Monday, October 21, 2013


A friend of mine was recently asked to participate in the television-audience measurement system, The Nielsen Ratings. Naturally, I'm awash in jealousy because I've only dreamed of having that much power over our national pop culture. Never mind that  I'd probably claim to watch only the loftiest of PBS programming while secretly binge-viewing Real Housewives of Miami and anything on TLC. Anyway, as a new Nielsen Family, my friend began to fill out the requested information. When she reached the box that required her to admit to her actual age, she found she was left with the final option, the dreaded 50+. Not 50-60, mind you. Not even 50-75. No. In the world of  Nielsen, everyone over 50 is tossed into the same bin as people old enough to be their great-grandparents (who are mostly dead, BTW.) In other words, The Nielsen Ratings, which is used to determine the advertising rates for each television program on air, places the same value on a 50-year-old watching Breaking Bad as they do on his/her 95 year old Nana napping through a turtle-mating documentary on Animal Planet. Oh, this got our granny-panties in a wad!

The justification marketers use for giving us the Rhett Butler treatment (frankly, my dears, they just don't give a damn about us) is because they are following a marketing code as old as Ivory Soap. In theory,  we  Plussers (a new word I just made up referring to us 50-Plus types. MAKE IT HAPPEN, PEOPLE!) are "calcified" with regards to our buying preferences. In other words, we are already married to a brand. If you have been buying Crest Toothpaste for 30 years, you are not likely to switch to Colgate no matter how appealing the ads. Also, Plussers are supposedly cautious with our disposable income, and prefer to put extra into retirement and investment rather than purchase trendy items or new technology (unless it's a HoverRound or Jitterbug cell phone.)  At least, so says these guys:

Frankly, I think it's the marketers who are calcified. Some facts from New Media Trend Watch: In 5 years, Baby Boomers will make up 50% of the US population. Plussers, who now spend 50% of all consumer dollars, stand to inherit $15 TRILLION in the next 20 years. We Plussers are primed to spend money on hobbies, vacations,and the things we've deprived ourselves of while raising children, paying off mortgages, and setting up retirement accounts. In other words, 67% of us are "moving from a life dedicated to making money to one that is directed to spending it." Yet, only 5% of advertising dollars is directed towards our demographic, and most of that goes to Jamie Lee Curtis for shilling crappy yogurt.

So, why do advertisers treat Plussers with such contempt?  According to TV Quarterly, "On the whole, advertisers want to reach people who will change their minds." The problem with this outdated logic in modern times is that the market is saturated with new things. How many Plussers developed brand loyalty to their smart phones when they were in their 30's? Which laptop did you use in college in the 70's? Did you learn to read on a Kindle or a Nook?  Do you longingly remember the days of going shopping with your grandparents at a Walmart Super Center when you were just a tot? In other words, if you want us to choose your store, your internet service, your hybrid automobile, your radio service, and even your brand of soap, you need to win us over with advertising. By the way, presenting us as the stupid parent waiting in line to buy your competition's smart phone along with all the other stupid parents is not the way to do it.

Also, when it comes to spending, one last word to advertising executives. Those of us over 50 once belonged to a significant social and financial demographic called the YUPPY. We INVENTED conspicuous consumption. Believe me, as long as our knees hold out, when it comes to shopping, we've still got it!

I hope my friend enjoys her time as a Nielsen Family. I also hope she skews the results by claiming to watch Tosh.O, Pretty Little Liars, and Family Guy. How fun would it be to see ads for bladder control products sent that-a-way?
Thanks for the idea for this post, Moon!


  1. So much truth in a fun package! One complaint though: These Plusser eyes of mine got pretty ticked off with the obnoxious videos. Folks our age can get seizures from all the over-stimulation, dontchaknow. ;)

  2. Marketing research has proven it!!! :)