Advertising To Boomers: Shakespearean Thinking Doth Flourish On Madison Avenue

William Shakespeare: gone but not forgotten –  unlike the Boomers

Last Saturday, April 23rd, was the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Hey, hold the “so what?” eye-rolls; brainiacs from TIME to Google Doodle honored the event, gilding their culture-cred with well-known quotes laid on with a trowel.

Shakespeare_GroovyIt’s no exaggeration – well, maybe a little – to call Shakespeare the Boomers’ poet laureate. After all, perched above the Shakespeare’s Head pub, his effigy looks out over London’s Carnaby Street – surely the most famous UK locale back in the swingin’ sixties when the British Invasion rocked our world. Heck, The Beatles hung out there. The Stones. Maybe even Austin Powers!

At least Shakespeare is still relevant. On the other hand, Boomers – and, recently, older Gen Xers – are condemned to the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns (hat tip, Prince of Denmark). Despite being America’s most valuable consumers, those 50-plus receive only around 5% of ad targeting budgets (Nielsen).

50+ Market shares vs. ads

So, to mark the great man’s anniversary we dispatched eternally optimistic Boomer Alfred E. Neuman to track down movers and shakers at A-list ad agency Groupe Thinke 1600 and pose the following question:

Consumers over fifty buy half the new cars sold in America, over half the CPGs, two-thirds of home improvement products and are the fastest growing segment for smartphones and tablets, plus, they own around 80% of US household net assets, so … why don’t we see them in advertising?

Apparently some of Madison Avenue’s brightest still live by the Bard’s 400 year-old words; at least at Groupe Thinke 1600.

  • Alfred E Neuman_ShakespeareChief Strategist Mark Anthony: Recently I had to report a Millennial to HR for asking the same question – he thinks too much; such men are dangerous. We prefer to bury Boomers, not to praise them. 
  • Media VP Hamlet: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark – and it be not the 18-49 demo!
  • Digital marketing whiz kid Juliet Capulet: Gen Xers are, like, totally turning fifty and becoming Boomers. I’m, like, eew! A pox on both your houses!
  • Chief Creative Officer Macbeth: Bro, advertise to Boomers? It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

A new day is dawning, thanks to the infinite monkey theorem

Shakespeare is not all tragedy and drama; he has his lighter moments. And, because of his famous verbiage, he became the catalyst for one of the most endearingly goofy challenges in statistics – the infinite monkey theorem.

Monkey ShakespeareThe theorem states that an infinite number of monkeys hitting the keyboards of an infinite number typewriters for an infinite amount of time will eventually produce the complete works of William Shakespeare (HT Wikipedia).

Which provides a convenient segue into the realm of really big numbers. Really, really big.

Like the $51 trillion of net worth owned by Americans aged fifty-plus. Really-big-number-wise, that means $51,000,000,000,000 is in the hands of consumers who can be grouped, segmented and clustered in more combinations and permutations than even the infinite monkey team could figure. No offense intended, Bonzo.

2014 US Hhold net worth by demo_barBut the bottom line is easy: just remember Americans over fifty have $51 trillion in buying power … the 18-49 demo, so beloved by mainstream brand thinkers, has only $15 trillion.

No surprise, some of adland’s smartest, most rebellious Millennials are starting to see new opportunities; 51 trillion opportunities, to be exact.

They sense a new day is dawning: “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” they ask themselves. Okay, maybe not as cool as Romeo – more like “let’s go steal some market share before the competition wakes up.” But you get the gist.

A brave new world after fifty

The closer one looks, the more appealing the 50+ space becomes. Of the 110 million U.S. consumers in the arena, 94 million belong to the Boomer-Plus Generation™, born 1940-1966 – either Boomers themselves or Gen Xers aged fifty-plus.

If this amazing generation were a country it would be the world’s 15th most populous –bigger and more affluent than any European nation, and the third largest economy on Earth.

As usual, the loquacious Bard of Avon has an apt description:

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in it!

Fortunately for disruptive brand thinkers, it is also our world – we’ll gladly give you a tour.

Opportunity_Brave New World

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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