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Mad Men Ignore Boomers

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According to America's marketing and advertising community, also known as the guys and gals on Madison Avenue, Baby Boomers are simply not of interest. It's consumers age 18-44 that make up the sweet spot for advertising. That's who they are courting.

How can that be? There are nearly 80 million Boomers! Aren't all 80 million of us still shopping? Buying lipsticks and magic wrinkle potions? Buying cars? Going on vacations? Eating in restaurants and going to the movies? I'm pretty sure we're doing all those things, and a whole lot more. And, we have most of the money in this country and are spending it. Seems puzzling.

The younger sweet spot was established about 50 years ago (see the show Mad Men) when it was determined by the ad community that once people hit 50ish they were going to die within a few years and there wasn't much point marketing to those who wouldn't be around very long to buy your product.

Ad agencies also believed that older folks had already developed brand loyalty so there was very little opportunity for a marketer to get them to try new things or switch brands. Little Miss 50 Plus was just simply too old and set in her ways.

But you know what? We're Boomers and we really don't fit that profile at all. That may have been the case with the previous generation, but not for us. Study after study shows that Boomers love trying the latest barbecue chip or gadget. We are a generation with a fairly short attention span and like to be in the know.

For better or for worse, we are early adopters and constantly looking for the new-new thing. Our online usage is very close to the usage of 18-44 year olds. Consequently, our online shopping is also on par with younger people, only we have more money and are spending more of it online.

The automotive industry very recently put out information showing that people over 50 are 15 times more likely to buy a new car and a more expensive car than our younger counterparts. Last year, the 55-plus demo accounted for 40 percent of all car sales, according to the Wall Street Journal, up from 33 percent in 2008.

The travel industry has quietly known, for a long time, that it's the Boomers who are spending the big bucks on travel. The restaurant industry says that Boomers are what's keeping it afloat. The entertainment industry has made a bundle on movies about older people with pics like Hope Floats and Marigold Hotel, starring older actors like Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. I haven't seen studies on the beauty industry, but with all the new wrinkle zappers and hair products for "more mature" hair, not to mention the multi-billion dollar hair coloring industry, 50-plus must be pretty big business.

It's a funny thing about the advertising community. They get stuck on certain assumptions and are slow to change them, regardless of the differences in this generation. Years ago, when I sold advertising for GQ magazine, I remember that all the advertisers wanted to be on the right-hand page. The left-hand page was considered bad placement. You can imagine how challenging it was each month to close up an issue when everyone wanted to be on the right side. Why did everyone want to be on the right? Several decades earlier there had been one study that said that right pages were better than left. So, for all eternity, every "Mad Man" in America stuck with that principle. The fact was, if your ad was well done and relevant to the audience, it worked equally well on the right or the left.

So Mad Men and Women of America, let me remind you. There are nearly 80 million of us and we're going to be around for a good long while. We are the "youth generation" and no matter how old we get, we will continue to believe that we are the "youth generation."

Many of us don't really like being called Boomer either. We consider ourselves individuals, not one in a monolithic group of 80 million. Also, never ever call us "Senior," we will run screaming from you. We do not relish the notion of getting old and, for all intents and purposes, many of us have decided we simply are not going to do it. When we were building our retirement planning website, GangsAway!, we were very mindful of presenting the next few decades as an opportunity to do new and exciting things versus winding down. One day we may have to turn in our running shoes and bikes for walkers, but if and when we do, we'll figure out how to trick them out to make them young and cool. For those Mad Men who get this, we look forward to hearing from you and buying gazillions of your client's products. Ka-ching!