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Guest Opinion: The Sky Is Falling … Or Is It?

1 Jun, 2012 By: Steve Newton Response

Every month we see a new article in one of the trades about the decline of DRTV and increased fragmentation, increasing DVR statistics and how video-on-demand (VOD) is destroying the infomercial. As a DRTV agency, we spend a lot of time in the trenches with our clients and their customers/donors, and I’m going to go out on a limb and disagree with Chicken Little. Here’s why: The Boomers are still booming!

A Nielsen study reported that during the 2010-2011 TV season, the heaviest users of traditional TV are adults older than 65 (47.5 hours per week), closely followed by adults ages 50-64 (43 hours per week).

It is smart to focus on customers in their 50s to mid-60s, the majority of them not yet reduced to living solely off a pension. This audience is the perfect target for many DRTV product categories, including vitamin supplements, housewares, non-profits and entertainment. The Bureau ofLabor Statistics, recently quoted in the New York Times, says people aged 45 to 54 and 55 to 64 had the highest median weekly earnings of any age segment in the United States. At the same time, the unemployment rate last year for those 20-24 years old was 14.2 percent; for those 25-34, it was 9.4 percent; for those 55-64 was only 6.2 percent.

They’re not afraid to spend — the lower unemployment rate, combined with lower expenses and more life experience, means this group understands the ebb and flow of economics. “Look, the fact is an affluent 58-year-old is certainly more valuable than a 22-year-old who is just getting by,” David Poltrack, chief research officer at CBS Corp., told the Wall Street Journal on March 9.

Boomers tend to be the most loyal and fierce word-of-mouth champions — if you can prove to them you will deliver. Mark Bradbury illustrated one example of a great boomer word-of-mouth marketing strategy recently on his MediaPost blog:

“Focus Features, in marketing its limited-budget Cold War spy film, ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,’ utilized a game plan that relied onreverse spill from Boomer word-of-mouth. They needed a unique strategy to compete in the release-heavy, year-end movie market. Believing the movie would hit biggest among Boomers, it selected a small group of screens where its target audience who read John le Carré’s best-sellers would catch on, and then relied on Boomer word-of-mouth to do the heavy lifting … by walking before it ran, Focus was able to gauge its audience and determine where to add more screens.”

“Word of mouth from the Boomer crowd seeped to a younger audience, who flocked to the film at night. Focus took its cue and ramped up the theaters in early January, avoiding the annual December blockbuster blitz and had a clear playing field for itself. The film began grossing more money per theater than the George Clooney-starring ‘The Descendants’ and even the Tom Cruise blockbuster ‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.’”

Stephen Reily, Vibrant Nation’s CEO, notes in his MediaPost blog that Boomers now find themselves in a new life stage, one between the late 40s and the late 60s, that simply didn’t exist before. “The path of learning and discovering continues well past the stage when it ended for their parents. Boomer women have been telling us for many years that they inhabit a life-stage all its own … the longevity revolution didn’t add 20 years to the end of life; it added 20 years to the middle of life.”

And the Boomers are poised to make the most of these additional years. Popular shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol” get it: they have a large segment of 50-plus viewers, which is being reflected in the programs themselves, hence the additions of age-appropriate celebrities like Martina Navratilova and Steven Tyler.

Yes, I believe DRTV will be around for a good while to come. With older demos who have discretionary income growing, spending on DRTV products and services will increase proportionately and grow more than ever before.

About the Author: Steve Newton

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