Going for the silver in the grey

Sravanthi Challapalli | Updated on January 09, 2018

Senior citizens are taking centre-stage as target consumers

If you had watched TV during the IPL matches this year, it would have been hard for you to miss the young-at-heart, rather hedonistic senior citizen couple that featured in Vodafone’s #makethemostofnow advertisements during that period. On a second honeymoon - the first time in 35 years, as the lady puts it - they are everywhere in Goa, lounging on the beach, scootering off to the “ Dil Chahta Hai fort”, getting tattooed and posing with somewhat dodgy, hippie-like people for selfies, all the while keeping their family updated of their every move.

Later on there was the tender advertisement from Tanishq featuring another older couple where the man gifts the woman a pair of bangles for Teej ka Vrat. Last year, Thomas Cook ran a campaign #nevertooold for its Senior Citizen Holiday Plans. Britannia has a campaign for Wonderfulls where Deepika Padukone gifts her grandmother in the TVC a set of new dentures so that she can enjoy the cookies. Have senior citizens moved on from being the target audience for just some categories – insurance and banking, for instance – to other sectors where they were not considered a market earlier? From props who provided advice and humour to protagonists? Reactions from the advertising industry are mixed.

A new narrative

Anil S. Nair, CEO and Managing Partner, Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi, points to the emergence of a segment of people who were middle class, but whose children are now upper middle class. “The narrative is changing. These people never travelled in their prime, never had an AC, but now, they are living away from their children, and they have liquid cash to spend on things.” He says nowadays a lot of kitchens are being redone, a lot of older people are the ones checking out household appliances in big departmental stores. These were the observations his ad agency used to design the Thomas Cook campaign, adds Nair. Hirol Gandhi, who heads the Vodafone account at Ogilvy & Mather, says all communication development begins with an idea. “It never starts by defining the protagonists to be featured. Marketers buy communication ideas, not casting ideas.”

There with a purpose

Rahul Mathew, National Creative Director, DDB Mudra Group, which made the recent commercials for Wagaa Wagga oil featuring an older couple as parents-in-law, says: “I think it’s rather unfair to say advertising has used older people as props. It’s like having kids in a commercial. Even if they have no significant role, they indicate the life stage that the protagonists belong to.” According to him, familial support systems are becoming relevant and prevalent once again.

“That’s also one of the reasons we are starting to see beyond the husband-wife to father-mother. Communication needs to talk to the target audience. But that doesn’t mean one needs to show that to the audience. Sometimes one can use people from other age groups and yet be relevant to the target audience,” he says.

By using the senior couple (who incidentally, are Shantha and VP Dhananjayan, two of Chennai’s premier Bharatanatyam gurus), Vodafone is telling its consumers that its network makes things so easy that even older people can share photos and videos, make video calls and use maps without any hiccups. Srija Chatterjee, Managing Director, Publicis Worldwide India, says that brands, such as those in the technology sector, can use older people to make the brand benefits come alive to the seniors in a telegraphic way. “The belief is that these are alien categories to older people, that they do not take to technology very easily. So if they can get it, it’s easy to use.” She cites a McDonald’s ad from a few years ago. It featured a senior citizen couple to convey the burger’s good taste cuts across various parameters, including age. The brand’s extendability comes to life through varied characters, she says.

“Older couples today are as much consumers as others when there’s a reason for a brand to target them. They are no longer just a part of the extended family like shown in insurance ads.” All in all, she agrees that older people have come into their own as consumers today. “It’s a second life for them after their children have left home. They are enjoying life a little bit more than when they were busy with responsibilities. They are definitely a segment that is growing as consumers.”

According to the 2011 Population Census, there are nearly 104 million elderly persons (aged 60 years or above) in India. Over 50 per cent of India’s population is aged below 25 and over 60 per cent below 35. In recent years, facilities for senior citizens have grown, creating and raising demand for medical and security facilities, among others. Realtors are eyeing housing projects for seniors and startups have sprung up to cater to their needs. They have disposable cash in hand. “Their spending capacity is manifesting in certain segments. They’re still not luxury consumers – you won’t see them in credit cards, clothes are a no-no too – but they’re living a life they never lived in terms of things which they denied themselves earlier,” says L&K Saatchi & Saatchi’s Nair.

Published on August 24, 2017

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