Mumbrella360: Karl Stefanovic and Deborah Knight ‘flabbergasted’ at marketing’s age bias

Marketing to people aged 55 and over shouldn’t be all about retirement, grey hair and anti-aging. Instead, brands should remember their spending power, and better target their advertising.

Speaking on a panel at Mumbrella360 on Wednesday, Nine’s Karl Stefanovic and Deborah Knight joined Lisa Day, director of Nine’s Powered, and Michelle Newton, head of cultural forecasting at Fiftyfive5, to discuss the age bias in marketing’s obsession with youth.

People aged 55-64 have the strongest financial foundation, dominating weekly household spending and supporting younger generations, which in turn drives the economy. However, they are often overlooked in marketing.

“The world desperately wants us to believe that growing older is about losing,” Day said. “But we believe it’s about winning. More freedom, confidence, experience and adventure. People are growing up bolder, but the targeted advertising doesn’t reflect this.

“Instead, ads for people over 50 years of age are all about retirement, getting old, etc. And that discourages them from unleashing their spending power. It’s time for brands to have their cake and eat it, and better target this audience.”

(L-R): Lisa Day, Michelle Newton, Deborah Knight and Karl Stefanovic

Knight said she was “flabbergasted” to learn that effective marketing cut off at that age.

“It’s wastage from an advertising point of view,” she remarked. “I’m really shocked about that.”

Newton agreed: “This generation has been invisible. There’s a lot of work to be done to better connect with that audience and gain their trust as customers.”

Knight said it seemed ridiculous that brands aren’t tapping into this older audience.

“They’ve got money to spare!,” she laughed. “People want to make the most of their later years, some are having mid-life crises, others just want to travel, shift their priorities. Why aren’t brands taking advantage of that?”

Stefanovic reflected on his own audience at Nine’s TODAY Show, and acknowledged the difficulty of concentrating content on particular demographics.

“It’s hard to pigeonhole our audience over the course of three and a half hours every morning. We get families before they take the kids to school, young people before work, but after about 8am, it does shift to an older demographic.

“We evolve as the show goes on to try and cater the content towards the audience, but as I said, it’s difficult to know for sure who is watching,” he continued.

“We will have cruise line competitions and things like that after 8am though,” he joked.

Describing it as a “great challenge”, Stefanovic said great content is great content, regardless of who it is targeting.

“For me, it’s not so much about ‘okay this is a story for 70+, or 50+’, it’s more about ‘this is a great concept’,” he explained. “The content is key – and more often than not, the older demographic love our more youthful stories – as we’ve spoken about, they don’t want to be hearing about retiring, or about going grey or getting wrinkly.”

Knight said marketing towards people aged over 50 is cliché, and that needs to change.

“It’s interesting you talk about cruising, because that’s typically been an old people thing and that’s cliché. Australians love to cruise, all ages,” she said. “If you think about it, everything targeting older people is cliché. Superannuation ads, anti-aging, it’s all there.

“We need to shift the thinking on what they want to see,” she continued. “They’re not looking for special treatment. They don’t relate to these traditional, cliché ads because many of them don’t see themselves as getting old, getting frail.”

Even the marketing targeting women compared to men changes as we get older, Knight argued. Men are seen as “silver foxes” while women are seen to be “losing it”.

“How can we change that?,” she asked.

Newton responded: “We all have to check our biases, that’s what this is all about. The elephant in the room is ageism, and that’s a really big problem.

“We need to stop looking at demographics, and start looking at psychographics,” Newton continued.

“We need to look at the things people value, rather than their ages, and they will better relate and engage with the marketing, which is a win-win.”

To watch this session recording and more from Mumbrella360, head to Mumbrella Pro.


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