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Seniors Want Deliveroo Too

The over 65's, Facebook, and the untapped social audience.


Aidan Panagarry

25 Jun 2019

You’ve all seen it - your gran, grandpa or distant elderly relative endlessly scrolling through Facebook. What inevitably follows is a muffled call for help. You, being the digitally native and savvy 20 something you are, stride over, eager to save the day. Wrestling the phone out of their hands, you wade through a sea of Daily Mail content and a barrage of Candy Crush notifications. You part the waves of 72-year-old Sandra posting statuses when she meant to upload a comment, and like the uncrowned technophile you are, you easily unsubscribe from the Line of Duty theory group they’ve found themselves subscribed to (accidentally, apparently). You walk away triumphant, but also a bit empty inside. You wonder how they didn’t see the giant ‘leave group’ button, and how billions of pounds of shiny Silicon Valley UX, which aims to make their lives as easy as possible, didn’t work.

This *must* be a common occurrence, or at least a common stereotype across the world.

The outlook looks pretty bleak for those of us in digital advertising looking to reach the over 65’s.

However, we’re not convinced. Maybe we aren't reaching them effectively, and thus, it’s us who need to change.

The ageing of Facebook.

To put it frankly, users of social media sites are getting older, in particular the average age of Facebook users. Facebook’s 2018 demographics report showed that whilst the social network giant haemorrhaged teen users, declining by 700,000 between 2017 and 2018, adult users over 55 grew by 500,000 during that same period (1).

An abundant and socially active audience? This sounds like a growth hacker’s dream scenario, so why aren't we reaching them?

Brands aren't targeting them.

Often overlooked in favour of the sexier demographics and avocado eating millennials, marketing briefs disregard the war generation at their peril. Jeff Beer from Fast Company recently stated: “The most creative, high-production campaigns tend to focus on the youngest consumers, while marketing aimed at older groups follows mindless formulas and plays into time worn stereotypes.”

Lacklustre campaigns seem like insanity considering the over 65’s consumer profile. They’re a wealthy demographic with more disposable income than any other group (2). In addition to this they have distinctive lifestyles and buying habits, an average daily time spent on social media of 1:09 hours per day, (3) and Facebook remains their most popular site and ‘home base’ (4). All of this makes for a huge opportunity and untapped audience if we can reach them.

But how good is an opportunity unless Brenda, aged 73 from Southampton, who loves Avon and Bradley Walsh, sees the ads.

In other words, what do we need to do to ensure ads don’t fade into the social media ether like a couple’s obligatory mini-golf holiday photo album?

Expand your target audiences.

We need to ensure briefs are reflective of current UK buying power and give older people some credit – Dennis, aged 65 from Derby, probably has the funds to pay for a BMW. Who knows, he could be second screening whilst the adverts are on, and even better, he could actually like cars, and even better, he could have the money or credit score that enables a person to afford one. So let’s at least give him the chance to buy one.

In short, buying power doesn’t stop when someone reaches 65. Stop selling older groups short with stereotypical briefs for Sun-Life, expand the target audiences, give them some much needed attention, and a welcome break from Michael Parkinson.

So we’ve expanded our target audience, and ads are on the feed, but what can we do to ensure they take notice?

We can learn from more effective channels

Quick quiz, which channels do over 65’s prefer companies to communicate with?


No surprises for guessing which channels come out on top. Postal mail, print media, telephone calls and in person conversations over index against 65+ consumers time and time again (5). But it’s clear there is a paradox at play here, given that they spend over an hour a day on social.

So what are the transferable lessons we can take from traditional communications, considering how they view and absorb info online?

Clear and concise digital messages as standard.

Seniors grew up in a world where a phone call was the most expeditious and secure way of transmitting information.’ The shift to everything-digital comes with an influx of content which can be overwhelming. (6)

Seniors seek and connect with content that is relatable, easy to digest and educational, and because they are used to engaging over the phone, we should try to adapt a conversational (but informative) tone in our digital communications.

Japan, with its deep respect for its elders and ageing population, offers a blueprint UK brands could follow. A lot of the advertising there has found the right tone — subtle, respectful — while being understanding of new need states and cases. Japanese cosmetics brand Shiseido offers an interesting example: “Sales of Shiseido’s Prior range of cosmetics aimed at those over 50, with simple packaging and instructions on how to use the products in a large font, have risen by 120% per year in the two years since its launch in 2015.”

Elephant in the room. This isn’t going to win you Cannes. However, subtle changes to creative, influenced by more successful channels, could engage a forgotten audience and improve your client’s bottom line, or at the very least improve reach with an affluent and socially active audience.

To wrap up.

Stop ignoring over 65’s in your social strategy.

They’re a digitally active audience with significant buying power.

However, simple, informative and conversational comms are critical if you want to cut through.