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.

Advertisement

"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)

Join the Conversation (10)

see all

This is a professional community. Please use discretion when posting a comment.

  • Sandy is so on target with her comments about authenticity. And the requirement for it isn't just in photography, but also in language and the insights needed to communicate with people when and where they are ready to hear the message. After the “holding hands on the beach” shot, my least authentic shots are the seniors on a cruise ship and multi-ethnic shot of seniors playing cards in a retirement community.

  • Getting through the “salesman’s puff” and out doing each other, where is the increased HECM endorsement volume? This year was supposed to be a significantly higher increased volume year due to HERA alone. Just that volume was supposed to have made up for the reduction to the origination fee structure. Has it?

    Then we had ARRA with its $625,500 lending limit which should have accelerated our business activity. Then add in the swelling number of baby boomers in the senior ranks and we were to have had a banner year. Marketing wise, we have increased Internet activity and now we are exploiting new medium platforms. Who can forget the new emphasis on B2B with its alleged success?

    So where are we really? One of our biggest marketers has disappeared from the airwaves. Do not let anyone kid us; there is no way that social networking and other media ideas will replace the impact that the TV ads using celebrities has had on this industry. With those campaigns, HECM endorsements soared along with senior awareness of our products.

    Without celebrities, our current marketing today shows up as hackneyed, old, tired, and trite. “It IS my grandfather’s Oldsmobile.” It seems like the active glossies and videos are nothing more than a bad attempt at putting on band aids.

    If we are redirecting our marketing efforts, why hasn’t our message changed accordingly? It seems like our ads about the house paying you, have had the pictures changed but not the message about the use of the proceeds. Rather than emphasizing cash management issues and the option of paying down the loan without penalty, we only know one way to sell this product and that is there will be no payments due as long as the senior stays in the home. We emphasize fixed rate HECMs when annual adjustable rate HECMs would many times do just as well if not substantially better.

    Looking at seminar materials and mailing pieces, how has our message changed to meet the needs of younger seniors? We all have excuses but what is needed right now are breakthroughs.

  • I have no real problem with “nice” ads with people on the beach, etc. But, I would be doing what I call “worry or misery ads” with or without celebrities. “I can't believe I ate the whole thing” if you remember the, I think, Alka Seltzer ad.
    Pose the problem, then offer the solution. More recently, and more topical, would be the Harry and Louise scare ads. You don't have to hit people over the head, but hey you've got a real problem solver product; get off the beach and into the emotions.

  • Being a Boomer myself, I think to relate to “My Generation” as The Who once said, is to focus on the Ideals and Music of their time; or how the Boomers would like to envision themselves. Maybe the “Older” couple socializing with younger couples (no, not their kids) with 60's or early 70's Music (no, not Disco) playing in the background. Of course you could have the “older” guy in his 60's with the “younger” woman in her 40's, but this would probably turn off the “older” women…unless you “Reversed” the roles (no pun intended)…think Robert Wagner and Barbara Stanwick.

  • Seniors aren’t dead I’m one of them most people are age don’t feel old. If you don’t like seniors on the beach tough we go there. What is up with picky, picky, picky in our industry.Get over it we are not ready for death panels!

  • As an actors who are at the point where we are now only perceived as “old” we have become sick and tired of auditioning for commercials where we are being portrayed in advertising as either feeble, feeble-minded or ridiculous and also of the reverse scenario . . . as having to live up to the glamorous image of the perfectly coiffed and botoxed visions of hypersexed boomers in matching bathtubs. That’s not who we are as people. So, we have decided to produce, write and star in our own web series. “50ToDeath” is about the real thing. Three Boomers Jousting with the 21st. Century. Check us out at http://www.50todeath.com

  • Being a Boomer myself, I think to relate to “My Generation” as The Who once said, is to focus on the Ideals and Music of their time; or how the Boomers would like to envision themselves. Maybe the “Older” couple socializing with younger couples (no, not their kids) with 60’s or early 70’s Music (no, not Disco) playing in the background. Of course you could have the “older” guy in his 60’s with the “younger” woman in her 40’s, but this would probably turn off the “older” women…unless you “Reversed” the roles (no pun intended)…think Robert Wagner and Barbara Stanwick.

string(95) "https://reversemortgagedaily.com/2009/08/25/advertising-to-baby-boomers-can-be-tricky-business/"

Share your opinion