Baby Boomers Spend More Than Millennials -- Yet Are Ignored By Advertisers

Nobody likes to be ignored. Remember Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction”? So why do advertisers ignore boomers to focus on the “it” demos: millennials and Gen Z?

Although millennials officially outnumber boomers, let’s not forget the spending power wielded by boomers.

Age is just a number to boomers, who aren’t sitting at home wondering how to connect to the WiFi and counting the minutes until they take their next round of pills. Instead, they are traveling, spend time outdoors -- and, according to U.S. News & World Report, control 70% of the country’s disposable income and spend $3.2 trillion a year.

George Clooney, Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise, Robert Downey, Jr., Lenny Kravitz, LL Cool J and Nicole Kidman are just a few AARP card carriers. Do they seem inactive to you?

Millennials and hot on their tail Gen Z may have some money to spend now — but boomers have it yesterday, today and tomorrow. Targeting boomers might not be as Instagrammable as a millennial demo, but it is instantly gratifying.



According to Total Retail Report, a mere 10% of marketing budgets is allocated to the boomer audience, while 50% goes to marketing to millennials. Odd — especially since  “Baby Boomers outspend every other generation by $400 billion annually, providing over 50 percent of U.S. consumption.”

A study by the National Venture Capital Association, Ernst & Young and AARP finds ad spend even lower, stating that “Baby Boomers spend the most across all product categories but are targeted by just 5-10 percent of marketing. There’s simply a lack of marketing, and that sometimes results in low awareness of cutting-edge solutions by many 50+ consumers.”

Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., told the New York Times that “while the millennials are sharing stuff, boomers are buying stuff. If you are a brand, you are in business to make money, and a tweet or share or laugh online doesn’t translate into actual bottom-line dollars. Boomers are an audience that’s worth pursuing in virtually every category.”

Not only should advertisers target boomers in nearly every ad category, they should also target boomers in all ad media — and that especially includes social media.

While it’s a safe bet you’ll reach the boomer audience advertising during the evening news broadcast or an episode of “NCIS,” toss the assumption that boomers are lacking in tech knowledge. Boomers are active on Instagram and good old-fashioned email marketing.

According to Nielsen, baby boomers are the second heaviest users of the internet and more than half of boomers are on Facebook.

Nielsen also found that “Boomers account for nearly $230 billion in sales for consumer-packaged goods.” The demo also spends close to $7 billion shopping ONLINE.

Lastly, Nielsen established that boomers spend almost $90 billion a year on cars -- nearly 30% more than other age groups. This last stat doesn’t surprise me much, given that many millennials wait to get their driver’s license, regularly use ride share services like Uber and Lyft and use alternative means of transportation -- think bicycles -- when possible. This doesn’t mean millennials aren’t buying cars. They are, but car ownership isn’t atop their priority list.

How and where are you targeting boomers?

12 comments about "Baby Boomers Spend More Than Millennials -- Yet Are Ignored By Advertisers".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 22, 2019 at 2:39 p.m.

    Strange claims about ad spend and targeting to millennials as opposed to boomers. In fact, if you parcell out the audience tonnage in TV, radio, print media and digital by demo, you will find that boomers generate considerably more ad "impressions" than millennials----mainly by virtue of the latter's low TV viewing rates. So how is it determined that few advertisers are "targeting" boomers and too much of their efforts are directed at millennials? Just curious.

  2. Jeff Weiss from Age of Majority, May 22, 2019 at 3:53 p.m.

    The reality is that the numbers in terms of wealth and spending have been there for years.  The biggest stumbling block that we find in talking to marketers is what we call FOMO.  Not fear of missing out but Fear Of Marketing Older.  This fear is unfounded and caused by the Dirty Dozen Myths (as we like to call them) of aging.  The good marketers will get over this fear and target Active Aging consumers who are craving their attention and looking for brands to talk to them in a meaningful, relevant and authentic way.....similar to the way they are trying to talking to younger consumers.

  3. Glenn Geller from Propac, May 22, 2019 at 4:07 p.m.

    Thanks Jeff, I like that defiinition of FOMO. I see the lack of targeting from a strategic point-of-view. In other words, they are not being reached in a meaningful and relevant way. While Boomers may be getting more ad impressions, much of it I'm afraid is wasted on them. 

  4. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, May 22, 2019 at 5:19 p.m.

    Gentlemen, while talking impressions and the like is important, what about the creative? It doesn't seem too difficult, or expensive, to generate an extra version showing active 55+ types in ads and toss that into the rotation.

    On the other hand,many pharma and "I've fallen" type ads certainly seem to be cementing an outdated stereotype of boomers.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 22, 2019 at 7:35 p.m.

    James, they are loath to cast commercials exclusively with oldsters---no matter how they are behaving. The usual compromise "solution" is to include a peppy oldster along with the young folk but let the latter doominate. Also, it is known that many older adults do not accept that they are aging and will respond to commercials featuring consumers 20-30 years younger than themselves. Most pre-tests show this--especially if the ad message contains something factual in support of the basic claim.

  6. Jeff Weiss from Age of Majority, May 23, 2019 at 9:12 a.m.

    Ed, the research that we have conducted shows that 75% of Active Aging consumers do not believe that marketers are doing a good job at engaging them (compared to 50% of millennials).  So something is obviously broken.  We also know that people are happiest when they get older and that they are accepting aging like they never have before.   They want to get the most out of life regardless of their age and that does not mean aspiring to be younger.  And they respond better to seeing people that they can relate to in an authentic and real way.  Unfortunately most of the images we see are not relatable to this group --- not becuase of the age of the talent but because the images or footage that is used is just plain bad.

  7. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 23, 2019 at 9:39 a.m.

    Jeff, I never said that the typical oldster aspires to be younger---as that is clearly impossible. However, many people in their 60s and 70s and perhaps, beyond, are in denial about aging and this is what I rferred to. As for your finding that 75% of older respondents feel that marketers are, in effect, not interested in them, I would expect that such a generalized question might produce an even higher percentage. That, alone, is not a valid reason for a particular advertiser with mainly young/middle aged peopled ads to create additional ads peopled only---or mainly---by happy, fun loving, active old folks---as a means to cater to such consumers---as has been suggested. Any brand going this route must be concerned lest young consumers---many of whom regard old people as dodos----will see their old folks' commercials and form a negative image of the brand. This applies as well to the distribution chain that sells the product to consumers. Rightly or wrongly, many brands are very concerned about the image they project to "the trade" relative to competitive brands and seeming to be an old folks' brand---even if this is a misinterpretation---is, for many a no no.

    Also, when it comes to advertising impressions, as I noted in my earlier reply, most brands recognize that their media buys---especially if heavily allocated to TV---attain greater reach and much more frequency against oldsters. Moreover,  their commercial impact tests --with some exceptions---do not tell them that old viewers are rejecting their claims to any greater degree than younger ones. Typically, younger viewers respond to the style of the commercials and their attention-grabbing power or entertainment values while older consumers pay more attention to claims supported by factual evidence or demonstrations. Smart advertisers try to ulilize both elements---style and substance---to get their points across.

  8. Christopher Weakley from Virgo, May 23, 2019 at 2:44 p.m.

    I suspect it's about Customer Lifetime Value. Millennials can go on buying your product for years, so it pays to invest in making them brand-loyal. Boomers may be opening their wallets right now, but pretty soon they will be downsizing their homes (less room for stuff) and spending more on healthcare. Sure, they'll keep buying consumer packaged goods for as long as they can get to the store. But they're not going to live forever.

  9. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 23, 2019 at 4:20 p.m.

    Christopher, you are right---except most advertised brands are operating under a short term profit making mandate and few really have long term strategies that have practical meaning. Hence, on a year to year basis, it makes sense to sell as many consumers as you can---no matter what their age or income----rather than  building brand loyalty among the young and spending accordingly as a top priority for the long haul.

  10. Jess Smith from Modern Revel, May 24, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.

    I find it completely amusing that, yet, once again GenX is being completely overlooked here. A lot of the AARP card carrying celebs you named are actually GenX. And guess who underwrites the purchases GenZ teens are making? GenX.
    Every generation was mentioned in this article except for the aptly nicknamed "The Forgotten Generation".

    Smart brands know that GenXers are seeking out self care, anti-aging, and luxury products and that we are the generation that built the technology and media that everyone enjoys today.

  11. D. Eadward Tree from Dead Tree Edition, May 25, 2019 at 12:12 a.m.

    The article's argument relies heavily on "facts" cited from at least five sources, but without linking to them. That makes me suspicious. Why not include links, unless perhaps the "facts" don't look quite the same in the original sources? I'm taking this article with a whole shaker full of salt, even though I agree with its basic premise.

  12. Ronald Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, May 28, 2019 at 3:26 p.m.

    The major takeaway from this article is that boomers, and not milennials, are where the money is. Boomers are the low hanging fruit for marketers, especially luxury brands and retailers. The focus on milennials in the marketing literature has never made sense to me. Most of them have limited financial resources that limits their discretionary spending. 

    The trend toward experiences rather than material goods is largely attributable to boomers, who have most of what they would ever want in the way of material goods. They are the ones spending on fine dining, travel, and entertainment and other services.

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