06/19/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011 CEO Says Targeting Life-Stages is More Important Than Demographics

"Age is not a very good predictor of anything,” says Jerry Shereshewsky, CEO of In an exclusive interview with JackMyers Media Business Report, he says that with new targeting data available, especially on the Internet, advertisers should consider targeting people of a certain life-stage, rather than a particular age or gender.

Using bridal magazines as an example, he said, “You go to those magazines and those Websites not because you’re 18 or 31 or 51 but because you want to know what’s what in that universe.”

The average age of a grandparent is currently 53, says Shereshewsky; higher than it’s been historically but seemingly younger than the stereotypical image of a grandparent. He points out targeting a specific age group isn’t the objective of Rather, it’s targeting the largest generation of grandparents in history, a marketing target that is healthier, more active and tech-savvy than ever.

Shereshewsky commented on an experience he had with a 49-year-old interactive advertising executive who seemed to be picturing his own grandparents when considering Knowing that the executive was not yet a grandparent but had a son in his early twenties, Shereshewsky pointed out that the time when the executive would become a grandparent was only a few years away. The conversation shifted and the executive proceeded to purchase ad space on the site.

Quoting the Greek philosopher, Xenophones, who said that if horses had gods, they’d look like horses, Shereshewsky says that if the average media or marketing planner is 30, then 30-year-olds will become the most-targeted demographic.

“If you can talk to someone with some level of relevancy, there is a much greater opportunity to connect to them,” he continued. “Why is it that direct mail rates are going down? That recall for TV commercials is going down? Because there is so much noise out there that unless [the message] is totally relevant, we have taught ourselves to ignore it. The advertising industry has, in essence, taught people to ignore advertising. There is a ton of research out there that says the 50+ or 45+ audience looks at advertising and says, ‘I have no idea who they’re talking to, [but] it ain’t me,’” Shereshewsky noted.

"This is really an opportunity for all of us to get smarter about what people are actually doing and try to become relevant to them in our communication.”

Since becoming CEO of in 2007, Shereshewsky has become acutely aware of the stigma against the 50+ demographic – something that CBS, TV Land, Hallmark Channel, news networks, magazines, newspapers and other media companies have been harping on for years. While Shereshewsky's pitch on the value of the 45+ demo is not original, he believes “there is a lack of understanding, which translates into an unwillingness to recognize that this is the largest and wealthiest demographic in the United States. I am recognizing that it’s not just my problem. It wasn’t until I was out there talking about grandparents, I’d get a blank look like, 'why would we advertise to old people?' It is really a societal way of looking at the world.” He pointed out that the single 18 to 34 market and the 50+ market both have high levels of disposable, discretionary income; the older audience just has more of it.

Shereshewsky describes as a life-stage Website for a tech-savvy generation of grandparents. Featuring expert advice, product reviews, community features and sponsored contests, the site launched in beta in September 2007 and went live last month. The site acquired the similarly focused last December. Prior to joining, Shereshewsky was ambassador plenipotentiary to Madison Avenue for Yahoo!. His 38 years in media include time spent at Burson-Marsteller, Wunderman Worldwide and Young & Rubicam.

“There are a couple of people who are beginning to get it,” Shereshewsky added. He cited Ameriprise’s television ad campaigns, which features Dennis Hopper, as an example of advertising that is progressive in its attempt to target the life-stages of an older audience. (The ads speak to viewers about redefining retirement.) “It’s the first time in the financial services sector that anyone is looking at the 50+ audience [with a brand campaign],” Shereshewsky observed. Ameriprise’s Dreams Don't Retire campaign was honored last year with a JackMyers Media Innovation and Creativity Award.


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