Commentary

Back in The Ideal Demographic

America's television advertisers lost interest in me two years ago, dropped me like a bad habit. That's when I turned fifty, got my membership card to AARP, and lost my place in that most desirable of demographic groups, Adults 18-49.

But now, like a governor's pardon from death row, granting me an unexpected reprieve from the shadows of media oblivion, NBC has announced it's putting Adults 25-54 up on top of its demographic pedestal. So I can go back to watching television with pride, knowing I'm one of those viewers that advertisers are actually paying to reach. I'm happily no longer an interloper, no longer sheepishly peeping at young-skewing programs, no longer mooching off the "C" that marketers pay for my "M."

While NBC has demoted 18-49 to second-class status, I could never understand the logic behind the 18-to-49 demographic in the first place. An 18-year-old is a senior in high school, listens to 50 Cent and Coldplay, drinks beer illegally, is thinking about getting into college, and earns (if anything) minimum wage. A 49-year-old, on the other hand, listens to the Beatles and the Beach Boys, takes Prozac, is paying for his kids in college, and is (hopefully) in his or her peak earning years. If you introduce an 18- year-old to a 49-year-old, they wouldn't have a whole lot to say to each other.

But all that changes when the boundaries move up to 25-54. A twenty- five-year old is a tax-paying member of the work force, either paired up or heading in that direction. He's no longer living with his parents, he owns a car, goes on vacations, and buys lots of stuff. Put him or her in a room with a 54-year-old, give them each a drink, and they'll spend a good deal of time commiserating about high taxes, concerned about the economy, and bitching about their bosses. 25s and 54s are a symmetry, the two shoulders of the bell curve.

So thank you, NBC. Today because of you I'm back in that attractive pool, with two whole years to go till I once again have to face expulsion into the cold world of demographic undesirability. I suspect, however, that my baby boom generation isn't going to give up quite that easily. It wouldn't surprise me if a few years from now, as the baby boomer age wave advances, another network (or perhaps NBC again) will redefine America's prime demographic as 35-64. And then, some time later, 45-74. And after that, who knows?

But for right now, all you American advertisers, feel free to spend your money to reach me. I'm your guy. I'm 25-54.

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-- Dylan Thomas

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