TV Land’s New Generation Gap Study
The massive baby boom generation is firmly in their “power years.” In fact, the age 40–59 age cohort is now our nation’s social and economic powerhouse. Nonetheless, today’s television industry and advertisers consistently shirk the boomers in favor of younger demographics. Due in part to the artificial construction of the ratings systems, and in part to myths built around the spending habits, brand loyalty, and attitudes of the boomers, advertisers and media are now missing out on an immense economic opportunity.
In 2006, TV Land, a unit of Viacom Inc’s MTV Networks, engaged Age Wave to design a landmark study, “TV Land’s New Generation Gap Study,” to develop a new understanding of the boomers in their power years and their expectations and relationship to television and advertising. This study included a national survey conducted online by Harris Interactive among 4,220 adults.
The study found that boomers expressed outright annoyance that television and advertisers place an undue emphasis on younger demographics. Key themes uncovered by the study include:
- The midlife crisis is over: middlescence has begun. Today’s 40–59 year olds are gearing up, not winding down. Boomers in their 40s and 50s are three times more likely to say the best years are ahead of them, not behind them. Compared to younger adults, boomers are more likely to feel liberated, accomplished, and successful, and to have achieved balance and stability.
- In middlescence, boomers are clearly the new power demographic. In their peak earning years, boomers now have a total buying power representing $2.3 trillion in annual household expenditures, exceeding 18–39 year old households by more than 50%.
- Generational profiling—prejudice distorts reality. Even though boomers have far more spending power, advertisers pay an average of 25–50% more to reach younger viewers. The public (including many television and advertising professionals) falsely believes that 40–59 years olds are over the hill or set in their ways. In fact, boomers are almost four times more open to new ideas and experiences than younger adults think they are.
- The TV generation is turned on, but is increasingly tuning out. Only 3% of boomers say they are extremely satisfied with the TV programming options available to them. Study respondents believe that nearly two-thirds of TV programming and television advertising is targeted at those under 40. And boomers are significantly more likely than young adults to say TV does a poor job of reflecting the values of their lifestage; providing characters, stories, and plots relevant to their lifestage; and reflecting their lifestyle preferences. Over half (53%) of boomers claim to pay little to no attention to ads they feel target young adults, while a third (33%) say that they are actually less likely to buy those products.
- If you build it, they will come: bridging the generation gap. Boomers are just as likely as young adults to be open to buying new products and services (71%/71%) and to be influenced by effective advertising (55%/55%).