowledges them before attempting to educate media pros about the vitality of the 50-and-over set. In fact, in a pitch letter heralding the campaign, a PR pro representing AARP The Magazine goes so far as to describe the marketing push as "hip, smart-looking and fun - somewhat counterintuitive of what is expected from AARP The Magazine." Does this portray the magazine and its readers in a somewhat unflattering light? Possibly, but Davis feels it is both necessary and smart to address the perception directly.
"Some [media] people don't recognize the power of our audience," Davis says. "So many people think that when you hit 50 you fall off a precipice, but our readers are incredibly vital. For most of them, the only mid-life crisis is 'what do I do next?'"
Phase one of the campaign, which began earlier this month, specifically targets the New York media community. It features advertising on 4,000 city buses as well as a direct mailing that includes a $4.00 MetroCard (good for two rides on NYC mass transit). It will be bolstered during the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends with aerial advertising over the Hamptons, Fire Island and other getaways frequented by media hobnobbers.
The campaign's guerilla component will kick in later this summer with 40-and-over models - both men and women - handing out "Rethink 50+" key chains in front of NYC agencies. As for the bar promotions, AARP The Magazine is sending a handful of ambassadors to Hamptons and Fire Island watering holes. "Can you think of a better place to find younger members of the media community during the summer?" Davis asks rhetorically. "The idea is to reach out to everyone in that age range, not just [buyers and planners] who have accounts that would be good for the 50-plus audience."
The national phase of the campaign, which hit this week, is designed to drive traffic to AARP The Magazine's online media kit (www.aarpmedia.org). More than 1,200 media buyers will receive a direct-mail piece, accompanied by flip-flops bearing the "Rethink 50+" logo on their soles ("that way, if they're walking on the beach, they're literally making an impression," Davis quips). Buyers receiving the mailing will also be able to enter a sweepstakes for a vacation to either Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Rico.
A final pivotal aspect of "Rethink 50+" is convincing those advertisers who are already trying to target an older audience that AARP The Magazine is the ideal venue for them. "Some people think they get the 50-plus audience in general-interest magazines or on television," Davis explains. "Our take on that is that if you're not specifically targeting them, they're not hearing you." Davis notes that research bears this out: "[This audience is] very advertising- and marketing-savvy. They know if you consider reaching them incidental."
Looking forward, Davis hopes the marketing push will keep AARP The Magazine top-of-mind until a new trade ad campaign breaks later this year (the company recently switched agencies, to GSD&M from Della Femina Rothschild Jeary). While the mag's recent Publishers Information Bureau numbers weren't entirely favorable - in the January-May period, it was down 10.4% in ad pages versus the year-ago period, though ad revenue was up 18.2% - Davis is optimistic that the publication will continue to resonate among readers and advertisers.
"We're literally the only publication that speaks to the 50-plus audience and we have a rate base of 21.5 million," she notes. "It's just a matter of educating those [media] people and getting our salespeople in front of them."