Who Are The AlphaBoomers? NBCU's Alan Wurtzel Explains.

I have written articles on the value of targeting Baby Boomers and now NBCU’s Alan Wurtzel goes one step further. He says that it is not specifically Baby Boomers that advertisers should target, it is the AlphaBoomers, a valuable sub-set of Adults 55-64.

Who exactly are the AlphaBoomers and why are they so important? I sat down with Alan and he explained it all in this series of videos:

In this 10:33 minute video, Alan Wurtzel talks to Charlene Weisler about the NBCU Alphaboomer study - the reason behind the study, the methodology and some conclusions:

Charlene Weisler talks to Alan Wurtzel about Brands and Agency Issues regarding the NBCU AlphaBoomer Study in this 7:20 minute video:

In this concluding 7:52 minute video, NBCU's Alan Wurtzel taks to Charlene Weisler about his AlphaBoomer Study - all of the myths associated with an older audience and next steps for the study conclusions:

According to Alan, Alphaboomers are 55-64 and the reason why he considers them a sub-set of the Baby Boomer population is that they are freshly minted Boomers. He explains, “every 7 seconds someone in the U.S. turn s 55 which immediately puts them outside the monetize-able Nielsen demo – basically forgotten but not gone. “ And yet they behave exactly as they did a year before – same purchasing decisions, same media choices – but they are no longer considered a part of the monetize-able advertising and television viewership ecosystem.

This is an issue not just for ad sales but also for measurement. Alan cited the example of CNBC whose 25-54 ratings inexplicably plummeted from one month to the next. Nothing in the schedule changed. But what happened was that three Nielsen panelists, all heavy viewers of CNBC, celebrated their 55th birthdays that month. They were no longer in the 25-54 demo but they were still in the sample. Happy Birthday panelists! Now you are no longer valuable consumers.

Alan describes it as like “a canary in the coalmine” where he began to understand that the demography of the country is shifting. This demographic shift would not only impact news networks like CBNC, this shift would impact any network that falls in the latter end of the 25-54 target demographic. The march of time will have a monetary cost for many content providers and advertisers.

So what Alan decided to do was conduct a research study to measure Baby Boomers age 45-64, dividing the group into adults 45-54 and 55-64. In this way it is easier to see how the segments compare and contrast. The study consisted of 1500 online questionnaire interviews as well as some in-person ethnographies. The results confirmed a distinct difference in the two age groups. Adults 55-64 were more likely to be empty nesters. And because their family structure was changing, they had more discretionary income, were experiencing a life transition that likely resulted in much more purchasing decisions and they also tended to be starting new homes or refurbishing their current home – more to their personal liking rather than a compromise to children and their needs.   

These Alphaboomers, those who are 55-64, confound all the myths we hear about older adults. Alan calls them Urban Myths and they are as follows:

Myth: Boomers are Winding Down. That is simply not true. There are a substantial number of Boomers that keep on working. Some do it for economic reasons but most define themselves through their work and enjoy what they do. They are not prepared to go quietly into that good night.

Myth: Boomers Have Less Income So They Spend Less. Just plain wrong, says Alan. Yes, Boomers may   be out of their peak earning years but income alone doesn’t predict purchasing power. Discretionary income does and Boomers have more of it than any other age group... and they need instant gratification. That is a powerful consumer combination.

Myth: Boomers Are Set in Their Ways. Alan says that this myth goes way, way back. The idea that established brand loyalties last through one’s life is no longer true. AlphaBoomers are, by nature, more cynical about brand advertising. They say “Show me your value or I will go to someone else.” Yes there are iconic brands but the notion that all brand loyalty is unchangeable is simply not true.

Myth: Boomers are Techno phobic. No. In fact, they are more likely to spend on electronic because they have the money to spend.

Myth: Boomers are Easy to Reach. Alan’s study found that this is no longer true. The respondents were given a choice of 35 of the top channels – broadcast and cable networks - and were asked to rank their top three favorites. The result: 40% said some combination of one broadcast and two cable networks and another 40% chose three cable networks. Just as other age groups are fragmenting under the large amount of viewing choices, so are Boomers.

Will the NBCU’s AlphaBoomer  study change perceptions? Let’s see what happens in this next upfront season.

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