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A+E Seeks Ways to Connect With Older Consumers

Jergens Leslie Mann A+E Networks
A+E has found that multi-generation ads--like the Jergen's spot with Leslie Mann and her daughter--play well with older consumers (Image credit:

A+E Networks has research that shows people in the 55-plus age bracket buy lots of stuff and it plans to study how to help advertisers get them to buy even more.

In its upcoming pitch before the upfront, A+E is telling media buyers it wants to sell commercials based on total audience. That means instead of basing ad prices on the number of people in the young-skewing demographic groups of people 18 to 49 or 25 to 54, it wants to count its viewers who are 55 and older.

Also Read: A+E Pitch to Upfront Buyers: Count Older Viewers Too

Those more senior viewers watch TV, see commercials and buy the products advertised. But reaching those viewers is essential free when the ads are bought based on younger demographics.

The practice stems from the notion that younger viewers are more important to reach. They stay consumers longer, the theory went, and older customers are already too set in their ways to be influenced by a 30-second spot.

Also Read: A+E Networks Leans Into Linear

Poppycock, said research done by A+E to back up the upfront pitch. In many cases, the data shows, older consumers have more money to spend and are more likely to respond to commercials they’re exposed to by buying the product advertised. 

And that’s without a concerted effort to reach older viewers or created advertising designed to appeal to them.

Now that A+E wants advertisers to pay for those older viewers, it plans to help its clients better appeal to them.

“We want to start focusing on how we are going to partner with marketers so they can really maximize the potential of the total audience market,” said Marcela Tabares, senior VP ad sales research at A+E.

When we think about the 55-plus group, they have been under-represented, undervalued and not communicated to directing because we have had a cultural obsession with the youth market,” she said. 

Tabares said that age should be treated like race and gender when it comes to unlocking cultural insights that enable more resonant messaging. “We’ve had conversations around diversity and inclusion and I feel that largely age has been left out of that conversation.”

Wave 2 of A+E’s research will study adults forty and up to see what makes them tick culturally and what type of images and messages they engage with.

“We are about to partner with cultural anthropologists and sociologists to develop a very extensive body of research to really investigate and understand what does it mean to be seen in media for that 40 plus group,” she said.

“There is a way to create greater resonance relevance and maximize that potential ROI whether it's in terms of how you place your media and how you tell your creative story,” Tabares said.

In commercials it will take more than just showing older folks being able bodied and being able to use a smartphone without looking like a buffoon, she added.

In Wave 1, A+E documented that the viewing and consuming habits of older people make them valuable audiences to target with advertising.

“They love TV,” said Tara Lantieri, senior director, primary research, ad sales, strategic insights at A+E. “Those audiences have been very stable. They’re watching everything. This group is not a monolithic group. They are very diverse in their interests. Even if you look at the top rated shows among 18 to 34 year olds, you’ll find that the 55-plus audience is two times or three times larger than that younger demographic."

A+E studied ad receptivity working with Phoenix Marketing International, which looked at a year’s worth of category-level data with about 20,000 ads from 1,600 advertisers. 

“We saw that brand memorability actually grows as viewers aged overall. It’s actually twice as high for adults 55 plus versus 18 to 34 year old,” Lantieri said. That pattern held for 48 of the 57 product categories PMI on which PMI reports.

Some of the better performing ads were multigenerational showing older characters with younger ones, often family member

Lantieri pointed to a particular ad for Jergens that featured the actress Leslie Mann and her real-life daughter.

“We saw this beautiful ad with humor and this multi-generational dynamic really connect and perform very well with this group,” she said. "It’s actually performed well with the other groups as well.”

Another ad that performed well was for Consumer Cellular that not only showed older consumers but Asian older adults and Hispanic adults. “It reflected the diversity that exists within age,” Lantieri noted. “The characters in the spot, they know what they’re doing on their cell phones. They use video calls, they use social media. So it’s reflective of the reality that being over 50 does not make you a technophobe.”

A+E also did two attribution studies, looking at the auto and consumer packaged goods industry.

In the CPG study, conducted by NCSolutions, 16 brands were looked at. After being exposed to advertising, all demographic groups studied shows increased sales. There was a 14% increase for the 18 to 34 age bracket, a 6% gain for 35 to 54 year olds and 12% for 55-plus.

Because there are more viewers aged 55 and up and then have more money to spend, the advertising impact generated more revenue for marketers than the other two marketers involved, said Aliza Wechsler, director of digital research at A+E.

In the auto study, conducted by 605 Impact, the likelihood that someone in a household exposed to an ad increased with age, with the 55 plus audience dominating. 

And in a precision campaign A+E ran that was specifically aimed at people in the market for a new car--as opposed to targeting by demographics--55 year olds were included in the audience being bought.

“Rather than using demos to exclude a large group of people that have this tremendous buying power, we focus on people’s behavior,” said David Ernst, VP, ad sales research. “Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the smartest thing to do for an advertiser.”

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.