Boomers Feel Slighted

Nov 29, 2006  •  Post A Comment

They may have been the generation of free love, but baby boomers aren’t free if you’re buying media.
TV Land, the MTV Networks channel that is seeking to serve baby boomers the same way Nickelodeon owns kids and MTV attracts teens, recently released new research on the burgeoning group of 40- to 59-year-olds.
For years marketers have been gearing their advertising toward the young end of the 18- to 49-year-old demographic. While they know the graying population at the older end of that bracket has more cash to spend, the prevailing thought is that if you successfully aim at the youth, the boomers will come along for the ride.
But TV Land’s research, conducted with Age Wave and its president, Ken Dychtwald, and Harris Interactive, found some big holes in the conventional wisdom.
“For us the most surprising part of the research was finding out that boomers aren’t really part of that bonus buy that advertisers think they are,” said Tanya Giles, senior VP of research and planning at TV Land. They know what advertisers and programmers are doing, and they don’t like it.”
“They know the large majority of advertising is focused on youth and they are actively saying we pay little to no attention to it,” she said. About half of those studied said they pay little to attention to ads that don’t target them specifically and a third of them say they choose not to buy the product if an ad does not speak to them directly. “We found that was fascinating and very strong,” Ms. Giles said.
For a group that’s also sometimes known as the TV generation, boomers in the survey said they were largely dissatisfied with current programming options.
“They feel that programs on TV don’t speak to the life stage they’re in or show characters they can relate to,” Ms. Giles said. “Only 3 percent of boomers said that they were extremely satisfied with what they had for programming options.”
To TV Land, the other 97 percent equals opportunity. The network is using the information from its studies to “feed our original programming development, whether it be programs that focus on this stage of life … or whether it’s using boomer icons” as the centerpiece of shows.
For example, TV Land has a show called “The Big 4-0,” talking about milestones in someone’s life. Another show, “High School Reunion,” follows boomers going to a 25-year high school reunion, talking about how they’ve changed and reuniting with old friends they may not have seen for years.
TV Land also has the show “Family Foreman” starring George Foreman, who is well known by boomers who have followed him through several stages of life: as a nemesis of Muhammad Ali, as an older athlete making an age-defying comeback, as a religious family man and most recently as a successful businessman. “The idea of reinventing who you are, but still focused on the family, really is a strong message that resonates with boomers,” Ms. Giles said.
To keep its finger on the pulse of boomers, TV Land is working with a Los Angeles-based research company called OTX, which has a 3,000-member panel that can be asked questions or offered the opportunity to react to programming or other messages.
“At any given time we can speak to from 500 to 3,000 of these people for five minutes to 20 minutes,” Ms. Giles said. Topics can range from what they want for Christmas and what’s going to be their next big technology purchase to promotion and programming ideas.
Ms. Giles said it is important to remember that while 60-year-olds Bill Clinton and George W. Bush may be among the best-known boomers, the majority of them are under the age of 50. “There’s a lot of attention to boomers turning 60, but just as many boomers turned 43 last year,” she said. About 45 million boomers are under the age of 50 and 32 million are over 50.
That means events presumed to be touchstones for the generation, such as Woodstock, were actually experienced by a relatively small percentage of boomers.
Instead, according to TV Land’s study, the top cultural event for boomers was the birth of cable television. No. 2 was the launch of color TV. Woodstock was near the bottom of the list with just 18 percent saying it was meaningful to them. It was important to about 40 percent of the boomers in their 50s, to only about 6 percent of those in their 40s.
“That’s the sort of information we need to know so that we’re very careful about how we choose the imagery that we use to speak to this group,” Ms. Giles said.
TV Land has been pushing its new boomer demographic since March. Ms. Giles said response from advertisers has been strong. “I think marketers don’t want to miss the boat. I think they are afraid that when you look at the numbers and you see how the population is shifting, you don’t want to be left behind,” she said. “You know that you’ve got to get out in front of it in order to capture this audience before it passes you by.”
Ms. Giles has been making a tour of media buyers, showing the results of the studies to two agencies a day from now through mid-February. She says people are taking the time to listen: “I think when you have a lot of research behind you, and the research is compelling and the message is strong, people are sitting up and taking notice.”
This article is part of TVWeek.com’s Media Planner newsletter, a weekly source of breaking news, trend articles, profiles and data about media planning edited by Senior Editor Jon Lafayette.


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