Cynopsis Media presents:
Demographic Viewing Patterns
Good morning. It's Monday, December 6, 2010, and this is the fourth installment of our special five-part series on Demographic Viewing Patterns. Evaluated by category, each Special E-Report explores the latest research on viewing patterns and evolving media preferences of specific demographic groups. Cynopsis Media will also look at the newest trends networks and ad agency executives are using to target and reach each of these demographic categories. As always with any special edition, we hope you find the information relevant, interesting and informative, and encourage your feedback.
by Daisy Whitney
What's does a 55-year-old usually have more of than a twentysomething?
The answer's not gray hair. It's money.
Because most Boomers have more disposable income than most millennials. Yet advertisers still genuflect at the throne of youth, even though the 45-65 demo often has more money to buy cars, cell phones and other goods and services that marketers want to sell on TV.
But lest an advertiser or a TV network be thought of as the "old people's network," a lot of programmers duck and hide when the conversation turns to those over 45. That may be changing thanks to rising awareness of the buying and media habits of an age group that should actually be coveted by a lot of marketers. While a number of broadcast and cable networks skew on the high side of the 40s, there aren't many networks that actively target the Boomer consumer. However, networks like Hallmark Channel, Retirement Living, and shows produced by AARP TV openly admit to courting this demo as part of their marketing and advertisers seem to be responding.
Many more networks will likely join the Boomer bandwagon because some programming experts are actively evangelizing the importance of the Boomer demo.
The Alpha Boomers
Alan Wurtzel, President of Research at NBC Universal, recently undertook a research and ethnography study to dispel some of the myths about Boomers. "We did some studies that looked at the 55-64 segment and we saw a group of people who are totally different than the urban myths and they account for $1.8 trillion in spending power."
Every year about four million-plus people in the United States enter the 55-plus Boomer demo.The problem is, most networks put a premium on 18-34, 18-49 and even 25-54. So they'll often stop counting after 55. Wurtzel refers to the 55-plus side of Boomers as Alpha Boomers - they grew up on flower power, rock 'n' roll and the Vietnam War, and now they have empty nests. Contrary to popular belief, they aren't slowing down, they aren't spending less, and they aren't camped out in front of broadcast networks. The fractionalization that has impacted all of media has been felt by them too.
"If marketers believe the digital world has changed how consumers behave and think, then you have to consider the Alpha Boomer is almost identical to the Gen Y consumer. The No. 4 web site for Alpha Boomers is Facebook. The No. 3 site for 18-34 is Facebook," he said.
Alpha Boomers are equally enthusiastic about new technology as other demos. About 62% of Alpha Boomers are excited about the possibilities new technology offers and own cable, hi-def, DVRs and broadband in essentially the same numbers as the 18-34 consumers.
Boomers also spend 19% more on technology than most adult consumers. "They have more iPads than the younger guys. They have the money to buy them," Wurtzel said.
And when it comes to TV, Alpha Boomers aren't wedded to broadcast - about 45% watch cable and broadcast, and 43% watch cable only. This research demonstrates that Alpha Boomer media habits aren't quite as set in stone as some may have thought. This also suggests marketers are doing a disservice by not reaching out to this group. "I'm not suggesting every commercial should have people over 50 in it, but perhaps some commercials should. If marketers don't begin taking these guys into consideration they'll lose some of their existing customers and $1.8 trillion ought to get someone's attention," Wurtzel said.
This is a message Wurtzel is actively trying to disseminate, not just to NBC Universal channels, but to the TV industry. While an MTV or a G4 can probably afford to ignore Boomers, other networks can't, and instead should try to court them. "It's about not forgetting them," he said. "They didn't go away and they are hugely valuable."
"Older folks have gotten younger."
Advertising agencies are getting hip to the changing nature of the demo. "People who are 50 and above now, aren't what 50 and above used to be," said Donald Seaman, VP/Director of Communication Analysis at media agency MPG. "Older folks have gotten younger."
Still, he pointed out that most networks don't actively target the new vanguard of Alpha Boomers. Most networks will target 18-49 or some combination of a more traditional demo and also get the Boomers, as networks as Lifetime and shows as Oprah do, Seaman said. Even TV Land, rooted in nostalgia shows, sells the 25-54 demo and focuses on people in their 40s.
A rise in family-friendly ad buys
Hallmark Channel, however, has seen a rise in advertisers who buy its family-friendly audience and who also want to reach the Boomer consumers.
"We are seeing a bit of a momentum gathering around this demographic as clients become more educated and realize this is a huge area of disposable income," said Bill Abbott, the network's CEO. "We are seeing more and more clients target this group as part of the 35-64 demo."
While many advertisers still aim for 18-49 and 25-54 on Hallmark, a handful are specifically wanting to make sure they also reach the Alpha Boomers. Travel and automotive have picked up steam in this area in the last 12 to 18 months, Abbott said. "We are seeing a tremendous resurgence in auto advertising targeting the older demo especially with domestic autos," he said.
Many car makers are now buying programs that attract the 25-64 demo, he added. "Whereas three years ago it would be primarily media purchased against 18-49 across the board, now we are seeing a migration to that deep-pocketed 34-64 year-old that has purchasing power and buys more upscale autos."
In 34-64, Hallmark's audience is split evenly between the two halves of the group. "It's becoming more okay to acknowledge the Boomer audience and we are looking forward to the day when it's viewed as being attractive. The more a CBS stands behind it and the more a Viacom stands behind it and the bigger broadcast groups and cable network groups get behind that story, the more it'll be accepted. Because now it's a question of having those age-old assumptions about media challenged," Abbott said.
More and more content being produced for Alpha Boomers
Then there are networks like Retirement Living TV (RLTV), which targets adults 50+. Its programming focuses on health, finance and other issues important to its audience. The network just aired a new series on caregiving hosted by Joan Lunden.
AARP also produces some programming for RLTV including My Generation.
There are increasing efforts to reach Boomers online. Last month, USA Today partnered with CBS on "Senior Moment," a baby boomer themed cross platform show that began on The Early Show and is being made available Gannet newspaper sites.
Interestingly, online audience research firm Hitwise has found that the most popular entertainment and television Web sites for 45-54 are MSNBC, The Weather Channel, Hulu, ESPN and CNN.com.
The Demographic Viewing Patterns 5-part series is available to read or download on the Cynopsis website in our Special Editions section.
Daisy Whitney for Cynopsis Media
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