Saturday 29 April 2017

John McGee: Youth-obsessed ad world must ditch old prejudices

As people live longer and many remain young at heart, the marketing industry continues to ignore an important and valuable demographic

Around 9pc of over 50s have annual incomes in excess of €75,000 compared to 8pc of the adult population as a whole, a reflection of their value Photo: Stock
Around 9pc of over 50s have annual incomes in excess of €75,000 compared to 8pc of the adult population as a whole, a reflection of their value Photo: Stock

John McGee

If Kate and Mick were your aunt and uncle, you'd probably seek out every opportunity to visit them whenever you could. Christmases, birthdays, weddings and even funerals would be made all the more bearable by their warm presence and cheery disposition.

You can probably picture how they met. She fell for his rugged good looks and charm, his cheery Kerry lilt and eyes as deep as the lakes around his native Killarney. Being from Long Island in New York, Kate may well have been exotic to a young Mick and her perennial radiant beauty is possibly the stuff of folklore in Killarney.

Kate and Mick, of course, are the unlikely stars of AIB's ongoing advertising campaign promoting its mortgage offering.

They are real-life customers of the bank who have come to the end of their mortgage and their kids have flown the nest, their worldly wisdom, selflessness and general bonhomie are in many ways the antithesis of what we normally see in TV advertising.

The campaign, which was created by Dublin agency Rothco, turns traditional mortgage marketing on its head by highlighting what it feels like to be at the end of your mortgage, from people who have been there, done that and have made considerable sacrifices along the way.

On so many different levels it makes for a refreshing and alternative narrative to many other advertising campaigns that try to flog financial products to the masses.

But Kate and Mick are also a rarity in a youth-obsessed advertising world in which marketers constantly strive to pigeonhole and pander to a mixed and motley cohort of millennials, hipsters and young, beautiful and trendy stereotypes. Older people need not apply.

On the rare occasions that the advertising industry focuses on the so-called "grey market", celebrities like Helen Mirren are wheeled out to promote a miraculous Peter Pan serum or an elderly man living on his own is told to wash his hands after handling raw chicken.

Obviously, nobody has ever told him this before - and what's more, he has been eating chicken all his life and has lived to tell the tale.

Spare a thought for that semi-blind Scottish crofter who accidentally shears his dog instead of a sheep. Of course he should have gone to Specsavers: he is old and his vital organs are failing him.

Just like the marketing industry.

Meanwhile, back in the real world ageing folk selfishly make up around 38pc of the adult population and continue to breathe in the joyous air of youth.

They are also being very inconsiderate by living longer, retiring later, buying new cars, taking more holidays and buying goods and services that ought to be the preserve of their sons and daughters.

And, of course, the Bank of Mum and Dad is there to dispense pocket money, loans and deposits for a house when the need arises.

Despite all of this, these old fossils are still being largely ignored by an industry that is more comfortable targeting a millennial cohort which, more often than not, is financially challenged, doesn't view brand loyalty in the same light as its predecessors and is quite happy to recycle, upcycle and pedal cycle to work every day.

All of this goes to the very heart of how marketers adapt and plan for the relentless and, I'm afraid to say, inevitable ageing of their most important assets - their customers.

The answer to this perhaps lies in the mindset of the marketers and a cultural failure by an industry that is dominated by people in their 20s and 30s to get their heads around this important but often tricky demographic.

But a quick glimpse at the TGI figures published by Kantar Media show that this ageing cohort should really be a marketer's dream.

Around 9pc of over 50s have annual incomes in excess of €75,000 compared to 8pc of the adult population as a whole, a reflection of their value.

The Kantar figures also note that while they are less digitally literate than the average adult, the differences are not huge.

For example, 43pc of those over 50 own a tablet while 59pc access the internet more than once on a daily basis. This compares to 72pc of all adults.

But more tellingly, the TGI figures reveal a sub-set of over 50s which it has labelled the "young at heart" group which is more inclined to adopt behaviours normally associated with younger adults.

These include trying to stay younger looking, being attractive to the opposite sex, taking risks, shopping for clothes, being well-dressed, keeping abreast of IT developments and not worrying too much about the future.

They are even still able to make it, unaided, to the pub once or twice a week and are more likely to go to a restaurant several times a month.

And if chicken is on the menu, one can only hope that the 25-year-old hipster commis chef washes his hands well after handling it. After all, I don't fancy getting food poisoning now, do I?

Contact John McGee at john@adworld.ie

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