Where Have All the Old People Gone?
On the train this morning, I began to suspect there might be a euthanasia plot going on. No one in my carriage was over 60. I looked at the ads in the Metro, and around the stations. Lots of ads for young singles in search of love or for parents eager to send their 12 year old to a posh school on scholarship. But diddly squat for older people.
What’s going on?
A third of people in the UK are over the age of 50. There are more pensioners than children under the age of 16. I can’t find any recent figures for the average age of someone in marketing or advertising but I bet it’s not 50.
And herein lies the problem. In marketing and advertising we all try to put ourselves in the consumer’s shoes but that’s actually quite difficult. We still need some point of shared personal reference, some connection with ourselves in order to understand others. For example, most of us have grieved over the death of a pet or a close relation so we can, if we search deep into ourselves, manage to find a connection with someone experiencing loss.
But none of us have experienced what it’s like to be older than we are.
So, if most of us in marketing and advertising are under 50, it’s no surprise that we turn our attention to younger audience. It’s easier. We’ve all been there. We’ve all said ‘We need to attract a younger audience as they are the customers of the future.’ Despite the rational argument that the older audience might be more loyal or have more disposable income, we feel it’ll be easier to understand a younger audience.
But we really do need to understand people older than ourselves.
As planners, creatives or marketers we should at least be curious about what makes a third of the nation tick. Other creative sectors seem able to do it. Art and literature are full of examples of a real understanding of older people – comic or tragic. Think of ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian’ or ‘King Lear.’
There are some examples in marketing which prove it is possible to get it right. The Boots experiment which asked women to banish mirrors from their lives for 4 weeks while they tried the new Protect and Perfect anti-ageing serum is a case in point. It’s a great insight into the fact that beauty for older women is as much about how they feel as how they look.
Given these examples are few and far between, and so many sectors are ignoring the older audience or missing the mark, if you do get it right, boy will you clean up.