What Ad Agencies Can Learn from Baby Boomers

The last Baby Boomers were born in 1964, and they will be 50 in 2014. The Boomers now span an age group that ranges from 50 to 70, and they still represent a formidable bulge in the population, with plenty of spending power and untapped needs for products and services. The Boomers are retiring from work but not from spending. But they are almost entirely ignored by ad agencies, because as a group the Boomers are not cool, like Millennials. They’re old. Boomers are unfashionable. Why would any agency waste its precious research and creativity on this embarrassing segment?

Peter Hubbell, founder of independent ad agency BoomAgers, sees it differently. Peter knows the ad business very well, having had a distinguished career at Saatchi & Saatchi, where he worked with Procter & Gamble, General Mills and Pillsbury while rising to the global board of the agency. “The big agencies have a herd mentality about many things, and they've forgotten that their mission is to help clients grow revenue, brands and market share. This requires thought leadership – hard creative thinking about changing consumer demographics and purchasing behavior. Baby Boomers are the largest and wealthiest segment in the history of marketing, and while they still dominate almost all product categories, marketers have been slow to embrace an older consumer whom they judge to be less valuable than a younger one. Agencies have done little to bring Baby Boomer insights to their clients. That’s because agencies worship what’s cool rather than what’s needed. Their idea of the Big Idea is limited and stereotyped to Millennials and Adults 39+.”

Peter filled the Baby Boomer Big Idea gap two years ago, and he’s growing at a very healthy pace. “Advertisers are hungry for ideas that drive brand growth. Brand growth means revenue and profit growth, and this is 100% in line with my clients’ obsession to improve Shareholder Value.”

Shareholder value, first articulated in the 1990's, is the mantra that boils down corporate purpose to matters involving money, wealth and share price. Boards of Directors used the concept to justify explosive increases in senior executive remuneration tied to improvements in corporate profitability and share price. CEO's used the concept to hire investment banks and strategy consultants to recommend and integrate mergers and acquisitions that added growth and incremental profits to their current companies. Procurement Departments and their hired-in management consultants used the concept to initiate company-wide cost-reduction programs and to out-source entire departments to reduce corporate costs. Corporate raiders used the concept to criticize existing corporate leaders and to justify the acquisition and break-up of under-performing companies. 

The widespread pursuit of shareholder value by advertisers was almost entirely ignored by their advertising agencies, who continued to think that clients wanted Big Creative Ideas rather than performance improvement programs. This gap exists today, and partly for this reason, ad agency operations are treated as “costs” rather than as “investments” by their clients’ procurement departments. 

BoomAgers, by contrast, works more like an strategic adviser with creative capabilities, helping its clients increase shareholder value by tapping into the inherent purchasing power of the Baby Boomer growth phenomenon. 

“Marketing is glamorous when it works,” says Hubbell. “We’re creating success for our clients – that’s our mission and commitment.  If other agencies don’t find this glamorous, that’s fine with me!”