A finding, a non-finding, or PR-hype?
A study conducted by Harris Interactive suggests that the television industry’s obsession with youth is backfiring.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they believe that most TV programming and advertising is targeted toward people under 40, the survey said. More than 80 percent of adults over 40 say they have a hard time finding TV shows that reflect their lives.
A significant number of baby boomers _ 37 percent _ say they aren’t happy with what’s on television, according to the study.
Note that there’s a difference between TV not reflecting my life (i.e., Sopranos), and not being happy with what’s on (i.e., how O.J. would do it).
“The amount of people dissatisfied with television overall was a pretty big eye-opening thing for us,” said Larry Jones, president of the TV Land cable network, which commissioned the study.
Because TV Land of course aims at this forgotten demographic with rescued-from-the-garbage-pail programming. Who’s up for a Benson marathon?
To a certain extent, the generation that decades ago warned against trusting people over 30 can blame itself for the predicament. The TV industry’s slavish devotion to ratings within the 18-to-49-year-old demographic started when most baby boomers fit into that group.
The theory among advertisers is that it’s important to reach young people as their preferences are forming _ get them hooked on a certain toothpaste or soda early and they’ll be hooked for life. Advertisers will pay a premium for young viewers: $335 for every thousand people in the 18-to-24 age range that a network delivers, for example. Viewers aged 55-to-64 are worth only $119 for every thousand, according to Nielsen Media Research.
To a surprising extent, advertising is also alienating. The Harris Interactive study found that half of baby boomers say they tune out commercials that are clearly aimed at young people. An additional one-third said they’d go out of their way NOT to buy such a product.
Some advertisers have responded to the aging population. Financial services firms, for example, see many potential customers advancing toward retirement. Two decades ago drug companies didn’t advertise on TV; now you could fill a medicine cabinet with all the products hawked on the evening news.
Not to mention those commercials for Hoverround home mobility devices where an old lady sings “you made me love youUUUUUU” while she plays with her hair coquettishly.
TV Land’s Jones is already using the survey in his business. The results have convinced him that, more than ever, his network of mostly classic TV shows should be boomer-centric, he said. He also comes armed with the survey when he meets with the Madison Avenue types who buy advertising time.
At least the article is clear on this part.
One statistic he’s sure to cite: The survey found 51 percent of the postwar generation describe themselves as “open to new ideas.” Meanwhile, only 12 percent of young adults think the older folks feel that way.
Why does that matter? Jones said the average media buyer or planner is under 30. Many are undoubtedly hired for their know-how in appealing to a specific generation, and it isn’t the baby boomers.