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Before the Boom

23 Nov, 2009 By: Bridget McCrea Response

Marketers that haven’t already formulated a plan for reaching America’s senior consumers are missing out on an opportunity that’s only going to increase as the nation continues to age. Deserving a second look right now are the Greatest Generation (born 1901 to 1925) and the Pre-Boomer Generation (born 1925 to 1945).

Currently aged 64 and up, members of both generations comprise a large segment of the population that’s often overlooked in favor of the huge Baby Boomer demographic and/or younger consumers.

Consider the fact that during the 18th century, the 65-plus American demographic comprised just 2 percent of the population. Modern medicine, attention to safety and fewer physically demanding jobs have helped to boost that percentage, and more than half the people who have ever lived to the age of 65 are alive today.

With life expectancies hovering around 78 years and a huge number of Baby Boomers following in the Pre-Boomers’ footsteps, by 2050 the number of individuals older than 65 will outnumber those younger than 20 for the first time in history.

By the time that evolution occurs, marketers will surely be allocating the bulk of their resources for targeting older Americans … but why wait? Tackle the learning curve now, says Bob Yallen, president and COO at Encino, Calif.-based InterMedia Advertising, and you’ll be in good shape when the shift takes place.
“2050 is not that far away,” says Yallen, a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board. “To get ready, marketers should be taking into account the fact that people are living longer, and work that into their advertising strategy.”

Take technology, for example. While one may assume that pre-Boomers steer clear of newfangled communication methods, Yallen says more of them are embracing the Internet, E-mail and even social networking.

“Whereas five years ago the typical older American didn’t surf the Web, many are now using the same media that younger generations are,” says Yallen. “They’re adapting to technology and using it to become more informed consumers. After watching ads on TV, for example, they take the next step and visit the sponsor’s Web site to get more information and fill out lead forms.”

Older generations also watch more television than any other generation coming up behind them, which makes them an especially attractive target for DRTV marketers.

Yallen, whose firm uses the term “silent generation” for individuals born 1937-1945, says such consumers are 29-percent more likely to be watching TV than overall viewers, and are a whopping 50-percent more likely to be tuned into the TV than individuals aged 35 and younger.

“Because of this, the silent generation is much easier to reach,” says Yallen, who adds that news-oriented stations like CNN and Fox News tend to be especially popular among older adults (with the 65-plus crowd comprising 46 percent of the audience). “As a result, marketers can reach them very efficiently on a cost-per-thousand basis.”

Generationally Speaking

There’s so much hype over the 78-million-strong Baby Boomer generation that both the Greatest Generation and the Pre-Boomers tend to get overshadowed. Assuming that older consumers will somehow get “caught in the advertising net” designed for younger buyers is a mistake, as there are distinct differences between the generations that no marketer can afford to miss.

Take the Pre-Boomer generation, for example. Typically defined as those born during the 20-year period prior to the end of World War II, or from 1925 to 1945. The generation comprises about 50 million people, and is sometimes referred to as the “greatest generation” or the “luckiest generation” (because they were born immediately after the Great Depression and were either too young or too old to serve in any major wars).

About 95 percent of Pre-Boomers are currently retired, with many of them dodging the bullet of the recent recession due to the fact that they already invested conservatively and were residing in their retirement residences when the maelstrom hit. A Pre-Boomer himself, Don Potter, a DRTV pioneer who is now a consultant and blogger ( in Los Angeles, says that the typical member of his generation can’t recall the pain of the Great Depression, but does have vivid memories of World War II and the years immediately following it.

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About the Author: Bridget McCrea

Bridget McCrea

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