In Australia today, adults aged 50+ are unchallenged in terms of their discretionary income, spending and net worth. They comprise 58.8% of Australian households but, more importantly, they control 78% of the wealth versus their younger counterparts at 22%.
Boomers are not only living longer, they feel and act younger than previous generations. They listened to Bob Dylan, marched against the war in Vietnam and campaigned for social change. They don’t identify with stereotypes of little old ladies knitting in rocking chairs and white haired granddads snoozing in the afternoon. Many of them are still in the workforce and even if they’re retired, are active, outspoken and engaged in their communities. In fact, they’re gearing up, not winding down!
Nor are they keeping their money to themselves – the over 50s are as likely as Generations X and Y to buy a plasma or LCD TV and more likely than Gen. X and Y to buy an e-reader or Kindle. They’re travelling, and have the cash to splurge on luxury holidays – according to Roy Morgan Research, they are 21 % more likely than the population to stay at a four star hotel or resort.
Yet when it comes to media representation, Boomers and Seniors feel unrepresented and neglected. Advertising traditionally targets the younger consumer. But as everyone knows, the population is getting older. The latest figures show that in June 2011 just over 3 million Australians were aged 65 years and over, representing 17.4% of the total population. This will rise to up to 23% by 2040. 
A radical shake-up is needed in advertising and marketing to take account of these changing demographics.
Here are a few tips to make sure that your campaigns are both ageless and age-friendly:
- Always include a PR strategy with your campaign, as word of mouth is a campaign accelerator. Boomers have strong opinions, but rely heavily on intuition and third party endorsement from people they respect such as friends and favourite journalists (across all channels – print and digital).
- If you are going to rent photos of people from image libraries, consider that your competition is likely to use the same source. Invest in your own photography and make sure you use real models who look great for their age, but are not models who are 15 years younger. Authenticity has greater traction with 50+audiences.
- Don’t use labels like ‘old’ , ‘aged’ or ‘elderly’ and minimise terminology such as ‘Boomer’ or ‘Senior’ in direct to consumer advertising. The over 50s do not like to be grouped and consider themselves individuals – usually younger than their chronological age.
- A digital strategy is paramount. However, wealth and education impact on the 50 + engagement with the internet. The wealthier and more educated they are, the more likely they are to go online and use social media.
- Audit your customer journey. Look at every touch point the customer has with your company across communications, online, retail and after sales service. Often small things like providing chairs or brighter lighting in store can increase profits.
- Ensure your websites are ageless. The amount of light entering the eye diminishes as you age. Font sizes that are too small to read, colours that lack strong contrast and websites that are too complex to navigate will put off older consumers.
Companies embracing the need to target the older consumer will be those reaping the greatest financial rewards.
Dina Ross is Public Relations Director at Evergreen Advertising & Marketing in Melbourne, specialists in communicating to the 50+ market. A PR and crisis communications expert, she has held senior editorial positions at BBC UK and The Age, headed her own award-winning PR consultancy and is the author of “Surviving the Media Jungle”, a guide to PR.
 ABS Household Expenditure Survey, released 2011
 Roy Morgan Research, October 2012
 An Ageing Australia factsheet, Aged and Community Services Australia, July 2011
Top image: StevenM_61