Marketing to boomers: boon or bust?

New research from Harris Interactive says we baby boomers feel that Madison Avenue has forgotten we exist. The study, commissioned by the TV Land cable network, shows that two-thirds of adult
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In the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes,” there's a scene where Kathy Bates' character Evelyn yells at a young woman who cut her off and stole her parking space. The girl, thinking herself the victor, says, “Face it, lady: We're younger and faster.”

Evelyn then repeatedly rams her car into the back end of the girl's car, smiles and says, “Face it, girls: I'm older, and I have more insurance.”

As I age, it becomes more apparent to me that maturity — or experience, as some would say — is a key factor in what you get from society. Boomers rule — or can choose to rule as Kathy Bates' character did.

New research from Harris Interactive says we baby boomers feel that Madison Avenue has forgotten we exist. The study, commissioned by the TV Land cable network, shows that two-thirds of adult TV viewers say that most television programming and advertising is targeted at people under 40.

More than 80 percent of respondents over 40 claim they can't find TV programming that reflects their lives. A miniscule 3 percent of boomers said they were extremely satisfied with television programming choices.

“The amount of people dissatisfied with television overall was a pretty big eye-opening thing for us,” said Larry Jones, president of the TV Land cable network. Well, duh!

Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, aren't accustomed to being left out in the cold. As the largest generational group, they are used to being catered to — first by parents, then by society and especially by television. These boomers now find that once they've crossed that magic threshold of 50, TV programmers and advertisers see little value in markets that serve them.

And that's not far off from the truth. ABC and NBC focus their advertising business on the 18 to 49 demographic. The younger the eyes, the more advertisers will pay. For the 18 to 24 demographic, every thousand set of eyes is worth $335. That number drops to $119 for those 55 to 64.

Ken Dychtwald, president of the San Francisco-based consulting firm Age Wave, says that ignoring boomers is a costly mistake.

“Fifty-three percent of the boomers said that when they see ads that don't relate to them because they're more focused on the youth side of equation, they tune out,” he said. “Another 33 percent of the respondents said they get so annoyed by the ads that they actively refuse to buy the products and will turn away from the advertising and the medium altogether. Boomers won't put up with being snubbed.”

I'd like to remind Madison Avenue that we boomers represent an extremely affluent demographic. In fact, we can boast more than $2.3 trillion in annual buying power. So, if you want our money, stop with the 20- and 30-something actors in your commercials and prime-time shows, and give us programs with themes we'll relate to.

Fortunately, we boomers invented most of today's technology and know quite well how to get what we want. We'll simply TiVo the shows we do want to watch — and bypass the commercials we don't.

So, be careful TV programmers. Ignore us at your own peril. And remember: Boomers rule!

Now, where are my reading glasses?

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