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Openly Gray's take

Every week or so, the folks here at OG will be sharing our perspectives and point-of-view on several topics related to the BoomerX audience.

Our industry has a big age problem

Mark Twain said, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." The trouble is that our industry does seem to mind, a lot. So here’s an example… Can you guess the average age of a new car buyer in the UK? Here’s a clue - spending by the over 50s is so high vs. younger age groups that they account for the majority (60%) of all new car sales. In fact. the average age of a new car buyer in the UK is 54. Yes, you read that right. The majority of new cars are bought by people in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. The average age of a new Ford buyer, for example, is 56. For Toyota, it’s 63! Even cheap, fun Fiats are bought by people whose average age is 49. (Source: Read Cars 2018). Here are the numbers: I found this quite an eye-opener, but what about all the car marketers out there? It goes to reason that knowing who's actually buying their cars should form the foundation of every car brand’s marketing and advertising approach. Yes, make the car look great, make the lifestyle aspirational, throw in the bendy road sequence, but connect with your key audience. It’s pretty basic really. And yet, this just isn’t happening. To demonstrate, I reviewed recent UK TV ads for these car brands - take a look at the screen grabs below, it’s astonishing. Not only do these brands ignore their primary audiences, they actively knuckle down on their obsession with youth. Believe me, these shots don’t do justice to the full crazy reality - skateboarders, clubbers, and sexualised twenty-somethings who real car buyers would never allow out of the house. I’m sorry to go on about this but in their obsession with the vibrancy and ‘appeal’ of youth, advertisers are making a terrible miscalculation. The over 50s are the most valuable generation in the history of marketing, yet they are almost completely ignored by advertisers - according to Havas Group, only 5% of advertising is even aimed at people over 50, and that can often appear inauthentic, patronising and out of touch. This has a direct impact on brand choice. A staggering 79% of over 50s claim they feel patronised by advertisers, whilst an AARP survey found that 62% of over 50s (and 70% of women 50+) would consider switching to a brand they feel better represents people their age. So the folks with the money buying most of the stuff are not brand loyal and will readily drop brands that don’t speak to them…or actively choose brands that do. So what’s the answer? A great first step would be for agencies & marketing departments to ensure they are better represented themselves at all age levels. Can a 60 year old still create an aspirational impression? Of course. But first agencies need to understand that the over 50s do not spend all their time buying slippers and walk-in bathtubs. But nor do they all sit dreamily on yachts arm-in-arm thanking the Lord that they chose the right pension. Just get real! Age does not have to be an unsavoury thing, best avoided. Instead, agencies and marketers must open their minds to the huge untapped opportunities that older audiences offer. They might even sell more cars.

VR Goggles
VR Goggles

I'm a Baby Boomer,
and I'm Fine With
'OK Boomer'

I'm a Baby Boomer, and I'm not at all offended by the sudden rise of the phrase "OK, Boomer." Perhaps that's surprising. If you were to go by some of the media coverage, you might assume that my cohorts and I over the age of 55 are supposed to be uniformly offended by the idea that young people, particularly millennials, have a phrase to reject the condescension and judgment that some folks in our generation are quick to heap on them. Not this Boomer.
 In fact, just like many members of my generation (which is nearly 75 million strong), I feel a connection with millennials. What, you say? How is that possible? Aren't I supposed to be sitting on a rocking chair somewhere complaining about how "today's young people" are skipping school to do dastardly things like trying to save the planet?
 No. That's simply not what this time of life is like for me, nor for my friends. In fact, for the first time since my teens and 20s, we feel excited about the wide world of possibilities for what could lie ahead. I turned 60 this year, but I feel like I've entered a second coming of age—only this time with experience to help guide me and and money in the bank to help finance my choices. (And yes, I know that financial structures and the growth in inequality are among the many legitimate causes of concern that younger generations are rightfully focused on.) I do understand the concerns of my contemporaries who feel that their entire generation is being lumped together to receive collective blame for society's woes. Even before the "OK Boomer" phenomenon took off, we were already getting pummeled with a long series of headlines, such as "The Boomers Ruined Everything," (The Atlantic), "How the baby boomers broke America (Politico), and, perhaps most surprisingly, "How Baby Boomers Have Killed the Manhattan Power Lunch" (Vice). I'm not sure that last one is in and of itself such a loss to society, although the piece makes good points about "an economic system that has left both millennials and the broader workforce feeling broke, burned out, chained to their desks, and constantly behind." Over the years, I have at times heard people my age and older make disparaging remarks made about the younger generations, such as suggestions that they're not hard workers, don't understand how good they have it, are too addicted to technology, etc. Many of these are reminiscent of things older generations used to say about us when I was growing up—that we spent too much time listening to music, didn't understand the value of hard work, wanted too much to be handed to us, etc. To some extent, these complaints are part of the "I used to walk to school uphill both ways" vintage, part of the cycle of life. We need to hear each other and understand each other. Unfortunately, our culture is currently making that difficult—in no small part due to the proliferation of media images that make us Boomers look like old fuddy-duddies.
 A recent study from AARP shows just how bad this has gotten. People over 50 are rarely seen in ads, and when they are, the portrayals are often negative. The study found 28 percent of the depictions of people over 50 were negative, compared to only 4 percent of the depictions of younger people. Members of my generation are most often shown, for example, as incapable of using technology and dependent on younger people. It's no wonder that the image of us as out of touch with today's harsh realities remains so popular. In fact, the many, many entrepreneurs of the millennial generation would only benefit if they cast aside creaky ageist stereotypes and engage with boomers as potential customers, allies and partners—not opponents. The same is obviously true the other way around.
 The world is facing big challenges. We'll all do a better job of tackling them when we work together, across generational lines. So this Boomer says to his younger compatriots: OK indeed. Let's get to work.
 Vaughan Emsley is co-founder of Openly Gray, an agency focused on marketing to BoomerX people 50 and older.
 The views expressed in this article are the author's own.

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