Agencies ignoring Boomers

KEY TAKEAWAY: Older consumers, who hold trillions of dollars in spending power and make up a growing portion of the global population are often ignored by advertisers and it’s costing them.

More than a third of the United States population is older than 50, but the group turns up in only 15 percent of media images, according to research from AARP, the powerful advocacy organization focused on older Americans. The report, which will be released on Monday at the Advertising Week conference in New York, was based on a random sample of 1,116 images published or posted by popular brands and groups.

Less than 5 percent of the images showed older generations handling technology, even though the Pew Research Center has found that 69 percent of people between 55 and 73 own a smartphone. More than a third of the images analyzed by AARP portrayed younger people with technology.

Many advertising professionals blame the ageism rampant in their own offices for contributing to the invisibility and distortion of older people in marketing campaigns.

At advertising, public relations and related companies in the United States, more than 81 percent of employees are younger than 55, according to government data. In Britain, where the average age of advertising employees is not quite 34, only 6.2 percent of the workforce is 50 or older, according to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.


  • This generation is more social than you may think. About 82 percent of Boomers belong to at least one social media site, with Facebook being their most popular site of choice — and where you should focus your marketing efforts when trying to reach this group. Unlike the younger generation that favors Instagram and Twitter, those continuous streams of information are less popular with Boomer shoppers. But they do spend 27 hours per week online, and on average, people ages 50 and older spend $7 billion per year online. More than half of Boomers who use social networking sites visit a company website or continue their research on a search engine as a result of seeing something on social media. This means having a strong online presence is necessary to encourage in-store shopping.
  • Boomers also like to be rewarded. Simple, straightforward loyalty programs work best. Approximately  26 percent are active in all of the programs in which they are members, as opposed to only 19 percent of Millennials. They also place a high value on program simplicity, with 78 percent saying they will continue to participate in a program because it’s easy to understand.

Baby boomers hold $2.6 trillion in buying power. They’re credited as one of the wealthiest generations to date and are still economically powerful despite their old age. Boomers have had more time to build their wealth in comparison to other generations while some are still in the workforce and making more money. However, their continued accumulation of wealth is stifled by things like workplace discrimination, poor investments and debt. Below are a few things that illustrate their spending power.  

  • Baby boomers have $2.6 trillion in buying power. (Source: FONA)
  • 64 percent of Boomer women are expected to participate in the workforce by 2022. (Source: Visa)
  • Baby boomers made up 25 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2017. (Source: Pew Research Center)
  • The average career gap before baby boomers go back to work is 2.5 years. (Source: Kelly)

Brands that ignore Boomers do so at their own expense.

About richmeyer

Rich is a passionate marketer who is able to quickly understand what turns a prospect into a customer. He challenges the status quo and always asks "what can we do better"? He knows how to take analytics and turn them into opportunities and he is a great communicator.

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