Good morning, Friday. Thank goodness.
So everyone’s in Cannes this week for the big advertising equivalent of the Oscars, and even though I spent a lifetime in advertising and also produced some award-winning work, I have never been to Cannes. And I don’t mind. At all. As a non-joiner, self-congratulatory pats on the back mixed with too much rosé and endless debating on what’s next is not my tempo. And that’s ok with me.
But as someone who’s watching the industry a bit from afar these days, I’m still bugged by the ageism conundrum. And although I’ve reset my compass as a writer and am busier than I’ve been in a long time (knock wood), I’m still a little pissy about advertising and how it relates to anyone over 35. So put down your rosé and let me explain.
Yesterday I was talking to an old pal I met years ago at a conference. He’s considering a job pretty high up in the car space. As a top-shelf marketer, he’ll have to figure out how to get more people on board with this brand. And of course, all anyone wants to know is: Who is this generation behind millennials, and how do we grab their attention? And for the five millennials who love cars and want to buy them, how do we hit a home run with them when it comes to messaging? Why try so hard to always capture the same same when it comes to eyeballs and audiences? There’s a whole damn world out there. Isn’t it high time to stop chasing the dragon?
Show Some Loyalty
Sure, some brands are meant for young people. But does EVERY brand have to target the same demographic solely? I just don’t get it. It seems so bloody shortsighted given that, according to the US Department of Labor, “Gen X outspends all other generations when it comes to clothing, housing, eating out and entertainment.” Not to mention boomers who have always been known to wield a ton of spending power. I can only speak for my generation in saying, if brands are looking to build lifelong customers and fans, why do they always dump the generation they so badly chase when they are finally old enough to buy stuff? Crazy to me. I recall being the coveted demographic for a moment, only to be dumped by the next pretty young thing. You want my loyalty? Where’s yours?
As for said loyalty, I can count them on one hand, and at the time of this post, I can only think of one: Apple. My first computer experience was on the very first Apple, and I’ve been loyal ever since. But when it comes to things like makeup or clothes, I am not wearing the same eyeshadow brand I wore at 16, nor am I wearing Guess jeans at this stage in the game. When will marketers wake up and realize that building eternal flames of fandom is a pipe dream and that with our collectively lowered attention spans and choices gone wild, they should focus less on generational marketing and more on insight around universal human truths?
Inclusivity is Ageless
Just yesterday, Adweek published a piece on changing gender norms thanks to (wait for it) young people, with the following quote:
“Simply put, it’s time for brands to be as brave and real as Gen Z is.” OMG.
Yes, there are opportunities in gender-neutral spaces. Yes, we love the inclusivity of the body positive movement. Yes, I love these kids for speaking out and being heard. But can’t that be for everyone? Surely it’s more than Gen Z that craves bravery and authenticity. Surely. People have been fighting for that for years. Talk to all of us. Not just some of us.
Further, if ad agencies were hiring more people 40+, perhaps strategy for how to sell products and services would look a little bit different. More inclusive. Less pet rock and more long term. Insights that cross generations. Truths about the human condition vs just chasing the latest jail bait. The only way real insight can occur is if you’ve been on this Earth for a considerable stretch.
That’s not to say there aren’t distinct differences in life stages and states and, of course, we can’t ignore that. But we must extend the invitation for “must haves” from the high and low to have a broader appeal for the rest of us. That’s smart marketing. And why brands aren’t talking to people past a certain age is just plain stupidity. I should know. I buy more shit than anyone.
We will always be enchanted by youth and with good reason. I respect and adore what young people are doing to change the way we think, but there’s plenty of people doing great shit past some perceived expiration date. We deserve the courtesy of acknowledgment that we are still very much alive, and our wallets are proof that there is indeed still a pulse when it comes to our spending power. Stop trying to court demographics that don’t even want to date you. It’s not cute anymore.
‘Cause that’s what’s up this ranty, rainy Friday in the 212. Yours, in X marking the spot and just saying no to ageism. Don’t you forget about us. XO