I read Advertising Age’s story on how Nielsen wants to convince advertisers that the old notion of focusing on the 18-49 demographic and ignoring the 50+ set is outdated.

I swear I kept looking for a big “sponsored by CBS” banner on Ad Age’s site, but I didn’t see it.

While I think Advertising Age correctly reported on Nielsen’s propaganda campaign, I had a couple of problems with the article:

1.) it mostly* dodges the notion that people over 50 watch much, much more TV and are easier to reach and the impact that has on pricing and that it’s not that advertisers don’t care about the 50+ demographic . Of course they care, it’s just they won’t typically pay premiums in primetime to reach viewers who are abundantly available.

2.) it also mostly* dodges the notion that Nielsen is, not surprisingly, motivated by its biggest customers, the TV networks who have an abundance of 50+ viewers and scarce few adults 18-49 (and even fewer 18-34).

Sellers of advertising at the networks will pick up their weekly copy of Ad Age and smile.  The advertisers will read it and laugh it off as the obvious marketing propaganda by Nielsen that it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any of the points that Nielsen makes about the aging of the boomer demographic are factually incorrect.  I think every one of its points is valid,  I just don’t think that matters, particularly when it comes to the pricing of advertising for primetime shows.

Advertisers wanting to reach boomers have so many ways to do it that are more cost effective than paying a premium for those viewers in primetime,  As long as the 50+ viewers are abundantly available to advertisers and  the 18-49 and 18-34 relatively scarce, I’d count on the focus on younger adults persisting.

*It does not completely dodge these notions, it’s just not very specific about them:

To be sure, there are business dynamics in place that make the pursuit of a generation of consumers previously thought useless to marketers more crucial than in eras past. TV advertising was founded on reaching the demographic of consumers between the ages of 18 and 49, yet the median age of viewers of prime-time broadcast TV is nearing 51 — two years above that age range. To maintain relevance to advertisers, the big networks need to find a way to establish the relevance of older consumers if they want to continue to draw the marketers that support TV so heavily.

But will the networks really have to convince advertisers that 50+ matters or just have to keep jacking up the price for younger eyeballs as they become relatively even more scarce than they already are?

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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