Boomers: An Increasingly Employed, Active Group With Disposable Income That Advertisers Can’t Afford To Ignore And AM/FM Delivers By The Masses

October 28, 2019 By Lauren Vetrano

While many advertisers insist on focusing their energies on younger Millennials, the Boomer audience dominates spending potential.

In their book How Not To Plan: 66 Ways to Screw It Up, Les Binet and Sarah Carter, marketing effectiveness and strategy gurus, outline a smarter path for advertisers:

Don’t obsess over Millennials. There’s little empirical evidence they hold different attitudes. And at less than 10% of Western populations, and with a lower proportion of disposable income, you’d be right to question the extent of their presence on briefs. Don’t underestimate the potential of the ‘Grey Market’. Older people outnumber Millennials, have more cash, and more time to spend it. The bigger the price tag, the more important they are.”

Advertisers, especially those in fields like health, devices, travel, financials – take note.

Boomers represent a huge audience: According to the U.S. Census Bureau population estimates, by 2020, persons 50+ will account for 36% of the total U.S. population. From 2020 to 2030, the persons 50+ population is forecast to increase +11%.

Boomers are desirable consumers:

  • Employed: With Americans living longer, they work for extended periods of time. A Video Advertising Bureau Analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds 46% of persons 50+ were employed in 2018, up +21% from 2008. 4 in 10 Americans expect to work until they are 70 years or older, according to Northwestern Mutual’s Planning & Progress 2018 study.
  • Massive disposable income: Forbes reports the Oxford Economics finding showing, “Americans over 50 already account for $7.6 trillion in direct spending … and control more than 80% of household wealth.” Acxiom data reveals Boomers 50+ represent 54% of all disposable income.
  • Active and big shoppers: Persons 55+ have a more active lifestyle than Millennials. They spend 56% more time doing leisure activities and sports and 22% more time shopping than Millennials 25-34, according to the Video Advertising Bureau.

With a huge audience of employed, active, spenders, Boomers are clearly a group worth an advertiser’s time. So why such a focus on younger demographics?

“Youth culture tethering” is destructive to advertising

Bob Hoffman, the sage marketer observer known as The Ad Contrarian, cites two reasons that agencies default to youth imagery: “First, the people in agencies are overwhelmingly young and don’t have the cultural vocabulary to speak comfortably to mature people … Second, binding to youth culture is such an easy and attractive way [for agencies] to seem relevant.”

Advertisers might be fixated on the Millennial target, but as Robert Passikoff, President of Brand Keys Inc., points out, “While the Millennials are sharing stuff, Boomers are buying stuff.”

Nielsen Scarborough proves Boomer buying power, revealing that the persons 50+ annual spend reaches nearly $550 billion across categories like home improvement, home remodeling, furniture, and landscaping.

Ignoring the Boomer consumer can be costly for brands

Gransnet’s Ageism in Advertising: Fighting Marketing’s Unconscious Bias Report shows that 77% of persons 50-59 feel their age group is most ignored by advertisers. The real risk? 49% of persons 50+ ignore brands who actively ignore their age group. The lesson: If you don’t pay attention to Boomers, they won’t pay attention to your brand.

Advertisers can use AM/FM radio to reach and influence Boomers.

Among persons 50-64, AM/FM radio has massive weekly reach

With a 94% weekly reach, AM/FM radio delivers nearly all persons 50-64. According to Nielsen’s latest Q2 2019 Total Audience Report, AM/FM radio reaches more persons 50-64 than live and time-shifted TV (92%), apps/web on a smartphone (85%), and social media on a smartphone (79%).

AM/FM radio reaches persons 50-64 throughout the day during peak shopping hours

AM/FM radio’s reach among persons 50-64 is highest during hours when stores are open, making it the ideal medium to reach shoppers on the go. Nielsen Audio’s Nationwide data shows AM/FM radio’s highest reach during the day is Monday through Friday, 3PM-7PM (78%) when Americans are getting out of work and commuting home.

AM/FM radio’s reach is also high among persons 50-64 Monday through Friday during mornings 6AM-10AM (72%), middays 10AM-3PM (74%), and on the weekends (74%). Advertisers can utilize AM/FM radio to reach Boomers living an active lifestyle with disposable income during these key shopping windows.

AM/FM radio reaches persons 50-64 on the path to purchase away from home

Two-thirds (68%) of all persons 50-64 listening takes place away from home. AM/FM radio is an on the go medium that often delivers the last advertising consumers are exposed to before they reach their shopping destinations and make decisions at the register.

Persons 50-64 spend significant time with AM/FM radio

AM/FM radio has massive time spent among persons 50-64. Weekly, persons 50-64 spend an average of 14 hours and 35 minutes with AM/FM radio. Daily, they are clocking an average of 2 hours and 5 minutes with AM/FM radio.

A variety of AM/FM radio formats resonate with Boomers

Many AM/FM radio formats deliver significant weekly reach among persons 50-64: Adult Contemporary (41%), Country (28%), News (28%), Oldies (25%), and Classic Rock (22%). But certain formats also tend to connect with Boomers on a deeper level.

Classic Rock: The soundtrack to Boomer formative years

The music Americans learn to love in adolescence stays with them. They may discover genres that came before or after, but none of them make the emotional connection formed in that most impressionable time of life – the formative years.

During the formative years, Americans are learning to drive, graduating high school, starting college, and developing personal tastes. The core Classic Rock audience today isn’t in the coveted persons 25-54 demographic. It’s the 45-64 audience who listened to Classic Rock during these pivotal moments as they grew up.

The relationship between Boomers and the music they listened to in their formative years can be seen in the evolution of the Classic Rock audience composition. According to Nielsen, in 1998, persons 18-44s represented 83% of the Classic Rock audience. By 2018, that fell to 39%.

In 1998, persons 45+ made up only 18% of the Classic Rock AM/FM radio audience. By 2018, that grew to 61%. The Classic Rock AM/FM radio audience ages along with the music of the format.

News/Talk: Reaching the upscale and employed Boomer audience

Just as the Classic/Rock format has a strong relationship with Boomers, so too does News/Talk. Since 1998, the News/Talk AM/FM radio audience 55+ composition has grown from 49% to 66%. There are more Boomers listening to the News/Talk programming format than ever.

They’re also a demographic match. Compared to the U.S. population, persons 50-64 and News/Talk listeners are similar in age, employment, low likelihood of having children in the home, marital status, and home ownership.

Sports: A powerful platform to reach the Boomer audience

Similar to the News/Talk audience, Sports listeners align with the Boomer profile in age, employment, marital status, and household ownership.

The audience composition of Sports stations also skews to Boomers. Across all U.S. Nielsen markets, 62% of the Sports audience is made up of persons 45+.

With formats like Classic Rock, News/Talk, and Sports delivering audiences that are engaged with the programming and in the Boomer age bracket, advertisers have a variety of options for reaching this essential consumer group.

Counting out Boomers is risky: Consider the 35-64 target rather than 25-54

Marianne Vita, Vice President of Strategic Insights at the Video Advertising Bureau, sums up the business case for targeting the Boomer population: “The spending power of those over age 50 is immense and will continue to grow in future years, presenting an incredible opportunity for marketers. Brand advertisers who ignore this audience, which totals over one-third of the U.S. population … do so at their own peril.

Don’t risk it. Utilizing the power of AM/FM radio with powerful programming formats like Classic Rock, News/Talk, and Sports can deliver immense Boomer brand impact and deliver results.

Key takeaways:

  • Boomers represent a huge audience: By 2020, persons 50+ will account for 36% of the total U.S. population.
  • Boomers are desirable consumers: Boomers are employed, represent 54% of all disposable income, and more active than Millennials. Boomers 50+ spend nearly $550 billion annually on their home and personal retail.
  • AM/FM radio has massive Boomer reach: 94% of persons 50-64 are reached by AM/FM radio weekly.
  • AM/FM radio reaches Boomers throughout the day: During peak shopping hours Monday-Friday 6AM-7PM and on weekends, AM/FM radio has significant reach among persons 50-64.
  • Reach on the go Boomers with AM/FM radio: Two-thirds of all 50-64 AM/FM radio listening takes place away from home.
  • Classic Rock, News/Talk and Sports AM/FM radio formats resonate with Boomers: Boomers especially connect with Classic Rock, the music of their formative years, as well as News/Talk and Sports format stations.
  • Target 35-64 rather than 25-54 for big price tag brands: Heed the advice of Binet and Carter: “Older people outnumber Millennials, have more cash, and more time to spend it. The bigger the price tag, the more important they are.”

Lauren Vetrano is Director of Content Marketing at CUMULUS MEDIA | Westwood One.

Contact the Insights team at