Boomers Reach 50, Worth $1 Trillion

Baby boomers have finally come of age—middle age, that is. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, half of the boomer generation—those born between 1946 and 1964—will turn 50 this year.

Until now, the 50-plus crowd has largely been ignored by marketers and thought of as irrelevant, out of touch and stuck in their ways. But as a group, boomers—77 million strong, per the Census Bureau, with an estimated $1 trillion in spending power—are proving too numerous and wealthy to ignore. That has prompted a flurry of new research and planning tools from ad agencies trying to persuade their clients to take a closer look at this generation.

As one example, a unit of WPP’s JWT has created a new planning tool called Mature Data Profiles that marketers can use to classify homes with older consumers into 24 different segments based on metrics such as purchasing power, spending behavior and lifestyle choices.

Also, Omnicom’s OMD has funded research supporting a book to be published in February called The 50-Plus Market (Ingram Publishing). In the Foreword, OMD Worldwide CEO Joe Uva urges marketers to come to grips with this “rapidly expanding and vibrant” demographic. Boomers don’t just watch TV and read newspapers, Uva wrote; they use new media channels as well, but in different ways than the younger generation.

Portions of OMD’s so-called “UFO Study” (Understanding Fifties and Over) will be published in the book. “It’s been a neglected market and shouldn’t be,” said Mike Hess, global research director at OMD. “As agencies, we position ourselves as media-neutral. Marketers also need to be age-neutral.”

But a recent survey of boomer media usage by Interpublic Group’s Magna Global found that traditional media such as newspapers and TV will remain important vehicles for reaching boomers, despite fragmentation— older folks read more and watch more.