Home > marketing ramblings, Uncategorized > A young man’s game

A young man’s game

I’ve tagged this post as ‘Marketing Ramblings’ and that’s a pretty good description of what will follow, so strap yourself in…

I’ve always felt that a career in advertising has similarities with a career in professional sport: you’re probably at your peak in your late twenties/ early thirties and after that, you’re either a manager or you’re running a pub in Rutland.

It’s an experience based on observation: all of my creative colleagues from my first agency ended up leaving the industry in their forties; sacrificed on the altar of youth. I’m at their age now and still in the game, but today’s Mauricio Pochettino is tomorrow’s Alan Curbishley (see what I told you about rambling?). Maybe I’ll be a Claudio Rainieri…

Anyhow, my theme – and there is one – reflects a couple of articles I’ve read in the recent past: the first, by Ad Contrarian Bob Hoffman is here.

He observed – brilliantly, as usual – that “people 75-to-dead buy 6 times as many new cars as people 18-to-24.” And yet advertising would have us believe that every new car (see my recent post about EU car advertising regulations) is driven by an ethnically  gender-balanced group of twenty somethings with impressive dentistry.

Advertising is about aspiration: that’s not news. And from my work with Saga, I am well aware that individuals prefer to think of themselves as being any age other than their own…eight-year-olds dream of being twelve, teenagers aspire to be in their twenties, and then it all flips and those of us in our mid-forties fervently wish we were still clinging on to our 30s rather than being served ads for stairlifts, as I was earlier in the week. (It disappeared before I could click on it.)

Back to my theme: the second article was an Owen Jones piece in the Guardian speculating that the UK government has made a calculated decision to indulge older Britons (let’s say everyone over 50) at the expense of those under 50, for the very simple reason that the former group are much more likely to vote than the latter. Nothing revolutionary about this thinking: why would turkeys vote for Christmas?

But it is interesting to note that finally, someone’s noticed there’s a correlation between spending power and actual power, and targeting their message accordingly. Progressive causes – you know, the ones that most Tories instinctively reject until they have no choice but to grudgingly adopt them (I’m looking at you Boris, you opportunistic one-man sleeper cell) – are generally young causes, and while they might garner lots of column inches, they don’t necessarily translate into votes.

Meanwhile at the first sign of a change in pension rules, all hell breaks loose. And understandably, because while docking £30 from disabled people’s weekly benefit payments is not a good look, it’s unlikely to lose that many votes. But touch our pensions…well, you might as well try and make enemies of doctors, or something.

What I’m trying to get across, in a rather roundabout and politicised way, is that finally, the tables might be turning. The over 50s are not only soon to be the most populous constituency in our nation, they are unequivocally holding most of the wealth. They’re getting ready to take centre stage.

The young, meanwhile, are living at home with their parents, feeling disenfranchised by politics and without any spending power as they’re too busy paying off their student loans or saving for the deposit on their first house, which they are likely to be able to buy when they’re about the age I am now.

Why bother advertising to that bunch of losers? The future’s in the oldies. And who better to make ads for oldies than those of us who are on the cusp of senior citizen status ourselves? Put it this way, don’t be surprised if the next time you visit the Breakfast website it looks something like this…

Update: Bob’s latest here


  1. edmundwill
    March 9, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Brilliant. And brilliantly timed.

    Sent from my iPhone

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