BBDO’s ‘Love Notes’ spot for Humana nails it

The health care category rarely comes in for approval here @BrandROI, but Humana caught my attention the other day at the gym, when I looked up to see a commercial that begins with an older guy jogging–but in a mysterious way, marked by a lot of sudden and inexplicable changes of direction.

The denouement comes when we realize that the old guy’s been using something like Under Armor’s MapMyRun app, and has been drawing a picture for his wife.

One proof that this is a great ad is that when I mentioned it to my wife while we were sitting on an airplane, the young guy in the seat beside her piped up, “Yeah, that was a good ad.” That Millennial liked it because the mystery of what, exactly, the old jogger was going caught his attention.

The reason I liked it was that it was a strikingly different (and positive) portrayal of two older consumers. The jogger wasn’t just in shape, he was also portrayed as tech savvy and creative, and still obviously in love with his wife.

Who gets the extra bonus point for not casting 50-somethings as 60- or 70-somethings? Did that come from BBDO? Production Company Superprime’s Molloy Brothers who are credited with directing the spot? Or even someone at Humana?

Enquiring minds would like to know more about this commercial, so Revolutionary Old Idea emailed Liz Hemmer, BBDO New York’s media relations maven, in the hopes of interviewing the team that produced this excellent spot. I hope BBDO gets back me. In the meantime, watch and learn how to market to mature consumers, without falling into ageist tropes and stereotypes.

50 over fifty: Hampton Fancher resurrects his screenwriting career, just shy of 80, with ‘Blade Runner 2049’

F. Scott Fitzgerald is often (mis)quoted as having written, “There are no second acts in American lives.” What he really wrote was more along the lines of, “I used to think there were no second acts, but...”

Hampton Fancher, who shares a screenwriting credit and has the sole story credit on ‘Blade Runner 2049’ doesn’t just prove there are second acts, but third and fourth ones. He’s been a professional flamenco dancer in Spain, a successful actor in TV westerns, and had a sparse but notable screenwriting career in the late ’70s, which included adapting Philip K. Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” into the iconic sci-fi classic, ‘Blade Runner’.

He had a falling out with director Ridley Scott, however, and nearly had his name removed from the original film’s credits. That didn’t do his career much good; from the late ’70s until he was in his 70s, the phone hardly rang. But when it finally did, in 2012, it was Ridley Scott

Scott, who also directed the recent ’Runner reboot is another near-octogenarian.

Fancher spent much of the time between the two Blade Runner movies teaching screenwriting. He’s the subject of a documentary film called ‘Escapes’, although at the rate he’s going, that too may spin off a sequel.

Fancher says that he’s got a few more finished screenplays. “Since they’re knocking on the door again, maybe I’ll open it.”

Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods may deliver increased independence for seniors

If you just heard a shriek of terror off in the distance, it may well have been conventional grocery store owners reacting to news that Amazon’s just purchased Whole Foods.

The $42-per-share, $13+B deal places a large premium on Whole Foods and certainly suggests that Amazon’s ‘Fresh’ experiment whetted the online retailer’s appetite in the grocery sector. I’ve seen estimates that Amazon sold about $350M worth of groceries last year. That’s not chicken feed, but it’s peanuts compared to Whole Foods’ sales, in the $15B range.

OK, I’ll try to rein in the food puns. But seriously…

So far, U.S. grocery shoppers have been a little resistant to buying groceries online—this is especially true when it comes to produce, or dairy and other things that need to be kept cool. By contrast, in Great Britain, about half of all grocery shoppers have tried buying groceries online, and over 10% of them report doing virtually all of their shopping online.

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods suggests that it feels Americans can be convinced of something similar. (At the very least, Amazon certainly overpaid, if one considers this to be only or even mainly a bricks-and-mortar proposition; Whole Foods’ stock’s been under pressure for the last few years.)

One thing Amazon may have considered is that the aging population plays to the strengths of the online grocery model.

Seniors are less enthusiastic about driving, navigating huge grocery store parking lots, and trekking around with heavy bags of groceries. I know from the experience of people in my own family that shopping online and having groceries delivered can be critical to independent living.

Although many online retailers are obsessed with younger consumers who they perceive as ‘digital natives’, the truth is that mature consumers spend more online than millennials. And as the vast majority of Baby Boomers plan to age in place, it seems inevitable that the grocery business will catch up to other retail sectors in terms of the percentage of sales that come from online purchase and delivery.

Is this Samsung Galaxy VR ad ageist, racist, or neither?

It's rare for me to watch a TV spot in which an older consumer's cast to type, and still be unable to decide how I feel about it. But that's the case with a recent Samsung Galaxy S7 VR ad created (I think) by 72 and Sunny.

I could not find an easily embeddable version of this ad but you can watch it here

I could not find an easily embeddable version of this ad but you can watch it here

In the spot, a group of teenagers seem to be trying the Gear VR headset for the first time. An older consumer asks what they're doing, and asks to try the headset. The kids immediately let him try, giving the spot a friendly, intergenerational vibe.

But of course the old guy's typecast as the one who doesn't know from VR gear. And then there's his accent; he's from somewhere else. I suppose the spot can't technically be racist--after all the group of kids is diverse--but is there's a whiff of culture-ism; people from somewhere else can't be as with it as we are.

At one point, the kids literally laugh at the old man, but the spot manages to create the impression they're laughing with him, not at him.

At one point, the kids literally laugh at the old man, but the spot manages to create the impression they're laughing with him, not at him.

I would have loved it if the old man had been showing his Gear VR system to the woman on the park bench, and had the kids come up and ask what it was, and have them try it. I doubt that idea or anything like it was pitched in the agency brainstorming session, but on balance I feel this ad's generally warm-hearted vibe and strong execution manage to (just) skirt ageism.

Seniors in college... debt

The amount of student loan debt held by senior citizens has increased by over 500% over the last decade. Perhaps surprisingly, only about 20% of that debt was accumulated by their children.

What age cohort has the highest percentage of their student loans in default? People over 75

What age cohort has the highest percentage of their student loans in default? People over 75

Nearly $20B is owed by seniors in about 750,000 households. I.E., the average debt load is north of $20k per indebted household. Expanding the definition of mature student loan debtors to those over 50 increases their share of total debt to over 15%.

That is, admittedly, a small percentage of total student loan debt, but seniors’ share of total debt is growing and, alarmingly, people over 75 have very high rates of default.

It’s hard to tease the average length of these loans out of the available stats. A lot of this debt was accumulated by baby boomers who borrowed money for college way back in the ‘70s and haven’t paid it back. The problem is, if seniors retire before they retire their federal student loan debts, The Man can garnish up to 15% of Social Security payments!

Many seniors’ student loans were taken out more recently, by people who were middle aged when they were laid off ten or fifteen years ago. They followed accepted wisdom and retrained. The problem is that people returning to school in the early 2000s accumulated far larger debts than they did the first time around—because tuition and other educational costs have dramatically outpaced inflation since their first rodeo.

Statistically speaking, seniors are obviously less likely than millennials to be hobbled by student loan debt, but if trends continue, there will soon be 1,000,000 million senior households in just that situation.

That’s just another illustration of this truth: Whenever you think, “That’s a young person’s problem,” or “That only applies to young people,” or “Only kids are concerned with…” you’re almost certainly wrong. That thing—whatever it is—is almost certainly relevant to quite a few seniors, too.

 

 

You may be tired of hearing Boomers say that things are getting worse, but they are. For Millennials.

Baby Boomers, many of whom are now senior citizens, are often mocked for endlessly complaining that "The world's going to hell in a handbasket". Well, a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times by David Leonhardt used data gathered by a Stanford University economist (Raj Chetty) to prove that things are getting worse... for Millennials.

The implication of this graph is that about half of all children born in 1980 were born to the lowest 30% of income-earners.

The implication of this graph is that about half of all children born in 1980 were born to the lowest 30% of income-earners.

Chetty used millions of anonymized federal income tax records, dating back to 1940, to calculate a sort of 'American Dream' factor: That is, the odds American children—once they'd matured to age 30—would earn more than their parents had earned at that age. 

What he learned was that for the first few decades after WWII, most Americans grew up to become wealthier adults than their parents had been at that age. (And most of the 30-somethings who didn't earn more than their parents had at that age weren't hurting anyway; they were usually 1%ers who were still making well above-average incomes.)

Although the probability of growing up to earn more than your parents gradually decreased from the 1940s through the '70s, the American Dream of increasing prosperity held true for most Baby Boomers and a lot of Gen Xers.

But children of the 1980s—Millennials—can't expect to earn more than their parents and Chetty's data gives no real hope that future generations should expect to earn more, either.

This is one more nail in the coffin of the oldest marketing truism: That you should direct your ads at younger consumers, because they're not only the ones who'll live to buy your brand longer, they're the ones who are going to have more money to spend in the future.

The young consumers of the future seem likely to be even more cash strapped than the young consumers of today. But go ahead; just keep alienating us mature consumers—the ones with all the money.

Apple’s ‘Dive’ ad for iPhone is a tacit admission that the ad industry’s ageist, but we dig it anyway

Apple picked a great moment – in the nail-biting seventh game of the World Series – to unveil a 60-second spot for the iPhone 7 starring a still-anonymous senior citizen.

The :60 (which cost $1M to broadcast once in the World Series) was created by TBWA, and shot at the spectacular aquatic facility built for the Barcelona Olympics. But the decision to cast a senior citizen as a star – in a spot where he’d be wearing a bathing suit, no less – was even more striking than the cost of air time or the setting.

I asked TBWA about the spot, but the agency has not yet replied to my enquiries. The action begins at poolside, where a 60-something bather is lounging beside a 20-something woman. The older man turns up the volume on his iPhone speakers (demonstrating the impressive volume the unit can put out) and lays it carelessly in a small puddle (demonstrating, I presume, water-resistance).

Then the dude makes the long climb to the 10-meter platform, striding imperiously past another older gentleman; handing his sunglasses to a baffled kid; not deigning to even glance at a young guy with a man-bun. He pauses briefly at the edge of the platform. It’s not clear whether this is all for that (much) younger woman’s benefit or not.

He launches himself from the platform and for a moment, it seems we’re about to see an epic belly flop. But at the last moment, he snaps into a vertical entry and rips a pretty good dive.

“What the heck did I just see?” I wondered, when this spot appeared in Game 7?

The ad has a kind of Wes Anderson/ironic feel, and if you think about it the old diver’s a bit of douche, turning the speakers up like that. But he is clearly the hero of both the ad and his own life.

On the face of it, it could be an ad specifically directed at older male consumers. That’s not a crazy assumption. According to Slice Intelligence, men outspend women, and men over 65 are the top spenders (per capita).

That said, seniors account for less than 25% of Apple’s device business. So it’s far more likely that TBWA’s casting choice was driven by the desire to create a spot that stands out. In that sense, ironically, the diver is striking because he is so unexpected as a character. He’s unexpected because the ad industry is otherwise so ageist.

So where does this leave us here at Re:? Well, the spot currently has a 99.3% positive rating on iSpot.tv which is outstanding, and it’s been viewed well over a million additional times on YouTube. I’d have to say it’s a win for TBWA and Apple, and give it an ‘Eh!’ grade, because even if the senior’s being exploited, he’s being exploited in a way that other senior consumers – especially men – are gonna’ like.

 

 

 

Daily Factoid: Seniors kick Millennials' butts (investing)

TD Ameritrade recently issued a press release comparing the investment habits of Millennials, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, and Seniors.

The company cited the top-10 equities held by each group (including equities held in mutual funds and ETFs which were, in turn, owned by members of each generation.) 

Not surprisingly, all four generations' top-10 lists skew heavily towards the largest American companies by market cap. (Note that TD Ameritrade customers trade on US exchanges almost exclusively.) As such, only 16 companies, in total, figure on all generations' top-10 lists.

Of all the companies mentioned, only Tesla is not amongst the 50 largest US companies by market cap; it was the #10 choice among Millennial investors. Presumably Millennials can afford a few Tesla shares, but not a new Tesla.

Top 10 investment holdings by generation: It's a tribute to the strength of brands that almost every one of these companies is immediately recognizable by its logo alone. (Exceptions: BH logo is the logo of Berkshire Hathaway's specialty insurance business, although Warren Buffett's a big believer in brands, his own brand is low key. Altria is on right, third from bottom. Big Tobacco doesn't want you to recognize that one, so you're excused.)

Top 10 investment holdings by generation: It's a tribute to the strength of brands that almost every one of these companies is immediately recognizable by its logo alone. (Exceptions: BH logo is the logo of Berkshire Hathaway's specialty insurance business, although Warren Buffett's a big believer in brands, his own brand is low key. Altria is on right, third from bottom. Big Tobacco doesn't want you to recognize that one, so you're excused.)

Notwithstanding the similarities in each generations' Top-10 holdings, TD Ameritrade's customer cohorts have not had similar YTD performance. 

Millennials have earned a 5.35% return

Gen X-ers: 9.1%

Baby Boomers: 8.7%

Seniors: 10.2%

TD Ameritrade doesn't offer any suggestions as to why Seniors have had twice Millennials' success, in terms of return on investments to date. I can think of several possible explanations: Seniors may be more likely to be active investors, choosing individual equities; Millennials may be choosing mutual funds and paying higher fees. Expenses like trading fees also take a relatively bigger bite of smaller purchases.

Still, the Seniors' top returns call into question the old investing truism that as investors age, they should (or do) become more conservative. 

Daily Factoid: Explaining the 'Happiness Gap'

Regular visitors to this site will know that I routinely excoriate ad agencies for creating ads that portray mature consumers as a sad bunch of losers. We’re portrayed at best as clinging to fading youth and at worst as doddering from one drug dose to the next.

For at least a decade, I’ve been genuinely baffled by such portrayals, which fly in the face of my own direct experience and that of my friends.

There’s an obvious ‘Happiness Gap’ between the way mature consumers are portrayed in ads, and the way we actually feel. I blamed that gap on the mindless ageism of the ad industry but I recently had an ‘aha’ moment when I realized that it’s not ad creatives’ fault. They can’t be blamed for their misconception.

Now, I blame this U-shaped curve.

This graph is adapted from "A Snapshot of the Age Distribution of Psychological Well-Being in the United States" by Arthur A. Stone et al. For the complete study -- one of many that confirms the existence of the famous U-shaped curve for happiness -- go here.

This graph is adapted from "A Snapshot of the Age Distribution of Psychological Well-Being in the United States" by Arthur A. Stone et al. For the complete study -- one of many that confirms the existence of the famous U-shaped curve for happiness -- go here.

Across all cultures and socio-economic groups, research has shown that people’s happiness and enjoyment of life typically decreases from early adulthood until middle age. Then, sometime in people’s late 40s or early 50s, their happiness begins to increase. Their sense of well being (WB, in the graph) continues to increase until the last few years of life.

Considering our current life expectancies, that means North Americans experience three decades of progressively increasing happiness, after they enter middle age.

Why is this relevant to ad business?

The more I think about the U-shaped curve, the more I realize that it supports my argument that young creatives can’t possibly be expected to really understand mature consumers.

It’s not just that they lack direct experience of being mature consumers. It’s worse than that. Because from the time you get your first job in the ad business, you’re on the happiness downslide. Less and less happy; less and less satisfied; more and more worried.

When young creatives extrapolate their own experiences, it's bound to color the impression they have of older consumers. And it helps to explain why advertising portrays older consumers as sad sacks hanging on only to see the grandkids graduate from middle school.

Nothing could be further from the truth. But by the time those young creatives realize it, they will have aged out of the ad business!

People in their 60s – I know, I am one – routinely say that they’re happier now than at any previous age. Or, at least, happier than they’ve been since they were children. Consumers in their 60s and 70s don’t want to recapture lost youth. Time and time again they tell surveys they’re happy right where they are.

You know who wants to roll their age back? People in their 30s and 40s, who miss being in their 20s. IE, people with hands on creative jobs in the ad business.

Ironically, right around the time ad creative would finally realize that older consumers are, if anything, happier than most younger consumers – around the time they’d start crafting ads based on a real appreciation of mature consumers’ emotional lives – creatives get laid off, fired, or otherwise are forced out of the business. They cede their jobs to a new generation of young creatives who, again, dread getting older for a very good reason: in their own experience, getting older = becoming more and more stressed and unhappy.

50 over fifty: Florence 'See See' Rigby

Florence 'See See' Rigby is the oldest practicing nurse in the United States. She recently turned 90.

Rigby has spent her entire nursing career in one hospital, Tacoma General. She began there as a student in 1946. She retired once, at the age of 67, but got bored and returned to work after a few months.

"She runs circles around all of us," Sheri Morris, assistant nurse manager, told TODAY.com. "She's a wealth of wisdom and knowledge, and we absolutely love her."

Rigby seems to have been ahead of the curve, as it's only now that a lot of Boomers are finding that the whole idea of being retired is unattractive, since they haven't yet gotten tired in the first place. Nursing's a tiring job, of course, and the fact that she can still do it at 90 suggests that she's an extraordinary specimen. Tacoma General's also to be commended for realizing that older (or in Rigby's case, way way older) employees have value precisely because of the wealth of experience they've accumulated.

 

A note from the Dept. of Comparisons Which Should Be Absurd, but aren't

This awesome insight comes from the (perhaps literally) insightful folks at Pornhub...

Among male visitors to the Pornhub site, 'Mature' is a more popular search term than 'Anal'. Meanwhile, walk into any ad agency and you're 20 times as likely to meet an asshole than anyone who is middle-aged. The inescapable conclusion? Even porn addicts are less ageist than the advertising business.

Among male visitors to the Pornhub site, 'Mature' is a more popular search term than 'Anal'. Meanwhile, walk into any ad agency and you're 20 times as likely to meet an asshole than anyone who is middle-aged. The inescapable conclusion? Even porn addicts are less ageist than the advertising business.

Go ahead, pretend that you don't know what I'm talking about, but in the same report, Pornhub points out that the average American visits their site over 120 times per year. If you work in the ad business and really don't know what Pornhub is, you should be fired, because you don't understand the culture you're selling into.

But seriously, folks... 'Mature' is the #3 search term for male users. And it's in the top-10 for female users (who account for over 1/5th of all visits, interestingly.) What does this mean? It means that even the pornography business is less ageist than the advertising industry.

50 over fifty: Journalist/author/screenwriter Dan Lyons

I was listening to NPR the other day as Terry Gross interviewed Dan Lyons.

On Twitter, he's @RealDanLyons, which is kind of a nod to an earlier stint with—if not fame exactly—a kind of cult status as @FakeSteveJobs. 

On Twitter, he's @RealDanLyons, which is kind of a nod to an earlier stint with—if not fame exactly—a kind of cult status as @FakeSteveJobs. 

Lyons, who was born in 1960, had a distinguished career as journalist in the tech sector, including stints as the tech editor at Forbes and Newsweek. But a few years ago, when Lyons was 52, Newsweek laid him off. The print journalism world Lyons came from has been as disrupted by online media as the ad world's been. Lyons realized that he wasn't just going to be able to find a replacement journalism job—at least, not at a salary that would support his family.

So, he turned to the industry he'd been covering, and got a "marketing" job at HubSpot—one of the myriad companies offering recipes to make spam palatable. His experiences on the inside of a typical startup illustrate the new business model for most contemporary tech companies; mainly, it's a lesson in the fact that most founders' exit strategy precedes any commitment to actually adding value to customers' lives or businesses. His book also explains that the tech business is nearly as ageist as the ad business.

Fired at 52, trying something new in a company where he was about twice the average age, then writing a best-seller about his experiences... that alone would justify calling out Dan Lyons as one of re:'s 50 over Fifty. But that's not all, because he's since made another way better career move; he's now a screenwriter on the hot HBO series 'Silicon Valley'

Attaboy, Dan.

One thing really stuck with me, after hearing his Fresh Air interview, was Dan's response to Terry Gross—playing the devil's advocate—and suggesting the tech industry is justified in its ageism.

GROSS: Do you think that some of the emphasis on being young, too, is kind of drawing the line between people who are digital natives and people who aren't? You know, like, people who grew up with computers and so a lot of things are just second nature to them in a way that older people had to learn from scratch because it was introduced to them. It wasn't something they grew up with.
LYONS: I think there's validity to that. But there's also this - the way it's described is almost like everybody born after 1980 has a gene that the rest of us don't have, that they were with born with this thing that somehow they can understand this.
Now I do know my kids are very good at picking up new things, and they're learning how to code in Python. And I am not a coder at all, but I'm pretty sure I could learn to write code in Python pretty quickly if I had to.
And I think it's not just that. It's people who have been working as coders, as programmers, as engineers who get kicked out when they turn 40 or 45. They have tech skills, they have degrees in computer science. It's not believable to me that they couldn't learn whatever the new programming language is.
Also, they - they've put in those 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell talks about to gain expertise in a skill. Why would you not want them? They've learned their skills on someone else's dime, and now you can hire them and get the benefit of all that experience.

This is, of course, just as true of the ad industry. I wonder what the Millennial response would be if that 'digital native' attitude was turned on its head, and Millennials were immediately dropped from consideration from any position that involved direct interaction with other people.

I can imagine conversations that go something like this...

"Well Courtney, you're doing a great job here in our digital content department, but we can't really consider you for a manager's role. You see, managers need interpersonal skills, so we only really consider older workers who are Analog Native. It's not your fault that you grew up interacting only with devices and not people..."

"But that's just prejudice," Courtney would protest. "I could learn to have face-to-face conversations."

"Courtney, look at yourself. You're actually texting as we speak."

Thoughts on “peak stuff”

A few months ago, Ikea’s ‘Chief Sustainability Officer’ made the news when he suggested that we’ve reached ‘peak stuff’. The specific example Ikea’s Greg Howard used was ‘peak curtains’, but what he meant was, many consumers in developed nations have all the stuff they need. 

After Ikea's Greg Howard talked about the west being at 'peak stuff' people wondered how that idea could possibly be consistent with the chain's growth targets. Clearly, Ikea can continue to grow at the expense of its competitors' market share. But mature consumers already know that bigger isn't better, and more isn't better. 

After Ikea's Greg Howard talked about the west being at 'peak stuff' people wondered how that idea could possibly be consistent with the chain's growth targets. Clearly, Ikea can continue to grow at the expense of its competitors' market share. But mature consumers already know that bigger isn't better, and more isn't better. 

That was obvious. In the U.S., homes have gotten bigger and families have gotten smaller; you’d think that means American homeowners have more space than ever, right? And yet, storage lockers are a fast-growing business, precisely because people really do have too much stuff.

But if it was obvious, why was it news? The answer is, it was newsworthy because it was coming from a retailer. Ikea, after all, is in the stuff business; it’s one of the world’s largest suppliers of stuff. So it seemed an unlikely admission. And, suggesting that people are consuming too much is almost un-American.

Or is it?

Mature consumers are already ‘downsizing’. Empty nesters are selling big homes in the suburbs and moving into lofts downtown. They’re ditching the massive SUVs and people haulers they needed to chauffeur their kids to hockey practice, in favor of smaller hybrids that get better gas mileage, are easier to park—and, by the way, are way more fun to drive.

The thing you need to understand about peak stuff is, from a mature consumer’s perspective, less really is more. Especially because the older you get, the more you know that nothing, or at least no thing, is really going to make you happy.

Younger consumers chase the latest trend, in the hopes that some brand or gadget will make them seem cool to friends who've bought into the same fad, but older consumers are far more skeptical. That doesn’t mean older consumers don’t want to spend, or won’t. It just means that we spend differently.

Mature consumers don’t want more or bigger; we want better. And while we are less likely to think some thing will make us happy, we’re more likely to spend on experiences. That’s why we account for such a large share of money spent on travel. (The ‘bucket list’? That’s a real thing with us.)

So if your brand’s growth is stalled and you think you’re bumping up against peak stuff, take another look at mature consumers. Want to attract us? Understand that bigger isn’t better. More isn’t better. Better is better.

Rather than making empty promises that a newer, bigger thing will make us happy—promises that we disproved decades ago—tell us why your product or service is better. Make the pursuit of happiness as rational a decision as possible. Better yet, offer us experiences—something we can collect while filling our hearts and minds, instead of our closets.

Embracing the idea of peak stuff is better for the planet and future generations. (Ironically, the longer you’ve lived, more you care about the future!) But that doesn’t mean it’s bad for business. If anything, it should be better.

Daily Factoid: Scion's demise, in a single statistic

In 2003, the average new-Toyota buyer was five years older than buyers of new Volkswagens. In response, Toyota introduced the Scion brand in the U.S. market.

Scion was positioned and marketed as a first-new-car, to attract Gen-Xers to the Toyota fold and keep them there. The new brand was initially successful with quirky models like the xB.

But Scion's been dealt a one-two knockout by the economy and demographics. Just before the '08 recession, the average age of a new car buyer was 43. Today, it's 52. (For reference, the average new car buyer is now about a decade and a half older than the average American, and has an income about one and half times as great.)

But wait, it gets worse; the '08 recession didn't just take Millennials out of the market for new Scions, it reprogrammed a lot of them to think about cars differently. Uber and car-sharing suddenly looks like a real alternative to life with a car. And among younger buyers who need or want a car of their own, new cars seem to have lost their shine. Part of the blame for that shift falls on Toyota, too. Manufacturers have spent the last 30 years improving quality and durability, to the point that used cars are more reliable and desirable than ever. 

Over the long haul, Toyota (like every other car maker) needs to find a way to ensure that when people finally buy new, they buy a Toyota. But between now and then, the reality is that if they want to be in the new car business at all, they've gotta' pay attention to mature consumers.

 

R8’d highly: VB&P’s Super Bowl spot for Audi works on dual demos

Adweek cited Venables Bell & Partners' ad for the Audi R8 as one of the best spots in last night’s big Advertising Championship Game. 

This spot has a 94% positive rating on iSpot.tv. It's not an accident that the soundtrack ― from David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album ― was released in 1972. That was when the people right in the middle of the Baby Boom were coming of age. (Advertising Championship action was broken up by the National Football League, which bought a lot of time which it used to show off the sport of football, in between the ads. Unfortunately for the NFL, it wasn’t a particularly good game.)

Audi's commercial was not just a solid effort, it also worked effectively across the age range of R8 buyers. Here’s why...

First, let’s look at R8 demographics... 

According to a 2011 RL Polk survey, the average age of Audi owners was 49. In the intervening five years, the average age of new car buyers has, if anything, increased. (In 2015, according to a study conducted by NADA, the average new car buyer was 51.7.)

What about the age of buyers for the $115,000-plus R8 model? 

Audi isn’t sharing numbers with me, but I’d be surprised if the median age of R8 buyers is under the brand average. There is an R8talk.com forum ― which is almost certainly a selective filter for younger owners. I found a thread there, in which R8 owners listed their ages. In that small sample of 27 respondents, 8 were over 50; the oldest was 65.

Worth noting: I’ve also seen quite a bit of anecdotal and/or statistically incomplete evidence to suggest that Audi is one of the luxury brands that has done the best job of targeting Millennials.  That goes a long way towards justifying the premise of VB&P’s creative, which is that the Millennial R8-owning son comes to visit his ex-astronaut dad, and gives him a spin in a vehicle that makes dad feel young again.

Why it's good...

I bet it tested gangbusters with 30- and younger 40-something guys who still wrestle with parental expectations! (Note: the actor portraying the son is Gunner Wright, who is technically a young Gen-Xer, on the cusp of being a leading-edge Millennial.)

What about Baby Boomers? Does the ad also work for them? After all, from one perspective the dad's crap evening is only rescued by the arrival of his kid in a new sports car. The old guy literally seems to have lost his appetite for life. Hardly an uplifting image.

But as always, execution is everything. They cast an actor who’s height-weight proportional, and who doesn’t particularly walk like to the car like an old man. And, to be fair, he was an ex-astronaut. Retired life probably really is a bit boring, by comparison.

This is not a guy who other old guys are going to read as pathetic. It’s a guy who other old guys are going to read as an ex-hero, of a type that hardly exists any more. The Apollo program ― the heroic period of American space exploration ― ended in 1972. So the actual astronauts were not Baby Boomers, which also gives people like me just enough emotional distance from the father figure and his pathos... while still maintaining enough relate-ability to connect, at least, with the idea that we came of age in a different (and better) time.

When that old guy ― a guy I can relate to, but who is even older than me ― reconnects with those lost feelings in the R8, it makes millions of Baby Boomers think, at least for a moment, maybe I could do that too. And it was all done without ever suggesting anything about an embarrassing mid-life crisis.

For the Millennial Audi-driver, it’s a hard-won validation. Audis really are aspirational targets for a lot of Millennials, and this spot while nominally touting the R8 clearly has to carry an overarching brand message (Audi can’t sell enough R8 models to justify the cost.) But VB&P skillfully layered in a recapturing-lost-youth message that will not be lost on the 50% of Audi buyers who are closer in age to that ex-astronaut than they are to his son.