Over 50s account for a third of the population and half of all consumer expenditure. They hold 80% of all personal wealth and control 70% of all disposable income. Yet a mere 5% of all ad spend is directed at the over 50s.
On October 1st 2017 Sterling Agency opened its doors and is now convincing clients that rather than mixing their marketing for millennial tastes, they should be communicating with older people because (in the alleged words of bank robber Willie Sutton) that’s where the money is.
How do they know? Sterling is run by massively over-qualified advertising, marketing and design professionals in their fifties and sixties who know what their generation like – and more importantly, dislike. They speak the same dialect as their target consumer. They understand the way the older customer thinks, because they are the older customers.
Bruce Fielding, founder of Sterling Agency, explains: “The rationale is compelling. There are more people with more disposable income and more social influence over fifty than in any other demographic. They understand marketing, they’re loyal, they have the cash and they want to spend it. They just need to have explained what it is they’re buying. Something that the 30-somethings working in today’s agencies don’t seem to appreciate. Plus, a pathetic percentage of ad spend is targeted at them and that needs to change.”
So where are Sterling intending to conduct their conversations with these booming spendthrifts? Commercials and print advertising have gone out of fashion these days, but this is the homeland of Sterling’s customer base. They watch broadcast TV. They read physical magazines. They listen to the radio. And the best news for Sterling’s clients is that the fall in the popularity of these media means that they’re more affordable than ever.
Of course, the internet and social media will play a significant part in any communications plan – it’s too ingrained in the world these days to be neglected or avoided. However, even on this contemporary frontier, Sterling believes that there are ways and means of discussing trends and influencing decisions. The techniques used to motivate younger consumers just don’t work as well on older generations.
Does Sterling just want stair-lift, funeral expenses insurance and cruise holiday clients? “The hackneyed cliché of the older person struggling with a Zimmer or getting into a bath with a door on the side is so old hat,” explains Fielding. “You’re more likely to see older people in the gym or jogging the streets, in classy cars, on exotic holidays or at Summer festivals than you are in their dotage. Yes, that sort of thing will come to us all, but hopefully not until at least we’re in our 80s.”
Whilst Sterling will be pleased to take on age-appropriate clients, they strongly believe that through the use of classic techniques, sales of most products and services can be made relevant to an older audience – or in fact an audience regardless of age.
Fielding understands that his target generation actually like advertising. They’re just not getting what they’d like today. “Baby boomers were brought up on advertising – possibly the first generation to be marketing savvy. They appreciate the power of the message. They like and appreciate well-written long copy. They understand that they’re being sold to and have no objections to that process.”
Sterling has no intention of alienating youth culture. If anything, Sterling’s remit is to be more inclusive. It could be that the ‘age of the ageless’ rather than being a patronising politically correct way of referring to the older demographic, is actually defining a new, additional demographic where age is ultimately irrelevant.
As Fielding says, “Sterling aims to be age agnostic. We’ll aim the main thrust of our efforts at the larger, richer, more influential, more loyal audience, and if everyone else likes the way we do it, all the better.”view more - Hires, Wins & Business