27 November 2006

Boom Time

I was interviewed recently by Matt Histand, Senior Editor of The Advertising Specialty Institute's Counselor Magazine:
ASI (Advertising Specialty Institute®) is the largest media and marketing organization serving the advertising specialty industry, with a membership of 22,000 distributor firms (sellers) and 3,300 supplier firms (manufacturers).
For fifty years, Counselor™ has been the leading source of news in the promotional products industry. The unique position of ASI in the marketplace gives our editors and reporters an unmatched perspective, and that translates into the most insightful and readable magazine in the industry.
Matt put together a very good piece about (you guessed it) advertising - along with a list of what Baby Boomers might like when it comes to promotional items:
Boom Time
Baby Boomers start turning 60 this year, but they show no sign of slowing down. As a group they control an estimated $2.3 trillion in annual spending power and the next chapter in their lives will bring about tremendous change and opportunities for advertisers.
Other good pieces include an interview with Colin Powell and one about the value of older employees.

Last year I was interviewed by Counselor's sister publication Advantages Magazine for its feature article, Boomers Beyond:Marketing to a 50-Plus Audience:
Advantages is written to inspire and motivate promotional products sales professionals. Each monthly issue is packed with sales-friendly product showcases, dependable ideas, proven sales tips, and helpful case histories.

21 November 2006

Study: TV's youth obsession backfiring

Here's a piece by AP's television and entertainment writer David Bauder:
Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they believe that most TV programming and advertising is targeted toward people under 40, the survey said. More than 80 percent of adults over 40 say they have a hard time finding TV shows that reflect their lives.
Mr. Bauder does an excellent job of reporting all sides of the issue. (It's not surprising, because I read him regularly and he always does top-notch reporting by highlighting various viewpoints.) However, for me there's not much new here. That's because I'm knee-deep in this mess. What is said can be found in my book, this blog, and other books and blogs about advertising, media, and Baby Boomers.

If you're new to all this, the article will be illuminating. And there are fresh numbers to crunch:
Advertisers will pay a premium for young viewers: $335 for every thousand people in the 18-to-24 age range that a network delivers, for example. Viewers aged 55-to-64 are worth only $119 for every thousand, according to Nielsen Media Research.
What I do find fascinating has less to do with the article and more to do with its syndication. When a news outlet picks up an AP story it can change the headline, the lede, and has the right to edit the piece for space consideration. Most editors simply leave it alone - but often they feel as if they have to justify their existence - and play around with the headlines.

From "TV's youth obsession backfiring" we get these anti-boomer, ageist variations:

Television's new obsession with youth irritates boomers

TV industry's irritating baby boomers

Baby boomers piqued at TV's youth obsession

Boomers disdain TV's youth mania

And the winner is … MSNBC:

Baby boomers upset TV isn't all about them

In the spirit of fun and games with the news, I've come up with a few of my own reasonable, moderate, neutral headlines for Mr. Bauder's article:

Youthful TV Execs Live in Bubble, Will Bring Down Network Television

Message to Television Advertisers: Don't Trust Anyone Under Thirty

Really Dumb Twenty-Something Media Planners Clueless, Should Be Fired

Young, Myopic TV Execs Think It's All About Them

Oh, how I love to be 'fair and balanced'…

For another take on David Bauder's article, read Brent Green's Boomers Do Not Need Their Own TV Network.

17 November 2006

Haggar Redux

Haggar's 'Making Things Right' campaign has the ad bloggers and others buzzing. People love it, hate it. It's hilarious, it's unfunny, it's original, it's trite, it's homophobic (even homoerotic), it's finally acknowledging middle-age men as men and not wimps, it's socially irresponsible, it's about time someone stood up to lazy kids and faggy neighbors.

Here is a fair mix of reactions. One self-proclaimed 'Dork' actually thinks one spot is a spoof of Haggar ads.

I blogged about these ads a few days ago. Since then, a bunch of people have emailed me. They think I've condoned the ads. I don't condone ads. I comment on them - and my comments are usually confined to whether or not they will resonate with Baby Boomers. Read my original post about this campaign.

One person emailing was a gentleman I met at a business conference last March. He is the former CMO of a major international company, and has served as president of a very prestigious, non-profit organization. Originally, he sent me a link to the Wall Street Journal article. After seeing one spot in the campaign, he wrote:
Have you seen the version where the middle aged guys are throwing their daughter's boyfriends out the window? This one is right on target.
But later in the day he emailed me again:
…Seeing the campaign in its entirety causes me a great deal of concern. Anyone who has dealt with the problems of adolescence can sympathize with some of the emotions. However, much of this is over the top (like the car wash scene) … We must avoid the intergenerational conflict that is on the horizon. If campaigns like this go too far, that will be difficult to avoid.
My personal reaction to the campaign is that it's simply about a couple of frustrated, middle-class white guys being bullies. They've watched one too many episodes of The Sopranos (or the creatives have). The two actors playing Tony Soprano and Tony Soprano are well-cast. Overall, there are a some funny bits and some not so funny bits. I don't find the spots that outrageous, just tongue-in-cheek.

As far as intergenerational conflict, I'm not in disagreement with my friend - but again, I try not to comment on that stuff.

My point in the original post was this: Want to target middle-class, suburban, angry white guys with a wild, controversial, 'talk about' campaign? Fine. This'll probably do it. But if you want to make outlandish, trouble-making, irresponsible commercials that will resonate with Baby Boomers, do a bit of research.

The Haggar campaign has nothing to do with Baby Boomers. It's targeting guys in their thirties and early forties. An overlap, true - but not much. If they think they're targeting men in their fifties and sixties, they're way off the mark. If they seriously want to reach this market, they had better start 'making things right' - like having the grandfather throw the parents out the window. Having the grandfather scrunched up in the trunk of his grandkid's car helping him install a loud sound system - to the horror of the parents. Having the grandfather throw sponges at his adult son.

Here is a successful, troublemaking, tongue-in-cheek spot from Australia. It has the sensibility that I'm talking about. This agency did its homework. Baby Boomers are all over the youngest generation. The last thing they want to do is alienate or bully them. They want to nurture them. For better or worse, they think of millennials/grandchildren as their legacy. And they want to 'stir things up.'

Enough pontificating. I'm off to JC Penny to check out these Haggar pants and buy a big baseball bat to carry around the neighborhood so I can intimidate everybody. The campaign says the slacks have a lifetime guarantee - but nowhere does it say if they are stain-resistant to dog crap, or will protect me from getting AIDS from the gay guy down the street.

Maybe that info will be on the labels.

15 November 2006

Marketing to Boomers

Ruth Solomon of The Sun-Times News Group covered The Boomers and Beyond Business Conference in Chicago that I spoke at last month. Ms. Solomon does a wonderful job summing up what happened there. Read her piece about it:
Marketing to Boomers

People 45 and older make up 77 percent of the drug market ($43 billion) and 53 percent of the new-car market ($107 billion), said Linda Fisher, director of national member research for the AARP, the advocacy organization for older and retired Americans. And the 50 million Americans in the 60-plus market spend more than $1 trillion a year, she said.

14 November 2006

A Conversation with Dr. Robert N. Butler

I hope you can take a peek at this New York Times piece by Claudia Dreifus before it disappears behind the Orange Curtain. It's an interview with Dr. Robert N. Butler of The International Longevity Center. He's quite the mythbuster, the troublemaker:
"Now, the boomers could become a strong public group by virtue of their size. They have political experience and they may use it to create change. If they are able to, it will mostly benefit Generations X and Y."
Not exactly conventional wisdom, is it? But there's also a non-conventional wisdom downside:
"I think they're (Baby Boomers) in for a hell of time, because society is not prepared for them. And I don’t think they’re a bit prepared for old age. They are often fat, unhealthy, and they haven’t been saving money — though a small percentage of them will receive inheritances."
Dr. Butler also discusses pharmaceutical testing, ageism (a word he coined), and the real meaning of the word 'retired.'

09 November 2006

Haggar ads paint middle-aged as the 'new young'

Haggar has a new campaign. Read about it in Suzanne Vranica's syndicated WSJ article:
Haggar has abandoned its previous youth-themed ad strategy and is acknowledging that Haggar is a brand for average, middle-aged men who don't read GQ and know nothing about the latest trends from Seventh Avenue … The casual men's clothing maker is recognizing that many of its customers are in their 50s and 60s. "Our guy is the baby-boomer guy," says Croncota, adding that past attempts to woo young men were a "stretch."
Actually, the campaign targets middle-class men in the 30-45 age range - which is fine. Not many Baby Boomers in that demographic - which is also fine. But there also aren't that many men in the demographic, which isn't also fine.

Watch the commercials on the Haggar web site.

The ads have the sensibility of twenty/thirtysomething creatives. They're funny, sort of outrageous, cute, unfortunately a bit patronizing - and probably won't resonate with Baby Boomers over forty-five. That's because the spots have that Married with Children/King of the Hill lowest common denominator feel. (While I got a big kick out of Married with Children, I don't remember ever wanting to wear Al Bundy's pants and shirts.)

Add to this the Boomer grandparent ethos. Not too many are still parents of teenagers, or have antipathy towards children and teenagers today. If anything, they are doing everything in their power to befriend and influence Millennials. I blogged about this earlier. Here's a quote from a recent article in The Houston Chronicle:
"Boomers think their grandkids are too programmed, and they're looking to stir things up."
Does Haggar really want to make a truly outrageous, slaphappy spot that would resonate with Baby Boomers? How about a scenario where overbearing, addled-brained parents are telling their two kids what to think, what to do - silly, pointless advice - and have a youngish (late 40s, early 50s) grandfather and his buddy throw the parents out the window - to the delight of their grandchildren.

Haggar and their ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky are right about one thing: long form commercials are the way to go to reach Baby Boomers. I talk about this in my book. Read a few chapters on The Advertising Educational Foundation web site - and find out my take on how Haggar and other companies should be producing commercials targeting Baby Boomers.

Follow-up Post: Haggar Redux Haggar's 'Making Things Right' campaign has the ad bloggers and others buzzing.

06 November 2006

Newsweek: Television Was UsTube

Newsweek's The Boomer Files can be a bit heavy-handed, and sometimes a bit much - but there are good pieces sprinkled here and there. So far, the Albert Brooks piece is my favorite.

A new one is about television. Marc Peyser writes:
When "Davy Crockett" debuted on ABC in 1954, the show was supposed to be a flop ... Something amazing happened when that first episode aired, however: 40 million people watched. And that was just the beginning. "Crockett" doodads-toy wagons, guitars and, especially, coonskin caps-sold faster than a wild mustang can run. Within a year, the merchandise generated more than $300 million-in today's dollars, about $2 billion.
This echoes "Chuck the Talking Head" on an upcoming History Channel/AARP segment of "Our Generation."

The article does a good job zipping us through television in the 50s, 60s, 70s - and ends up with this insightful conclusion:
If there's an irony to all this - and boomers love their irony - it's that TV today has lost almost all its taste for social commentary … To the degree that TV taught boomers to look thoughtfully at their world, that lesson may be lost. When Archie and Edith sang "Those Were the Days," they were more prescient than anyone knew.

05 November 2006

Grand-scale Grandparents

Baby Boomers are all over their grandchildren - and Millennials in general.

I've written about this before.

And even before that.

So they're buying lots of toys (and more serious gifts) for their grandchildren. Check out this piece by David Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle:
Grandparents spend an average of $500 a year on each grandchild, collectively $30 billion per year, according to an AARP study.

"This is the first group of seniors that's embarrassed to have an AARP card," noted Carol Rehtmeyer, president of Rehtmeyer, a toy design, development and manufacturing company … "They're from the rock 'n' roll generation, and embrace spontaneousness and fun," she said. "Boomers think their grandkids are too programmed, and they're looking to stir things up."
But the real person all over this is Christine Crosby of GRAND Magazine.

Read a recent press release about GRAND.

Ignore the Research and Trust Your Gut

Here's a speech I liked hearing about - reported in Advertising Age by Lisa Sanders and from the mouth of Euro RSCG Worldwide's David Jones:

Taking a "swipe at the research and pre-testing industry," Mr. Jones next exhorted listeners to stop asking permission. Drawing on a "truth" from British comedian Vic Reeves that "96.2% of all statistics are made up," Mr. Jones -- also a Brit -- argued that some of the most well-liked ads aren't based on research or focus-group results. Instead they rely on a creative director's gut instinct of what consumers will like. He cited Procter and Gamble's effort for Charmin toilet tissue created by Euro rival Publicis Worldwide that riffs off of the many euphemisms for elimination. "Publicis took a risk, and did it without a bit of research," he said.

And by way of reinforcing the previous point, his last bit of advice was for creatives to "trust your gut." Advertising is changing fast, and to not take a risk is risky -- even though it's scary to take a risk.
No argument from me. I love it.

But there is one big problem. When targeting Baby Boomers you have to have the right guts around to trust. That'd be 50+ creative guts.

It wouldn't be too bright to trust my gut to come up with a campaign for a product aimed at twentysomethings. My gut would tell me, "… Ummm ... ummm ... Wait! I got it! We get some twentysomething girl an' spike her hair an' give'er tattoos and a nose ring an' put an iPod on her head an' bed some hip-hop music an' have her hold up the toothpaste! Yeah! They'll buy it! They'll buy it!"

Sixties music. Peace signs. They'll buy it. Portraying Boomers as teenagers with gray hair. They'll buy it.

Actually, I'm talking about diversity and playing the odds.

Also in the piece are incisive comments by Mr. Jones about the problems of relying on WOM and the premature death knell for the 30-second spot.

And check out other videos from the conference. I especially liked the ones with David Verklin and Alex Bogusky. Much of what they say parallels a few chapters in my book:

Verklin: More video/commercial content needed, and targeted.
Bogusky: Working with a client.

03 November 2006

Another Same Old, Same Old

Here's another 'same old, same old' article in the December 2006 edition of CRM magazine.

Nine out of ten points made and 'new insights' revealed are in my book Advertising to Baby Boomers (June 2005, Paramount Books) and/or can be found on this blog. Many of these same points are also discussed in Brent Green's Marketing to Leading-Edge Baby Boomers — and if you've kept up with Matt Thornhill's Boomer Project.

Again, nothing much new here - but for a quick, skeletal 'Cliff Notes' version, give it a read.

A 2nd Edition of my book (probably in paperback) with four or five new chapters and much updating will be available in early 2007.

01 November 2006

The steady glow of the Boom tube

Eric Deggans has a top-notch piece in The St. Petersburg Times:
"… A mountain of assumptions: Older consumers don't change brands easily. Older consumers are too savvy to be swayed by peer pressure or fads. Older people aren't interested in consumer items such as fast food, fashionable clothing, electronics or entertainment. Older consumers will watch advertising messages targeted to young people, but young people won't reciprocate."
"Such presumptions led major advertisers to target young people decades ago, building a media establishment that valued, over all others, consumers ages 18 to 49. And nowhere was this disparity worse than in the TV industry, where older adults spend more time watching television, but still are valued less."
All echoing themes in my book, my presentations, this blog. Here's one more:
"Researchers always asked 'When will the boomers become old and start acting like their parents'" said Sarah Zapolski, of the Knowledge Management research division at AARP. "But we were asking the wrong question. In many ways, boomers are behaving the way they've always behaved: They've always been less conservative about shopping and entertainment and fashion."
But it was the lede that really hit home:
It's something Linda Ellerbee can feel, like a cold breeze on the back of her neck, every time she meets with somebody from Madison Avenue.
No kidding. Wait until you start preaching to Madison Avenue about this stuff. It's less like a cold breeze and more like being dumped headfirst into a cryogenic freezer...

Visit Linda Ellerbee's Lucky Duck Productions.