As the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks get ready to face off in Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2, advertisers are set to reach millions of viewers during one of the most-watched sporting events in the world. With the opportunity so great and the costs so high -- the price tag for 30-seconds of Super Bowl airtime hit a record $4 million this year -- why would marketers not target the 50+ audience, today's largest and wealthiest demographic? And yet as Super Bowl Sunday approaches, it's a safe bet to say that most advertisers will once again ignore this invaluable demographic.
In the weeks leading up to the big game, advertisers are revealing their much-anticipated ads. Many familiar names are returning, such as Audi, which, in its seventh consecutive Super Bowl appearance, will promote the new Audi A3. Other brands are making their Super Bowl ad debut, including Chobani, the makers of Greek yogurt, who have bought their first Super Bowl spot. Some brands, such as Soda Stream and Butterfinger, have released early sneak-peek teasers of their game-time ads. In one positive sign indicating marketers may pay attention to the important 50+ demographic this year, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 66, was announced as the star of Bud Light's Super Bowl ad. Yet despite this hopeful sign, many still believe that advertisers will mostly ignore the 50+ demographic.
I spoke with experts Peter Hubbell, Founder and CEO of BoomAgers, and Brent Bouchez, Founder of BouchezPage, to get their perspectives.
"This year's Super Bowl broadcast will reach about 110 million people, and I'm willing to bet that a very large number of them will be Boomers," says Hubbell. "But, if the past few years are any guide, virtually none of the high-priced, massively promoted ads will resonate with or engage most viewers over 50."
Worse, ads targeted to Millennials may not just fail to resonate with 50+ viewers, they could actually turn Boomers off.
"The fact is, the average 50-year-old will look at most of the advertising on the Super Bowl and find it sophomoric, bordering on just plain stupid," says Bouchez. "The 50+ target wants a smarter, more interesting, more thoughtful, more creative message, not another joke that's forgotten the minute it's over along with the product."
A Major Marketing Fumble
In previous Super Bowls, ads have relentlessly targeted Millennials, ignoring the key Boomer demographic.
"Advertisers and media agencies continue to worship the young end of the 18-49 media demo even though the wealthiest, most advertising-friendly generation in history is now mostly 50 and older," says Hubbell.
It may seem mystifying, given the size and spending power of the 50+ demographic, but one reason for this phenomenon may be a simple case of basing decisions on the past, rather than the present.
"One of the main reasons for this situation is marketing inertia," says Hubbell. "The 18-49 target has always been the default choice, and advertisers and agencies are still working from the same Super Bowl 'Playbook' that they've relied on for decades."
Another reason may be a misconception among advertisers that Boomers are still trying to re-live their 20s and 30s.
"There is an assumption amongst advertisers and agencies that everyone wants to be young, everyone wants to be 30," says Bouchez. "This assumption ignores the reality of life. Sure, people over 50 would love to have younger knees, skin or hair, but they don't want to think younger. They are smarter than they have ever been and they know it. Talk to them as if they are 18 or 25 or 32 and you run the risk of insulting them."
Now is the perfect time for smart advertisers to take stock of today's realities, in which the 50+ demographic now represents the most desirable group for advertisers to target.
Here are some reasons why:
· The "Year of the Boomer": What's in advertisers "blind side" is the fact that 2014 has been called "The Year of the Boomer," as the youngest Boomers born in 1964 will all turn 50 by the end of the year. This means "Happy Birthday" wishes are in order this year to First Lady Michelle Obama who just turned 50, and Academy Award-winner Sandra Bullock, among many others.
· Market Heft: With nearly 107 million members, the 50+ demographic outnumbers 18-34-year-olds by 44 percent and 35-49-year-olds by 73 percent, according to the AARP Media Sales E-Guide. Over the next ten years, the 50+ population will grow by over 17 million, while 18-34 will grow by just 2.6 million and 35-49 by just 2 million. These numbers indicate that marketing to the traditionally coveted 18-49 target audience may be the mindset of the past, but it doesn't make sense for the present or for the future. Rather, the 50+ demographic is the key not only to current but also to future sales.
· The "Strong Side" of Spending Power: The spending power of Boomers makes them a stand-out demographic that advertisers should court and covet. Consumers age 50+ have an average net worth of $416,000, according to the AARP Media Sales E-Guide. This number is nearly double that of 18-34-year-olds, Millennials, which is the demographic typically favored by Super Bowl advertisers. Simply put, Boomers are better positioned to actually go out and buy the automobiles, appliances and alcohol being advertised during the big game.
Given the size and spending power of the 50+ demographic, they should no longer be sidelined when it comes to advertising.
"The Boomers made the Super Bowl super, but now that they've aged out of the fashionable 18-49 target market, they've been sidelined for the big game," says Hubbell. "If the Super Bowl really is advertising's biggest stage, the biggest cohort in the history of marketing deserves a role."
"The most successful advertising starts with a real understanding of the consumer," says Bouchez.
And when advertisers understand and target the 50+ consumer, they may end up attracting Millennials, too. "But here's the good news -- smart, interesting and thoughtful ads can work pretty well with younger people, too," says Bouchez.
The "end zone?" Advertisers who target 50+ consumers will be the big winners in this year's Super Bowl and beyond.