Select Page

The Consumer Age Power Brokers

The often quoted and discussed ‘Consumer Age’ refers to the unprecedented power consumers in developed countries have today to influence markets, and determine a company’s success or failure in a matter of hours, if not minutes.

But Who Has The Purchasing Power?

The age demographics of consumer spending power has not always received sufficient attention or thought by marketers and advertising communication practitioners.

They are consequently being faced with the reality that in the U.S. and other developed markets, the 50 plus age group control a third of the country’s economy.

Baby Boomers become Brand Boomers

A study by the Leo Burnett Group revealed that there are more than 72 million boomers, the oldest of which turned 65 in the past year with another 50-odd million people in the older or “silent” generation outpacing every other demographic group.

Bob Hoffman, the world renowned ‘ Ad Contrarian’ stated that marketers are ignoring the most important market in the history of commerce.

“People over 50 are, by far, the wealthiest, and the most productive market segment in the history of the world”

“In the US, for example, if Americans over 50 were their own country, they would be the third largest economy in the world, after the US, and China”

“And we’re completely ignoring them”.

The Huffington Post U.S.A. describes this broad, fifty-plus consumer segment as follows:

“They are not only the largest, but also the fastest growing group that will more than triple the pace of growth of younger demographic groups over the next decade”.

They are living longer, better, feeling more youthful than their predecessors, and remaining engaged, active, and fullfilled”.

In the United Kingdom they make up a third of the population but hold 80% of the wealth and their consumer spending has grown on average 4.4% annually for the past decade, compared with 1.2% for the under-50’s.

Imbalanced Advertising Communication Focus

Traditionally, only 5% of worldwide advertising budgets have been geared toward older consumers while 80% is spent trying to reach 18-34-year-olds. This begs the question of why? If the market opportunity is so clear, why are brands not speaking to this important segment?

Vicki Maguire, joint chief creative officer at Grey London, believes that part of the answer is largely institutional. “Advertising as always is behind the curve,” she says, and speculates that the tendency to only feature young people in commercials stems from the industry being “run by a bunch of men in their forties who are scared of getting old”. 

Bob Hoffman describes it as a result of ‘delusion in the age of delusion’: “Marketers are obsessed with millennials, and are now starting to get obsessed with Gen Zs”.

But whatever the reasons are, there does seem to be an increasing focus of late by brands reaching out to older consumer audiences.

New Business Start-ups

There is a significant increase globally of new business start-ups by the 50-plus age group.

John Malkovich is a notable example. Producer, film-director and award- winning actor, he decided at the age of 63 to become a men’s fashion designer. He launched his personally designed and highly accomplished men’s clothing line online as a trading venture.

The story of how he started and the difficulty he had of securing his website domain is engagingly told by Squarespace, a D.I.W. Website Building company.

The launch commercial earned the honour of winning the 2017 Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial at the Creative Arts show in Los Angeles. Here is the commercial and the subsequent stories that chronical John Malkovich’s journey.

Advertising Agency: JohnXHannes, New York

Film Director: Miles Jay

1. Squarespace, Who Is John Malkovich?

2. Squarespace, Get Out Of My Domain!


3. Squarespace, The Next Move



4. L’Oreal, French Lessons

Advertising Agency: McCann, London

Dame Helen Mirren, the multi-award winning actress in 2003 was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for Services to the Performing Arts.

Directed by Peter Linberberg, the elegant 73 year old, age-defying presenter gives the viewer some charming and engaging French Lessons for L’Oreal’s Age Perfect brand.




Who’s Driving?

Car advertisers have generally not considered the over 50’s an attractive consumer market in spite of the fact that in the U.S. for example, they constitute 40% of the new car buyer market segment and in the United Kingdom, a surprising 60% plus. These new car purchases moreover, are often SUV’s rather than small, city compacts.

The highly entertaining and humorous VW Passat TDI campaign called ‘Old Wives’ Tales’ features a discussion about diesel between three ‘sisters’ that resonates with an older target market.

Pete Favat however, Chief Creative Officer of Deutsch North America is quoted as saying; “I don’t think we subscribe to the idea that just because they’re old, they only appeal to an older market. People just relate to this humor, I mean they’re just funny.”

Here are three commercials from the online series directed by Eric Schotz.

Advertising Agency: Deutch, Los Angeles

5. VW Passat TDI, Old Wives’ Tales ‘Loud’




6. VW Passat TDI, Old Wives’ Tales ‘ Hard To Find’





7. VW Passat TDI, Old Wives’ Tales ‘Stinky






8. Spies Travel Agency, Do It For Mom, Do It For Denmark

Advertising Agency: Robert/Boisen & Like-minded, Denmark

It seems that Danish Moms are facing the very vexing and likely prospect that they will not have grandchildren one day.

The Spies Travel Agency however, has come up with a solution as this candid and entertaining commercial, directed by Niels Nørløv, explains.

Although the target group are mainly couples in their early thirties, Spies cleverly reached out to their 50-plus aged parents to send their children on holiday. Their successful endeavour motivated 6.8 million online views, 450,000 social actions and the campaign resulted in a travel booking increase of 114%.