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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Depend adThat’s right – we want a little respect here. There are over 100 million consumers in the United States who are 50+ years old. But look at the ads on TV (forget Depends) and you would think only 20-somethings have any money to spend.

The reality is that those 100 million consumers have about $8 trillion in assets and 70 percent of the disposable dollars in the U.S.

So what’s the problem? I used to think that the conventional wisdom among advertising execs was that you want to focus on the 18-24 demographic to win their hearts and minds at an early age and maintain their loyalty over the long haul. However, the latest research is demonstrating that the 18 to 49 demo is no more willing to demonstrate brand loyalty than the over 50 demo.

It doesn’t help that most advertising creatives are in their 30s and 40s – it gives them a great sense of how to sell to their peers, but for the over 50 crowd – not so much. Some ad agencies are beginning to lessen their reliance on demographics and put more stock in psychographics – the study of personality, values, attitudes, interests and lifestyles. That’s okay with me as long as they don’t pigeon hole us as being only in the market for denture products and funeral homes.

Sometimes, products that are meant for a younger demo take a strange twist. The classic case for this is the Honda Element. The initial spin for Honda Element dogsthis boxy looking vehicle was that it was a “dorm on wheels,” so they clearly thought it was going to appeal to 20-somethings. When sales exceeded expectations, they analyzed their sales data and discovered that the average buyer was over 44 years old. Boomers were buying them to haul the dogs and carry their gear to second homes. Amazingly, this discovery led to an analysis on their part as to “what did we do wrong.”

Boomers need cars, homes, vacations, gadgets, flatscreen TVs, running shoes, gourmet foods, wine, drugs, and hundreds of other consumer goods, and we have the money to pay for it. And since we are going to live longer, we are going to keep paying for these consumer goods for a lot longer.

So I’m not going to tell you advertising people again – we want some respect. When do we want it? We want it now!

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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