Boomer Revolt! No Ad-taxation Without Representation

It’s time to stamp out inequality in the 50-plus market

This year is the 250th anniversary of the infamous Stamp Act.

Back in 1765, the British parliament decided the rubes out in the American colonies needed to pay more taxes. Good show. Hear, hear, harumph, harumph.

Stamp ActEnter the Stamp Act, which required the purchase of an official stamp to affix to almost all things paper, from legal documents to newspapers to playing cards and pretty much everything in between. If you snoozed through history in high school, read the full story at the Colonial Williamsburg Journal, War of Words by Professor Gordon S. Wood. It tells you all you need to know about why we don’t drive on the left and bangers and mash isn’t the national dish at Thanksgiving.

When the colonials griped about taxation without representation, Parliament loftily proclaimed the rubes – although voiceless and invisible – were “virtually represented.” So pay up and shut up.

Well, we all know how that turned out.

Today, 250 years later, the same old arguments are playing out once again. This time the establishment is composed of mainstream brand strategists and we American consumers in the 50+ space are the folks being taxed without representation.

In 2014, U.S. advertisers spent $141 billion in conventional media (Kantar Media) and $19 billion on digital/mobile (eMarketer) to persuade consumers to consider, try, buy or switch to their brands. Naturally, the money is built into the price of goods and services – think of it as $160 billion in ad-taxation.

Boomer taxation without representationThe AARP calculates that Americans aged fifty-plus account for 51% of consumer spending, which means we paid half of this whopping ad-tax bill.

However, according to Nielsen, only 5% of ad dollars specifically target the 50+ space. The rest, $74 billion in 2014, is siphoned off to advertise goods and services to younger demographics.

It’s taxation without representation on steroids.

Brand apologists admit the geezer rubes are voiceless and invisible in most ads, but loftily proclaim they’re “virtually represented” in marketing campaigns anyway. Hmm, somehow that sounds familiar: pay up and shut up. Hear, hear, harumph, harumph!

Well, it’s high time for another revolution: let’s start by naming and shaming the culprits in this ad-tax exploitation of Boomers and seniors.

Those revolting Boomers

In 2014, Kantar tells us the top ten categories accounted for $86+ billion in conventional media, almost two-thirds of the total advertising industry spend.

10 Top ad categories 2014So, in these ten sectors alone, advertisers derived $44 billion from purchases made by consumers in the 50+ space.

But, unless going after our retirement funds or stocking our medicine cabinets, few of the brands involved actually feature us in their ads, except as doofuses or cringe-worthy foils for hip 30-somethings.

Not to disrespect our Silent Generation elders, but all this is particularly galling for 93 million Boomer-Plus consumers born 1940-1965 – a cohort swelled in 2015 by four million Gen Xers who are waking up at age fifty to learn they are now uncool cash cows, useful only to generate revenue for advertisers.

George 3rdC’mon, we buy more new cars than Germany and the UK combined. We’re half the CPG market, account for more than half of home improvement sales and – listen up, George – we own over 70% of U.S. household net assets.

So, heck no, we’re not going along quietly with Madison Avenue’s massive Stamp Act transfer of our ad taxes to the 18-49 demo.

Fortunately, some of adland’s serious thinkers and disruptives are breaking away from the power broker establishment – for starters, see Golden Years Represent Golden Opportunity for Marketers, Rance Crain, Editor-in-Chief of Ad Age.

Brands courageous enough to question authority can take heart that the Stamp Act was repealed after a popular outcry. So join the Boomer revolution, free up your creativity and watch your market share soar while the old guard is still harumphing.

Opportunity Stamp Act

Boomer - neXt SM logo_MMOriginally published as a Boomer-Plus Consulting Group post; in September, 2017, we up-branded as Boomer / neXt to welcome the 4 million Gen Xers who join the Boomers in the 50+ space each year.

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