Advertising to Baby Boomers Can Be Tricky Business

imageWe have all seen our fare share of reverse mortgage websites or commercials portraying seniors holding hands on a beach watching the sunset and I’ve always wondered if that is the best way to reach baby boomers.

AdWeek writer Mark Dolliver dives into the subject by going over survey data and speaking with industry leaders engaged in understanding and marketing to the 65-plus consumers to get a clearer picture of how older Americans see themselves and the advertising that’s aimed (or, often, misaimed) at them. 

Dolliver writes that for starters, people whose chronological age would seem to put them squarely in the "old" category often don’t see themselves in that light.  A Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey released last month found 60 percent of respondents age 65-plus said they feel younger than their actual age — in many cases much younger.

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"Among respondents ages 65 to 74, a third say they feel 10 to 19 years younger than their age, and one in six say they feel at least 20 years younger than their actual age," according to the report. Even more telling, when asked flat out whether they "feel old," 78 percent of the 65-74s and 61 percent of the 75-plusers said "no."

So, how do you address people who are old, by conventional measures, but whose self-perception and physical condition doesn’t match up with the standard understanding of what "old" means?

MetLife Mature Market Institute’s executive director, Sandra Timmermann, says it’s a question of authenticity. "I think some of the images in ads are not very authentic — like that affluent couple you always see walking hand in hand on the beach, perfectly coiffed,"  And if the people in the ad look too young, the audience won’t relate to it, she says. "At some point, how much denial can you be in?" For the advertisers, it’s "a delicate balancing act," she adds.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees the “beach” style boomer ads as less than authentic. 

Marketing to Today’s 65-plus Consumers (AdWeek)