Barbara Lippert’s Critique

One of the funniest (and most brutal) ad parodies ever to run on Saturday Night Live was for a product called Oops, I Crapped My Pants. Grandma runs off the tennis court while playing with the grandkids, and Grandpa hurries back to the lake house with her to demonstrate how to save herself from future embarrassment. He pours a pitcher of iced tea, complete with lemon slices, into the adult diaper to show its absor bency. “How do you know so much about Oops, I Crapped My Pants?” Grand ma asks. “I’m wearing them!” he squeals.

It was dead-on, given the humiliating, bodily fun ction-based caricatures and stereotypes that advertising so often ascribes to seniors.

Trouble is, we will soon be them—and we won’t find “oops” so funny. Baby boom ers are aging out of the 18-49 demo faster than Mick Jagger changes girlfriends. As a generation, boomers are unlike any of their predecessors. They are the most Sein feldian, self-involved customers ever to think they deserve everything, and they’re not going to change just because they’re old. But as marketing targets, they are now officially dead.

If there were ever a campaign to shatter the age-old myths and get the over-50 set back on the charts, it’s this Sony work, the first aimed at “zoom ers” (a slightly embarrassing term coined by U.S. News & World Report for boomers aged 50-64 who are passionate about travel and leisure).

Both spots are perfectly cast. The star of “The Trip” is a cool gray-haired guy who looks as though he could have sold an advertising agency or two, cashed out when the stock was still good, and is perhaps between his third and fourth wives, with kids who are grown. So now he’s acting out his fantasies like some streaky-haired member of a boy band and blasting off into space.

Whether you find Gramps’ plan hopelessly deluded or totally selfish and annoying, you have to give Sony and Y&R props for really blowing out the spot: It’s a big and daring, exquisitely made 60 seconds (it’s so cinematic, it will also soon run in theaters).

Like a good minifilm, it keeps you guessing. At first it seems to be an ad for a financial-services company. It opens in Seattle, where Mr. Fifty-plus, an obvious Sony gadget freak, is learning Russian and working with a trainer, and visiting his lawyer to liquidate his assets. Then it gets sort of ominous as he says goodbye to his kids and travels to Russia (this part was actually shot in and around Moscow and includes a cast of perfect mustachioed train-riding extras).

The music is hypnotic: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Carry On” covered by Alana Davis. It’s a great pick, hitting all the right emotional chords for boomers.

By the time the aging Richie Rich blasts off, it’s a beautiful spectacle and a shock. We see him floating around in his spacesuit, using his Sony Handycam to record the view of Earth. “When your kids ask where the money went,” reads the super, “show them the tape.” This is an in-your-face, snarky line, sure to engender, “Gee, thanks, Dad.” From a marketing point of view, however, it’s perfect—extreme me-ism translated into guiltless consumerism. The revolution is over; get used to it, kids.

(To be niggling about it, shouldn’t the line read, “When your kids ask where the money went, show them the JPEGs”?)

A second spot offers a more realistic journey: A beautiful, Botox-free woman (who doesn’t look a day over 40 although she’s identified as in her 50s) jumps off a boat to swim with sharks. When daughter and granddaughter gather to watch the tape, grandkid asks, “Where was grandpa?” And her mom responds, “On the boat” with a little snort. (A bit gratuitous.) Then we get the tagline.

The music is “What a Day for a Daydream” set to a reggae beat, and it’s cute, but the spot doesn’t have the space trip’s surprise and gran deur.

Neither grandparent’s adventure involves dentures or diapers (al though in space, who knows?). And in both spots, people over 50 are shown using Sony gadgets, and the brand still seems cool and techno-forward. As far as marketing goes, this is the final frontier.