March 21, 2012

Advertising's Stupidest Legend

Of all the stupid, misguided truisms of advertising, the one that is most thoroughly destructive is the idea that advertising is a "young person's business."

This nasty, insulting platitude comes from two different but related misconceptions.

The first is marketers' irrational obsession with young people. As I have written many times here, this insane, costly preoccupation with young people makes no business sense and is just a ritual left over from a long-gone era.

Just to quickly recap the case:
  • People over 50 control over 75% of the financial assets of the US
  • They dominate 94% of all consumer packaged goods categories
  • They purchase almost 40% of consumer packaged goods
  • Even in technology categories, where marketers assume young people dominate, baby boomers "are purchasing at rates just as high as other segments, and because they are often buying for their kids, many are double-dipping.
  • According to Nielsen, less than 5% of advertising is aimed at them
The second misconception is that young people are more creative than older people. Go into any creative department in any ad agency in America and it is a miracle to find anyone over 40.

And yet, in every category you can think of (except the unspeakable pap called "popular music") older people completely dominate the creative arts.
  • In 2012, the five Oscar nominees for Best Director were Woody Allen, Michel Hazanavicius, Terrence Malick, Alexander Payne, and Martin Scorsese. Average age: 62.4 
  • The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction went to Jennifer Egan, age 50
  • The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to  Bruce Norris, 52 
  • The Pulitzer for Nonfiction went to Siddhartha Mukherjee, 42 
  • The Prize for Music went to  Zhou Long, 59 
  • The Pulitzer for History went to  Eric Foner,  69
  • The Poetry award was won by Kay Ryan, 67
  • Ron Chernow, 63, won the award for Biography
  • The Noble Prize for Literature went to 83-year-old Tomas Transtromer
  • The winner of the Emmy for Best TV Drama was Mad Men, created by Matthew Weiner, 47
  • The Emmy for Best Comedy went to Modern Family, created by Christopher Lloyd, 52 and Steven Levitan, 50
Not one of these people could a get a job in the creative department of an ad agency today.

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