Don’t ignore older adults in online marketing campaigns, experts say

Internet usage has grown much faster among older adults than among teens over the past eight years, recent studies show.   

The message this has for Canadian advertisers is clear, industry observers say.

They “cannot afford to ignore the older online surfers,” as Paula Gignac, president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada (IABC) puts it.

The numbers tell a clear story.

With more than 19.2 million users, the Internet is now the third most popular media of choice for the average Canadian.

Here’s a break up of Internet usage growth since 2001, by age group, provided by Newpaper Audience Databank Inc. (NADbank):

  • 25-34 age group – 79 per cent growth;
  • 35-54 age group – 76 percent;
  • 55 and above – a whopping 198 per cent

Toronto-based NADbank is the principal research arm of the Canadian daily newspaper industry.   

Along with its recently launched free online media monitoring tool, IABC also released a Canadian Media Usage Trends and Studies with statistics culled from various surveys by market research firms, NADBank, the Print Measurement Bureau, BBM and comScore Inc.

All this research confirmed one fact: users tend to keep their online habits as they age.

This offers marketers added opportunity to expand their audience base, said Gignac.

Currently the Internet is just behind TV and radio in terms of the time adults spend on these media each week. The Internet is also accessible to more adults each week than either magazines or newspapers.

When it comes to relative weekly spend on various media, the Internet heads the list for 18-24 year-olds (40 per cent), as well as 25-34 year-olds (33 per cent), according to IABC’s media usage study.

“While 18-24 year olds may not be the target market for a whole host of advertisers today, they will be ideal audiences when they grow older and generate greater disposable incomes,” said Rob Young, senior vice-president for planning services at PHD Canada, a Toronto-based interactive media agency.

He said this age group will maintain high levels of Internet usage a decade from now when they roll into the next (35-54) age group.  

This means advertisers, whose target market is in this range, have only a short time to learn how to effectively use online tools – such as Web video, and social media – to  drive results for their brands, he said.

In Canada, there appears to be a two-year gap between commonly used marketing channels and actual consumer behaviour, according to  Young. He recalled how – when specialty TV programs became popular – many advertisers were slow to pour ad dollars into the outlet.

Marketers from Teletoon, a Toronto-based TV animation and children’s online entertainment company, think the new insights into Internet use could be very valuable to businesses such as theirs.

The company offers youth-oriented modern cartoons such as 6Teen and Total Drama Island, but its Teletoon Retro segment includes TV cartoon shows, online games and other content, featuring the likes of Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird and the Jetsons.

It’s more racy Teletoon Detour is geared towards the 14 and above crowd and features cartoon shows such as Rick and Steve, a couple who live in the “gayest of the gay ghettoes”.

“We’re not sure yet how this will play out for our business model. But the survey make a good case for the idea that older Internet users such as the 35 to 54 bracket are a very viable target market,” said Emmanuelle Jugg, supervisor for advertising at Teletoon.

Alexie Lopez, account executive for interactive sales at Teletoon, agrees.

“We typically cater to a very young audience. But now these figures are telling us it will pay off to provide content they can relate to even as they grow older.”  

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