Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wish me luck.

So I'm speaking at the Worthshop 4 conference this week in Hawaii.

The annual event is hosted by Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers and promises to attract "The brightest minds in business, real estate, design, architecture, communications, technology and more."

I'm officially concerned.

The problem is I'm not sure my material is suitable for even the dullest minds in business. "A little thin," as a journalism professor once critiqued my writing.

A better person would recuse herself from the event. "Sorry, I'm just not smart enough."

But I've never been accused of being a better person. So, onward!

Anyway, the speech is called The Battle for the World's Most Valuable Customer. And yes, I'm referring to people over 50.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

You're only as old as people think you are.

My husband & I were in Nashville for our nephew’s wedding. The festivities were taking place outside. On a farm. 

Purchasing large quantities of bourbon seemed like an appropriate pre-game strategy.

That’s when I met Nick. He had me at “Can I see your I.D., ma’am?”

I couldn’t get my driver’s license out of my wallet fast enough. “You’re my favorite person in the whole wide world!” I gushed. I made my husband take this picture. Because it was my best day ever.

Then I started thinking about Hillary Clinton. She’s 67, and some people think she’s too old to be president. Especially her political opponents.

Rand Paul is concerned about whether she’s up for the “rigorous physical ordeal” of a presidential campaign. And Rick Santorum, Mitch McConnell and Bobby Jindal are on the record with bitchy little jabs at her advancing age.

This is, of course, Human Nature Politics 101: Identify a potential weakness in your opponent and exploit it. Democrats used the same ageist tactic on Reagan, Dole and McCain. Heck, Mrs. Clinton's husband used a similar attack on George H.W. Bush in 1996. No surprises here.

But it’s a comment from Rush Limbaugh that worries me. Not because it’s sexist and rude. But because it’s true.

During a radio show last year Limbaugh wondered aloud if the American people really "want to vote for somebody, a woman, and actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?"

Eew, gross! If I want to see that shit, I’ll buy a mirror. (Can I get a rimshot?)

Look, maybe Limbaugh’s a dick, maybe he's not. But he makes an excellent point. Nobody wants to watch women get old. Not in movies or magazines or sitcoms or commercials. Why would we want to see it in the White House?

The good news for Hillary however is that most Americans underestimate her age. In a recent Pew study, 83% of adults surveyed put her in the 65 & under category. Thirty one percent put her between 50 & 59 and 6% thought she was younger than 50.

Millennials are particularly bewildered. In answer to the question, “Just your best guess, how old is Hillary Clinton?” more than half thought she was in her 50s and 16% guessed younger than 50. If I were Hillary, I’d buy each one of those confused kids a pony.

Anyway, maybe this explains why my buddy Nick asked to see my I.D. Maybe Nick, like the rest of his generation, is just really really bad at guessing a woman’s age.

When my husband & I arrived at the reception with two bottles of bourbon, one awesome story and photographic proof in hand, I learned the truth. A fellow guest informed me that liquor stores in Tennessee are required to ask anyone and everyone to show their I.D. “Required,” she repeated. Slowly. For emphasis.

So, apparently I’m not as preternaturally youthful as my ego first assumed. Nick was just following orders. 

But c’mon! If Hillary Clinton can pass for 50, why can’t I get carded every once in a while?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sellin' Helen.

I’m not always angry. Some days I wake up positively brimming with good cheer. Today is not one of those days.

But here’s something that doesn’t suck:

L’Oréal Paris just named Helen Mirren as a brand ambassador in the UK. In addition to being gorgeous and talented, Dame Helen is 69. (That’s about 175 in model years, BTW.) And yet, here she is looking all gorgeous and talented as the “new face” of L’Oréal.

Photo courtesy of L’Oréal Paris

This is a tiny bit of vindication for those of us who thumb through fashion magazines muttering about “skinny bitches” and “photo-shopped cleavage.” Okay, maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, Ms. Mirren isn’t the first dame (small “d”) L’Oréal has tapped to represent their brand. Julianne Moore (53), Andie MacDowell (56), Diane Keaton (68) and Jane Fonda (76) are also in the clique.

You know, maybe there’s something in the liquid eyeliner. 

NARS Cosmetics recently hired Tilda Swinton for their Spring 2015 efforts. The 53 year-old actress takes over for Charlotte Rampling (68). And Jessica Lange (64) was recently tapped by Marc Jacobs to plug the company’s luxury cosmetics line. We’re a long way from Lancôme famously dumping a too-old Isabella Rossellini just a few days after her 40th birthday.

And guess what? These mature models haven’t sucked the cool out of the NARS and Marc Jacobs brands. And L’Oréal remains the largest cosmetic company in the world.

This trend—if I may be so boldly optimistic in my word choice—is a great sign. Perhaps cosmetics companies finally understand something other marketers just can’t seem to grasp: How to bravely, intelligently and unapologetically talk to the people who actually buy your stuff.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why I'm mad at Renée Zellweger.

First of all, I’m not mad at Renée Zellweger for getting plastic surgery. It’s her choice, it's her face. Have at it.

And I don’t blame her one bit. She’s a 45 year-old actress in Hollywood. With or without an Academy Award, if you look your age you don’t get jobs. So she messes with her face to look younger. Perfectly understandable.

The sad part, of course, is that she may never work again because she no longer looks like Renée Zellweger. At any age.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no heartbroken fan. I can take her or leave her. And I’m not one of those anonymous turds who cleared their path to Dickheadsville with nasty, hateful tweets.

But I am mad at Renée Zellweger and here’s why: 

She’s denying it.

Well I guess if you believe People magazine (and who doesn’t?), the actress has neither confirmed nor denied having plastic surgery. But in my house, if you ain’t confiming, you’re denying.

From People:
"I'm glad folks think I look different! I'm living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows." 
“My friends say that I look peaceful. I am healthy.”
"People don’t know me in my 40s…Perhaps I look different. Who doesn't as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I'm happy."
I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

Seriously sweetie pie, you’re not fooling anyone. Have you peeked at a mirror lately? It’s kinda obvious. And your coy “Oh, is my bliss showing?” act is embarrassing, insulting and getting on my last nerve.

Trust me, nobody believes that you simply woke up from a good night’s sleep looking like your third cousin, twice removed. So you got a little work done, so what?

Just put on your big girl pants and tell the truth. Stop perpetuating the fantasy that beauty is endless and happy people never get old.

You’re an actress, right? Act like a grownup.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Unpredictable Power of Potential

Zakary Tormala is a marketing professor at Stanford. He teaches courses on attitudes, persuasion and consumer behavior. He is particularly interested in the power of potential.

According to his research, people value potential more than achievement. This creates a phenomenon in which what a person might do is of higher value than what another person has actually done.

We see this all the time. From the rookie point guard who is recruited straight out of high school with a multi-year, multimillion dollar NBA contract, to the junior senator from Illinois with zero administrative experience who is elected President of the United States. (No hate mail please. I voted for him too.)

Even with the inherent risks that go along with betting on the come, potential is still more powerful than achievement. Professor Tormala proposes that the uncertainty is precisely what makes potential so attractive. People with potential are interesting and exciting! Who cares if they actually haven’t done anything yet?

This got me thinking about millennials.

These days you can’t swing a dead blogger without hitting an expert who’s extolling the virtues of millennials. (Please don’t make me list them.) The general consensus is millennials are going to fix everything.
Of course they are. Just as soon as they get a job and move out of mom’s basement.

Until then, let’s separate potential from achievement.

Someday millenials will outnumber us. Today people 50+ outnumber 18-32 year olds by 32 million.

Someday millennials might outspend us. Today boomers spend $2.9 trillion a year—this represents nearly half of all consumer spending.

Someday millennials might be financially secure. Today we control about 75% of the wealth in the U.S.

Someday millennials might own their own homes. Today home ownership among adults younger than 35 is the lowest in recorded history.

Someday millennials might buy cars. Today 63% of all new cars in the U.S. are purchased by people over 50.

Someday millennials might pay their own way. Today more than half of U.S. parents are providing financial support to their adult children.

Someday advertisers will wake up and realize that by blindly pandering to the potential of the 18-34 demographic, they’re ignoring and insulting the people who actually buy their products and grow their businesses.

Yeah. And someday monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Et tu, AARP?

I’ve been in a foul mood ever since AARP introduced RealPad, a 16GB, Android-based tablet. (Full disclosure, I’ve pretty much been in a foul mood since 1977, but that’s beside the point.)

Anyway, I’m not mad at the product. It could be awesome for all I know. And at $189, it seems well priced. What pisses me off is the marketing.

From the press release:
Powered by Intel, RealPad to Serve as Digital Gateway to Over 70 Million Americans 50+

I hate to break it to you AARP, but I lost my virginity--oops, I mean "digital gateway"--more than 20 years ago. In fact, most of us are pretty adept at the whole digital game.

Shit, some of us even invented it. Paul Allen (58), Tim Berners-Lee (59), Larry Brilliant (70), Ward Cunningham (65), Bill Gates (58) and Larry Ellison (70). Oh, and a couple of guys you may have heard of named Wozniak and Jobs.

And then there’s this:
--88% of people aged 50-64 in the U.S. are online
--33% of all tablets and eReaders are owned by people 50+, including 23% of all iPads and 30% of all Kindle Fires
--An estimated 50 million Facebook users in the U.S. are older than 45
--Smartphone use among people 55+ is growing at a faster rate than 25-54 year olds
Perhaps it’s not entirely accurate to say that technology is “a daunting experience for a large majority of Americans 50+,” as AARP’s CEO JoAnne Jenkins tells us. Perhaps there’s more to the story.

By all accounts, RealPad is super simple to use. The interface features large type and big icons. It comes with free, 24/7 customer support from live experts. And it’s pre-loaded with video tutorials that walk you through tablet basics like how to use a touch screen.

But here's the thing, perpetuating the myth that people over 50 are digital dimwits is not good karma, or good marketing, for AARP.

This is a tablet for seniors, and AARP knows it. And by pretending RealPad is designed for users 50+, they’re guilty of the same lazy, ageist thinking as most other marketers.

AARP needs to get back to first principles. Market to peoples' needs and interests, not their age.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The ol' potato in the vagina gag.

My first blog post was about vaginas. I wrote about a recent study in the UK where 50% of women aged 26-35 could not identify a vagina on a diagram.

It was the most viewed post in Angry Boomer history (which goes back four whole weeks). And I've been chasing that high ever since.

The post had a lot going for it. For one thing, my business partner Bob Hoffman linked to it on his AdContrarian blog, and his devotees came in droves.

But let's face it, the subject matter didn't hurt. And neither did using the word "vagina" in the headline. So imagine my delight when my friend Cheryl Clements sent me this link: 


Apparently a young Colombian woman popped a potato into the oven (if you know what I mean) after her mother told her that doing so would prevent pregnancy. "I believed her," said the world's most gullible 22-year-old.

Well guess what? After 2 weeks in solitary confinement, the potato started growing roots. [Insert "lady garden" joke here.] A startled nurse discovered the sprouting IUD when the woman complained of abdominal pain. Loudly I assume.

Anyway, you'll be happy to know the budding potato farmer is just fine and will live to discover new, less organic methods of birth control.

So besides the obvious, what do these two stories have in common? What links do our clueless girls in the UK to their clueless counterpart in Colombia?

I have no idea. But at least I got "vagina" in the headline again!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

No Douchebags, No Service.

I know why A&E cancelled Longmire.

The show suffers from a complete and utter lack of douchebaggery.

Three seasons in A&E cancelled Longmire, the network’s highest rated drama ever. Their reason? The show’s viewers are too old. Yup. All 6.5 million of ‘em. Too old.

Like you, I figured there must be another reason. No network is that stupid. So I started binge-watching the show, looking for a clue. (The first two seasons are streaming on Netflix.) I had my answer by the second episode.

In case you’re not one of the unlucky 6.5 million shit out of luck viewers, Longmire is an hour-long crime drama set in rural Wyoming. It’s based on Craig Johnson’s popular mystery books about Sheriff Walt Longmire and the community he protects and serves. Walt is an earnest, hard-working man’s man who endeavors to do the right thing. This kind of pablum has zero chance.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of grit. Cases involve teen girls forced into prostitution, serial killers who sell their victim’s kidneys on the black market, and severed fingers stored in safe deposit boxes. But by the end of each episode, good conquers evil and the bad guys always get what they deserve.

Can you believe that bullshit? Even the show’s executive producer agrees. Longmire is “not hip and sassy,” says Greer Shephard. “It’s not a cynical show.”

Well, you know what happens to non-cynical shows without mustached, hipster zombie/vampires, morally ambiguous internet billionaires, or fundamentalist Christian homophobic duck hunters don’t you? They get what they deserve: cancelled.

You wanna succeed in the TV game, you gotta go all douchebags all the time. Networks and advertisers love that.

Next time: Or maybe this is why A&E cancelled Longmire.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Business decisions & other lame excuses.

Yesterday I wrote about how cable channel A&E recently cancelled its highest-rated drama ever because the show’s audience was too old.

Longmire had just begun its third season when A&E decided that it could no longer abide the crime show’s wrinkly fans, whose median age is 60. (The network overall draws an audience of sprightly 48 year olds.)

“It was a business decision,” said A&E’s senior vice president Dan Silberman, as if that excuses the stupidity of flushing 6.5 million viewers down the toilet.

In fairness to A&E, the economics are dicey. First of all, A&E has no skin in the game. Warner Bros.—not A&E—owns Longmire, and the network pays Warner Bros. an estimated $1.5 million licensing fee for each episode. With no revenue coming on the backend through reruns and syndication, A&E needs to make its money through ad sales. This is difficult when advertisers are convinced that the only consumers worth talking to fall into the 18-49 demographic. It’s nearly impossible when the network believes that as well.

Even after Warner Bros. agreed to reduce both the licensing fee and the number of episodes for the coming season, A&E passed.

Rather than explain to advertisers that consumers over 50 have way more money and buy way more stuff than younger consumers, A&E simply dumps 6.5 million viewers.

I guess that was a “business decision” too.

Next Time: I know why A&E cancelled Longmire.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Longmire Quagmire.

In the latest battle between idiots and the rest of us, we baby boomers find ourselves in familiar circumstances: shit out of luck.

This time we have A&E to thank. In a profoundly foolish move, the cable channel cancelled Longmire, its highest-rated drama ever and second-most popular show overall. You know why? The people watching it are too old.

Not too old to see the TV. Not too old to remember when the show is on. Just too frickin’ old to tolerate for even one more minute.

That’s right, people over 50 are so repugnant that A&E is voluntarily giving up 5.6 million loyal viewers just to get away from the stink.

Now in its third season, Longmire is an hour-long crime drama set in rural Wyoming. The show follows Walt Longmire, a gruff-yet-loveable county sheriff, as he solves crimes and imparts wisdom. Think Law & Order meets House meets Brokeback Mountain (minus the gay sex).

The show appeals to an older audience, no question. The median age of its viewers is 60, versus 48 for A&E as a whole. Still, with 5.6 million of these geezers watching week in and week out, you’d think A&E would be better off with them than without.

Not according to A&E senior vice president Dan Silberman. “We sell the shows to advertisers based on the demographics of 18-49 and 25-54, and the audience just wasn’t there.” (In my imagination he speaks like Robbie The Robot from Forbidden Planet, but maybe that’s just me.)

Anyway, you’re absolutely right Mr. Silberman. That audience just wasn’t there. But you know who was? The people with all the fucking money!

In the U.S., people over 50 control about 70% of the wealth. We are responsible for half of all consumer spending and dominate 94% of CPG categories. And get this, people 50+ buy 62% of all new cars, with people 65+ buying 60% more new cars than 18-24 year olds.

Hard to believe A&E didn’t cut these slackers loose a long time ago.

Tomorrow: Business decisions & other stupid excuses.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Cadillac of fairy tales.

When we’re not contributing to society in other super-meaningful ways, my business partner Bob Hoffman & I consult to advertisers and the media on the importance of marketing to the 50+ consumer. This is a lot harder than it should be.
Don’t get me wrong, nobody argues with the facts. People over 50 control about 70% of the wealth in the U.S., we are responsible for about half of all consumer spending, and we dominate 94% of CPG categories. But who needs facts when you have fairy tales to keep you warm?
One of the most popular marketing fairy tales we hear is that if you want to sell cars, you have to target young. Forget that people over 50 buy 62% of all new cars. If you’re not targeting young, you’re old. I saw a great example of this recently.
“Cadillac still suffers from more of an older demographic,” declared Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst with She was quoted in a NY Times article reporting Cadillac’s intention to up its luxury game by adding a new, larger sedan to its lineup.
Cadillac no doubt suffers from a great many things (forgettable, unsexy products for example), but an older demographic just ain’t one of ‘em. Especially as they look to secure a place in the “elite class of top-level luxury cars,” as Cadillac’s president Johan de Nysschen claims.
Here’s some news you might want to consider, Ms. Senior Analyst. The average age of a buyer of BMW, Porsche, Maserati, Tesla, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Rolls Royce, Lexus, Bentley and every other top-level luxury car you can name is over 50.
But fairy tales have power. Especially when propagated by “industry experts” who really should know better.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A message to millennials from Eugene O’Neill.

It is the happy privilege of each generation to shit all over the generations that follow. And no generation does it better than us boomers.

But today, we’re going to let Nobel laureate Eugene O’Neill tell millennials just how disappointed we are in them.

In 1939, the playwright’s 19-year-old son Shane had been kicked out of multiple schools and was floating from one self-indulgent activity to another. (Sound familiar?) Apparently Dad was sick of Shane's bullshit. Here’s how he responded to the kid’s latest half-baked idea.
"My advice on the subject of raising horses would not be much use to you. I don’t know anyone in that game, what conditions or prospects are, or anything else about it. All I know is that if you want to get anywhere with it, or with anything else, you have got to adopt an entirely different attitude from the one you have had toward getting an education. In plain words, you’ve got to make up your mind to study whatever you undertake, and concentrate your mind on it, and really work at it…You simply have to face the prospect of starting at the bottom and spending years learning how to do it."
Substitute "raising horses" with "organizing a film festival in Machu Picchu" and this could have been written today.
"The trouble with you, I think, is you are still too dependent on others. You expect too much from outside you and demand too little of yourself. You hope everything will be made smooth and easy for you by someone else. Well, it’s coming to the point where you are old enough, and have been around enough, to see that this will get you exactly nowhere. You will be what you make yourself and you have got to do that job absolutely alone and on your own, whether you’re in school or holding down a job."
The tough love continues.
 "Any fool knows that to work hard at something you want to accomplish is the only way to be happy…The more you get to know of independence the better you will like it, and the more you will get to know yourself and the right aim for your life."
Ever the optimist, O'Neill ends the letter on a high note. Or maybe it's sarcasm.
"Let me know as soon as you have any definite plans for the immediate future."
Well apparently Shane wasn’t quite ready to man up. Because in a subsequent letter, Dad’s frustration builds.
"…I assume that you have decided to forget every word I said to you when you were here a year ago. And it is pretty evident by what you haven’t done in the past year that you did not think any of my advice worth taking."
Love it! Passive aggression, guilt and manipulation—the parenting trifecta!
"You seem to have no realization what is going on in the world. You write as if these were normal times, in which a young man of twenty-one could decide exactly what job he should choose as offering him the pleasantest prospect for a normal peacetime career."
And just in case he wasn’t yet fully understood, O'Neill drives his point home.
" is a big disappointment that after all the talk a year ago you have done so little to make yourself independent." 
Preach Eugene! Preach!