Boomers and seniors: how should we reach them?

Don't ignore digital when targeting this complex demographic, says Sheri Metcalfe, SVP and co-managing director at Jungle Media.

By Sheri Metcalfe

To think of everyone over 50 as a homogeneous set isn’t correct – it’s plausible to have one, or even two generations still very much alive and thriving over 50. There are 12.5 million Canadians in this group. Targeting to the entire mature market using the same media solution could lead to lukewarm results.

Fifty-plus isn’t a target group – it’s a family reunion! They represent a lucrative group and have the sheer numbers to back up their potential importance to brands, but marketers must be smart about the insights and segments within.

Another commonly held belief is that digital is not a strong option for reaching senior consumers. Yes, younger boomers are naturally far more tech savvy than their parents or older siblings (or the 65-plus market), but the growth and adoption rate of new toys and digital media by both segments may in fact surprise the MiC reader:


Base: A19+



Market Size (000)




Television Viewing (hrs/wk)




Radio Tuning (hrs/wk)




Internet Usage (hrs/wk)




Newspaper (read yesterday)




Magazine (hrs/month)




Average KM Travelled (week)




Have Smartphone (self)




Have Tablet (household)




Source: PMB Fall 2014 survey

Versus the average Canadian, we all know that they are both heavy TV viewers and are still very much in love with the printed page of newspaper and magazines, but the digital findings are interesting. The younger boomer loves his smartphone almost as much as the younger Canadian, and his adoption rates of said phone has doubled in three short years, from 15% penetration to 30%.

Even more interesting is how quickly both mature groups took to the tablet. It’s a great way to not only read the five books they’ve downloaded recently, but also to check digital versions of their favourite printed media (5% to 10% of their newspaper reading is digital).

Both segments also over-index on usage against banking apps and travel sites. Let’s face it, boomers and senior citizens have more money than many up and coming (and struggling?) Canadians, and they are spending indulgently on themselves and their pleasures now that the nest is empty. And when travelling south or to Europe as they do, why would they want to carry five heavy books in their carry-on? That tablet has become a valuable yet essential toy (or tool) to the greying and well-read set.

Reaching consumers over 50 via digital media can be a very smart move – both for the younger boomer and for the 65-plus crowd. With both groups, the media strategist must be prudent and surgical about the approach. Dig a bit deeper than quintiles and time spent online and with social media – start to look at trends of their mobile use and see how they have embraced their passion points online.

Soon, even e-commerce for this group will grow rapidly – they already book travel online, and my bet is they will soon do holiday and Black Friday shopping even more than the rest of us. Let’s face it, the crowds are even more annoying to the average 65-year-old during the holiday season, and they like a good bargain just as much as the next guy or gal. Heck, if this online shopping works for them, they won’t have to do their shopping in August (even though they likely still will.) This group is slowly getting over any initial intimidation of digital media, and as they do – the will show their loyalty with their credit card.

So, yes to all of the traditional media with these target groups, but also go beyond. Test digital in a variety of forms – many media strategists and clients may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Sheri Metcalfe is SVP and co-managing director at Jungle Media.

Wondering about millennials? Here’s a look at the differences in device use and media consumption among the younger set.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.