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 Edmunds.com. 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.
"...it is a big disappointment that after all the talk a year ago you have done so little to make yourself independent." 
Preach Eugene! Preach!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Are you smarter than an advertiser? Take this simple quiz!

Get ready to see how you stack up against the business world’s best and brightest.

1.  Who has the highest net worth of any segment of the population?

     A)  The hamsters in those Kia spots
     B)  The guy who invented Viagra
     C)  People over 50

2.  People over 50 are responsible for…

     A)  Everything that’s wrong with the world
     B)  Gluten-free pizza
     C)  Almost 50% of all consumer spending in the U.S.

3.  In two years, 50% of the U.S. population will be…

     A)  Vegan
     B)  Amish
     C)  Over 50 years old

4.  People over 50 spend $7 billion a year…

     A)  On kale
     B)  On Jimmy Buffett concerts
     C)  Shopping online

5.  If Americans over 50 were a country…

     A)  We’d invade France and eat all their snails
     B)  Our flag would feature two Lipitor and a marijuana leaf
     C)  We’d have the third largest economy in the world, just below the U.S. and China

6.  Nielson calls this group “The most valuable generation in the history of marketing”

     A)  The Cowsills
     B)  Those guys who stand on the corner and spin big arrows
     C)  People over 50

If you answered “C” to everything, then CONGRATULATIONS my friend! You are definitely smarter than an advertiser. Because despite the fact that people over 50 buy 62% of all new cars, 55% of consumer packaged goods, half of all computers and dominate sales in 94% of CPG categories, they are the target for only 5% of all U.S. advertising.

How stupid is that?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Help is not on the way.

I’m thinking about dying before I get old.

Yesterday was my father’s 90th birthday. He comes from hearty stock. His parents lived well into their 80s and most of his siblings reached 90+.

This scares the shit out of me. I absolutely DO NOT want to live that long. And if you had any brains, you wouldn’t either.

By 2030, the U.S. will be in the middle of an enormous shortage of workers who can care for the elderly. The population of people in the typical prime caregiving ages of 45-64 is expected to grow by only 1% by 2030. But people 80+ will grow by 80%. I'm no math genius, but that seems worrisome.

AARP predicts that by 2030, there will be only four potential caregivers available for each person over 80. By 2050, the ratio will drop below 3 to 1. This is down from a high of 7 to 1 in 2010. Shit, I need 5 potential caregivers just to get me out of bed in the morning. This is potentially quite a bummer.

Apparently we’ll need more than 1.3 million new caregivers over the next decade to meet demand. Basically we’re screwed.

Face it kids, we’re not going to get the same care our parents got. Nobody’s coming when we press the call button. We're on our own.

This is particularly bad news for people like me afflicted with the longevity gene. I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do for the next 40 years? Wipe my own ass?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Turned 50

The headline on The Today Show website got me -- “9 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Turned 50”

My first thought was, “Only nine?” My second was, “Don’t they know you shouldn't begin a sentence with a numeral?” The title of this post doesn’t count. (Stop being a prick.)

My next thought was, “This should be good.” It wasn’t.

It was cheerful of course. The Today Show website is legally required to be cheerful. And the writer, Annabelle Gurwitch, has a breezy, irreverent style that I admire.

But the nine things listed could not have been more inane. Plus they weren’t even numbered, which is a criminal offense on the internet. Anyway, here they are:

- Floss more.
God, if only this were my biggest problem…
- It takes a village.
Oh, please. The fucking village gag?

- Marvelous middling.
Something about husbands and low-fat soy milk.

- Exercise dates.
Jesus, can’t we just go out and get drunk once in a while?

- Get a good bra.

I'd rather get a good plastic surgeon.

- Make peace with your mother.
My mother’s dead.

- Cool it.
Some bullshit about not embarrassing your kids. You know what? I haven't even started.

- Go for the joy.

- Some things are worth retiring.
This list for example?
As far as I'm concerned, there's really only one thing I wish I knew before I turned 50: It's no fucking exercise date.

Monday, September 8, 2014

At least we can find our vaginas.

It’s 9 a.m. Do you know where your vagina is?

In a recent study in the UK, an amazing 50% of women aged 26-35 surveyed could not find a vagina on a diagram. These are the famous millennials who we are counting on to fix the world.
 Question: Where is your vagina?
 Answer: I have no fucking idea.
I will remind you that we’re not talking about rookies here. These gals have had this equipment for upwards of 35 years. And they still can’t identify it in a lineup. In my experience, it was only drunk college boys who had trouble finding the damn thing.
You know who can spot one? Baby boomers. Yup, turns out we know our stuff. Eight in ten women aged 66-75 can spot the ovaries and a whopping 90% can even show you around the womb. (Assuming you want to be shown around.)
Maybe familiarity breeds familiarity. After 75 years, you pretty much know your body’s important landmarks, including its major tourist attractions.
It turns out 65% of young women also say they have a problem using the words vagina or vulva (try not to think of that Seinfeld episode). And nearly 40% resort to code names like “lady parts” or “women’s bits” when talking about, you know, their women’s bits.

There’s actually a serious aspect to all this. In a country where 53 women a day are diagnosed with some kind of gynecological cancer (U.S. numbers here), one in ten 16-35 year olds in the UK said they found it very hard to talk to their doctors about gynecological health. And nearly a third said they avoided going to the gynecologist altogether because they were embarrassed. This is just unacceptable.
On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder how someone who can’t find her vagina can be expected to find a gynecologist.
Anyway, as boomers, we appreciate our many reasons to feel superior to millennials, with their dewy skin and perky breasts (located just below the collarbone, girls!).
And while we may not be using our lady parts as often as we’d like, at least when we need ‘em we know where to find ‘em.