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Ageism in The Digital Age: Marketers are Missing the Boat

The Forgotten Demographic

Ageism. Merriam-Webster defines it as “prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group and especially the elderly.” From marketing campaigns to the job market, the “elderly” are facing an all but ignored discrimination crisis.


Known collectively as the “baby boomers,” basically 50 years old and up, this is a 75 million strong demographic. And they are living in a world where they seem to be devalued in comparison to the younger Millenials and Gen Xers, the prime marketing and labor force targets in today’s digital age.


The “humorous” depictions of this age group in everything from birthday cards to sitcoms reinforces the stigma of being older and are typical examples of how society seems to accept an often undeserved portrayal of aging. The bias against LGBTs, women, the disabled, and minorities has been slowly improving over the years, but the prejudice against the aging population continues to be either widely accepted or, at the very least, widely ignored.


Old. Feeble. Absent minded. These are just a few of the descriptions that seem prevalent when it comes to most people’s thoughts on the older population. The respect for older members of society that was commonplace before the baby boomers is simply not there anymore. Marketing initiatives seem to reflect that same attitude because the financial value of this demographic is greatly under-appreciated, especially when it comes to targeted marketing.



Marketers Are Missing Millions

Marketers are missing out on millions of potential customers, and millions of dollars of revenue, by undervaluing the older demographics. These consumers have plenty of money to spend and are willing to part with it, often for higher-end products and services. But marketers just don’t seem to get it. They continue to change their marketing efforts to keep up with the often fleeting desires of the younger generations with emptier pockets.


A recent article featured on the AARP site says “The Nielsen study revealed that “less than 5 percent of advertising dollars” target adults ages 35 to 64, and cites age 49 as the “cut-off,” when many marketers stop courting customers. When boomers reached middle age, says Lori Bitter, president of The Business of Aging, a consulting firm in Alameda, CA., advertisers decided “they weren’t relevant.” Who would be foolish enough to consider all those potential customers and all that money irrelevant? Marketers, that’s who!


Marketers seem to be fascinated with the younger demographics like Millennials, in particular, seemingly unaware that the older population typically has more disposable income and is more likely to purchase high-ticket items. This dismissal of the baby boomer generation is undoubtedly a costly stance to take considering there are 75 million potential customers just waiting to spend that disposable income.