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In AARP’s View, Advertisers Need to Focus

Youth, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, is wasted on the young. Now AARP says that advertising budgets are, too.

A new campaign aimed at advertisers themselves features people in their 50s and early 60s, and argues that brands should be focusing on them, not people ages 18 to 34, commonly referred to by the marketers who covet them as millennials.

“I may be creased, but my money is crisp,” says the headline in one ad. “I may be gray, but my money is as green as it gets,” says another, which continues, “Why is it all about 18-34, when they barely have a dime of their own? The story is simple, AARP Media reaches the best boomers, and 68 percent of those over 50 give money to their adult kids.”

The campaign, by Catch New York, will be introduced Monday in Adweek and will appear on Web sites including LinkedIn, Mediabistro and Business Insider. Along with advertisers, ads are aimed at chief executives, marketers and media planners.

Patricia Lippe Davis, the vice president for marketing at AARP media sales, said that while a trade campaign last year reminded marketers that consumers over 50 are physically active and avid shoppers, this is more pointed.

“Here we’re ramping it up and being in your face,” said Ms. Davis. “What we’re trying to say to marketers is put your money where the money is, and to break the old paradigm of targeting youth.”

The organization’s print and online outlets include AARP The Magazine, AARP Bulletin and AARP.org.

Joseph Perello, a managing partner at Catch New York, said that when advertisers courted consumers in their 20s and 30s two or three decades ago, it made more sense.

“The advertising industry in general puts an overemphasis on youth, and when boomers were young that was a very good advertising strategy, because when boomers were 35 in ’75 or ’85, there were 70 million of them,” Mr. Perello said. “But that needs to change because this demographic is changing the way our country is and the way our country behaves.”

If there is a tendency to pitch to younger consumers, one reason might be the blush of youth among those creating the ads.

Employees from 20 to 34 years old represent 40.3 percent of the advertising field, while that age group represents 31.1 percent of the American work force over all, according to 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those 55 and over represent 20.6 percent of the general work force, but 15.8 percent of the advertising industry.

With AARP membership beginning at age 50, and baby boomers defined as those born from 1946 to 1964, in two years the entire generation will fall within AARP eligibility. Today, 33 percent of the group’s 37 million members are ages 50 to 59, 46 percent are 60 to 74 and 21 percent are 75 and older.

Founded in 1958 as the American Association of Retired Persons, the organization started going solely by its acronym more than a decade ago; today only 47 percent of its members are retired.

The bimonthly AARP The Magazine, mailed free to households with AARP members, has the largest circulation of any magazine, distributing 22.4 million an issue.

Advertising revenue for the magazine totaled $163.3 million in 2011, up from $131.2 million in 2010, an increase of 24.5 percent, according to the Association of Magazine Media.

Much of the advertising in the June/July issue of the magazine is what might be expected, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, a blood sugar monitoring device, and amplifying earphones for television viewers with hearing loss.

But there also are a few ads from brands that have nothing to do with infirmities, the type with which AARP hopes to gain more traction, like Stouffer’s Farmers’ Harvest meals and the Bose Wave music system.

While people 50 and older purchase 62 percent of new cars, according to Ms. Davis of AARP, there are no car companies advertising in the magazine, although both Toyota and Jeep have in recent years. There are also no alcohol brands on board, although Michelob Ultra has advertised in the past.

“I think we are underserved — pun intended,” Ms. Davis said. “We are buying booze.”

Marketers are well aware that older consumers are purchasing their brands and may assume they are reaching them by advertising on television, but Ms. Davis refers to that as just “spill,” shorthand for spillover.

“They are reaching our market to some degree with spill, but I’m a firm believer as a marketer that content has a profound impact on messaging,” Ms. Davis said, referring to media content.

Denny’s, the restaurant chain, has been a regular advertiser with AARP since 2010 and highlights in its ads that AARP members get a 20 percent discount from 4 to 10 p.m.

Frances Allen, chief marketing officer for Denny’s, said that diners over 50 account for more than 45 percent of the restaurant chain’s guests.

“It’s a very fit, active and relatively financially secure market with time on their hands, and we’ve got to make sure we meet their needs in all sorts of ways,” Ms. Allen said.

Along with broad-reaching television campaigns, Denny’s also focuses on specific demographic groups, such as people 18 to 25, the intended audience of a humorous and provocative Web series, “Always Open,” which it releases on CollegeHumor.com and on Denny’s Facebook page.

“You have to talk to everyone in a way that’s targeted and relevant to them, and to do so in media that’s targeted and relevant to them,” Ms. Allen said.

 

Andrew Adam Newman, The New York Times. July 18, 2012

Copyright © 2012 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.

 

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