There’s a contradiction in the traditional core objective for most marketers — especially in the last 20 years as the country has become increasingly stratified by wealth.
As long as I’ve been aware of advertising -- certainly since I started covering it as a journalist -- media brands have always emphasized their youthful reach, as in: this brand is very strong in the 18-24 demographic. That one has the most 18-35s in its category.
And advertising itself emphasizes the same thing, with young people wearing cool fashions, visiting exclusive destinations, drinking the beer that seems from the ad to be an entree into fun, friends and parties.
I get that. Marketers covet lifetime loyalty. The younger people are, the more years they have to buy your products. Plus, young people are influencers. But the truth is, older people have more money. Sometimes a lot more money. And as lifestyles evolve, they’re just as active and interested in those fashions, destinations and parties.
The 50-plus demo represents 53% of all annual consumer expenditures and generates 51% of all annual household income, according to the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey Mid-Year 2020. Compared to adults 18-49, they spend $458 billion more every year and have a median household net worth that’s 66% higher.
So when AARP the Magazine reached out recently to discuss the launch of a new ad network, and the insights it has uncovered during the pandemic, I was interested.
The AARP Media Advertising Network is described as “a one-stop solution that shows brands how to build the best multi-channel strategy to reach their target audience.”
The network is anchored by AARP’s three core properties: AARP The Magazine, AARP Bulletin and AARP.org.
The magazine has a circulation of 22.5 million and publishes six times annually, with a total reach of nearly 37 million per issue. It has three demographic editions—one for people in their 50s, one for people in their 60s, and the third for those who are 70-plus.
AARP Bulletin, with a 10-times annual frequency, spotlights news and policy-driven content that matters most to the lives of Americans over the age of 50. It also has a circulation of 22.5 million and reaches 30 million readers per issue.
The network also includes special publications, special digital programs, the AARP Now App, 12 AARP newsletters, and emerging platforms.
The numbers are massive. The network delivers 151 million monthly impressions, according to a press statement, making it the most expansive and targeted way for brands to reach the financially dominant 50-plus demo. With this multichannel advertising strategy, AARP Media Solutions’ partners have seen double- and triple-digit increases in their KPIs across the purchase funnel, the company claims.
AARP says it has seen a dramatic change in readers’ adoption of technology since the beginning of the pandemic, including:
Among 50-plus readers, average spending on personal technology has increased 108%.
The 70-plus demographic has led the largest online migration of any single demo in U.S. history, with a 61% increase in internet use. In addition, texting, video chat, social media and email are now mainstays, averaging a 72% increase.
AARP.org traffic skyrocketed, and now is averaging 22 million monthly unique visitors, up by 7% year over year.
The network responded to these shifts by pivoting to help marketers reach these consumers with new advertising solutions across its media channels. For example:
New Facebook ad capabilities under the AARP Media Solutions brand. They’ve generated click-through rates at twice the industry average.
Brand sponsorships for AARP’s new Personal Tech Guide in AARP The Magazine, integrated with the online Personal Technology Resource Center.
Opportunities for advanced contextual alignment with new print features like the "New Member Guide" and "Medicare Made Easy."
If a media brand’s measure of advertising success is that marketers spend more, then it’s all worked.
“Adults 50+ are the financially dominant demographic and no media connects marketers with them better than the AARP Media Solutions Advertising Network," AARP Media Solutions VP and Group Publisher Shelagh Daly Miller said. "That’s because 50+ consumers can trust our brand and they continue to find value in the relevant, engaging content we provide through our core properties, AARP The Magazine, AARP Bulletin and AARP.org, as well as our special publications, digital programs, newsletters and emerging platforms.”
Digital and print advertising revenues both increased, an AARP spokesman said. AARP The Magazine added 600,000 new readers. And ads across all AARP publications inspired members to take 2.3 billion actions a year.