Ad Dollars Shift As Boomers Age

Baby-BoomersNielsen says three key consumer groups are rapidly changing for marketers: baby boomers, moms and lower income consumers.

At Nielsen’s Consumer 360 Conference, the media and consumer research company said there are 100 million baby boomers -- a number which will climb by a third in 2030. Most are growing out of the key 18-49 demographic into the 50+ number.

Right now, they control $230 billion in sales -- about half of the total for the U.S. overall. In five years, they will control 70% of disposable income. But Beth Brady, Nielsen’s leader for marketing effectiveness, warns advertising dollars are being funneled elsewhere: "It's a missed opportunity."

For marketers, the role of moms and their kids are shifting. Moms with children under six watch less TV than the overall population. Moms are heavy media multi-taskers. On any given day, 67% of moms use the Internet while watching TV simultaneously. While away from the TV, more than 20% of moms with children are experimenting with mobile shopping.

Lower income consumers -- those that make under $30,000 a year -- are growing -- now around 30% of the country. Even against this background, Nielsen says: "They collectively represent a big part of the country’s total spend and are expected to grow in the future."

Nielsen says this cohort spends more time online that other income groups -- and more than nine hours a month on Facebook. Not only do they watch more TV than other consumers -- especially daytime TV -- they watch more online video than other consumers.

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12 comments about "Ad Dollars Shift As Boomers Age".
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  1. Jim Dennison from DigitalMediaMeasures, July 6, 2012 at 9:04 a.m.

    Since Boomers stopped being born in 1964, this can't be true:
    "the media and consumer research company said there are 100 million baby boomers -- a number which will climb by a third in 2030."
    If there's a 100 million today, there will be less by 2030, unless Boomers have discovered the eternal life elixer. Now there's an advertising opportunity!

  2. Julie Larson from Divas Mobile Solutions, July 6, 2012 at 9:27 a.m.

    Good point, Jim Dennison. :)

    No matter the numbers in 2030, the baby boomers have definitely driven the economy! Having a marketing strategy in place that grows with the boomers just makes sense (and dollars)!

  3. Susan Weiss from Kanban Consulting Corporation, July 6, 2012 at 10:39 a.m.

    I suspect that the "climb by a third" reference was supposed to refer to the growth of the 50+ demographic, as Boomers age.

  4. Steve Beverly from Union Broadcasting System, July 6, 2012 at 4:18 p.m.

    Wayne, this is another classic reason that it's long past due to see more people who look like our 50+ brigade on conventional television. The most-watched scripted series has a 61-year-old lead character. We don't all take pharmaceuticals that could potentially kill us with side effects. We don't all need LifeAlert yet. This week, a lot of radio talk centered around why we have nothing on TV left with the magic of Andy Griffith. As long as the ad agencies persist in backing sitcoms with dysfunctional families and men behaving badly because focus groups tell them 18-49s want to watch it, we'll never see thoughtful, gentle comedy again on TV.

  5. Mike Marn from SIU, July 7, 2012 at 1:46 p.m.

    Great insights, Steve. But I'm too lazy to do enough Googling to figure out which scripted series you are talking about!

  6. Greg Ippolito from IMA, July 9, 2012 at 8:40 a.m.

    "As long as the ad agencies persist in backing sitcoms with dysfunctional families and men behaving badly because focus groups tell them 18-49s want to watch it, we'll never see thoughtful, gentle comedy again on TV."

    Two comments here:

    First, ad agencies don't really "back" anything. If research indicates that a certain audience segment is watching a certain show, and a client wants to reach that segment, we buy media in order to reach said segment. If a client of mine wanted to reach a segment that was drawn to an Andy Griffith-like show, the likelihood of our spending ad dollars there would be relatively high.

    Second, is modern TV enjoying less "thoughtful" programming than it did in the 1960s? (Note: "thoughtful" and "gentle" don't necessarily belong together.) I would strongly argue, No. To provide just one example: Louie C.K.'s show is much, MUCH more thoughtful/cerebral than anything Sheriff Taylor and the gang ever threw up on screen. Andy laid an important groundwork, but we've evolved. Yes, Andy Griffith will be missed, but let's not get crazy here. Just because something has nostalgic value doesn't mean it has actual value.

    G.

  7. Ken Kueker from Billboard Connection, July 9, 2012 at 10:25 a.m.

    "Lower income consumers -- those that make under $30,000 a year -- are growing"

    As corporate America continues to eliminate the middle class, they will eventually destroy themselves in the process. If all we have left is a large number of low income families and a small number of affluent families, who will be left to buy their products and fuel the economy?

  8. Cassie Hicks from Access Living, July 9, 2012 at 4:10 p.m.

    Great article, folks! The reason why people watch TV online is that some of the iconic soaps aren't even on television anymore. Time to fix that.

  9. Jim ORourke from The Integer Group, July 9, 2012 at 4:41 p.m.

    Well, U.S. baby boomers were originally estimated at 78 million, so I'd be curious where Nielsen came up with 100 million baby boomers. Is that worldwide?

  10. Jon Currie from Currie Communications, Inc., July 9, 2012 at 5:22 p.m.

    Couple of things. First, please show me the group that isn't aging. Last I heard, everybody ages, period. No one has the fountain of youth.

    But this magical 18-49 canard continues to be perpetuated because someone once said that when you turn 50 your tastes are fixed in stone on a pyramid. Folks, I am over 50. I drive a car that didn't exist when I was in that formative stage. I actually can make changes, think for myself and have money.

    And lastly, the most interesting statistic you hear bandied about is when this happens. Some article will be written about how there is panic because the current age of the viewer to a network or consumer of a product is now 56, when just 10 years ago it was only 46. Guess how that happened? Yeah. It's the same group viewing/buying, but 10 years elapsed. They aged.

  11. Nancy Padberg from Navigate Boomer Media, July 11, 2012 at 11:48 p.m.

    The boomers control 70% of the U.S. Wealth and spend more time and money online each month than Gen X or Gen Y. Our firm, Navigate Boomer Media, largest online boomer media source exists because baby boomers are online. We have 140 web sites with boomer content that Digitas, Razorfish, StarCom and large brands utilize us for reach and transparency. We place ads, content, social media, and have email and mobile databases. Boomers buy most cars - 62%, buy 80% of luxury travel and own the most homes!

  12. Jim Gilmartin from Coming of Age, July 31, 2012 at 1:41 p.m.


    Numbers buy nothing. People buy goods and services. Numbers help to focus upon demos of interest but tell us nothing about the minds of the people targeted. The chronological age of targeted markets tell us little about who you are. However, the stage of life they're in tells us how human values and motivators are manifested. It's that understanding that will provide you access to their minds and hearts.

    Having said that, over the years, marketers became pretty good at catering to people who were traveling through time on the social actualization track. That was when people in the first half of life, from adolescence on, were the consumer majority.

    However, a pervasive focus on youth markets left the marketing profession bereft of knowledge about marketing to people traveling along the self-actualization track and what's important to us in the fall and winter of our lives. This is one reason why marketing productivity has fallen as second half markets emerged as the active consumer majority.

    Many marketers would do well to become better acquainted with the idea of people being driven by genetic predisposition to find their roots. It is necessary to meet the developmental goal of Maslow's "self-actualization". This means that a typical 55-year-old is not simply a 25-year-older version of her 30-year-old self. In ways important to a marketer, she is a different person. She has found new insights into herself, which has changed her marketplace behavior in significant ways.

    How much time spent online or watching TV, etc., provides us a direction as to where we spend out media dollars to access targeted markets. But, does it tell you anything about how you effectively connect with them?

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