Highway One Touts SeniorSurfers

Highway One has some fun with its target market in a new ad campaign for SeniorSurfers, a company that teaches senior citizens how to use the Internet.

The San Francisco agency won the account in April; this is the client’s first ad campaign. It features five print executions that are rolling out now in newspapers in San Diego and elsewhere. The ads are also appearing as posters in the client’s learning centers.

Instead of being overly respectful or staid, the text-heavy ads head squarely in the other direction, poking fun at the aging process and at the various stereotypes of seniors.

“You lived through puberty and a midlife crisis so how hard can the Internet be?” one ad wonders. Another jokes, “If the Internet is changing the world then shouldn’t the grownups be in charge?”

The tagline is “Computer training by seniors for seniors.”

“The seniors who see this are saying here is a company that isn’t patronizing to their age group,” said Chris Matyszczyk, executive creative director at Highway One.

Matyszczyk said the agency was unconcerned about offending people partly because the seniors who enroll in the client’s courses tend to be more young at heart than some of their peers.

“When you go to some of these computer groups, they make fun of people who walk with canes,” Matyszczyk said. “They behave more like teenagers than adults with responsibilities.”

The company’s students are also generally fit, active and financially secure, Matyszczyk said. Also, a higher percentage of seniors read newspapers compared to other age groups, he said, which explains the media buy.

SeniorSurfers president and CEO Meredith Taylor said the image of seniors as frail and humorless is outdated, and that humor is in fact among the best ways to reach them.

“We’ve had a good reaction [to the ads] with people calling in and enrolling in our classes,” she said. “The response has been great, and we haven’t had huge exposure yet.”

Agency executives said the campaign will eventually include a total of nine print ads that will run through the end of the year. Spending was not disclosed.

SeniorSurfers is based in Mountain View, Calif., and runs centers throughout Northern and Southern California. The company plans to expand into Phoenix and then go nationwide.