Age is not important unless you’re cheese, or an advertiser

Age is not important unless you’re cheese, or an advertiser

Helen Hayes was very wise to compare age to cheese. She additionally said, “Childhood is a short season” and isn’t that the truth.

Age really is just a number, unless you are targeting a digital campaign then it is totally a new restriction.

Picture it, Summer of 2021, I’m visiting my parents with my teenage sons in tow and decide to do a little digital marketing experiment called “show me your ads.” It’s super scientific. Okay maybe it’s not but it is really fun.  I love to see the different targeted messages different people are receiving when in the exact same geographic location, or in this case, the same room. It really intensifies the variety of targeting options available to advertisers, and these three nailed it.

My oldest is 17 and a soccer player, his is not surprising:

I’m next, no shock here I have been stalking their latest gift with purchase:

And then my mom, right on target and right on point:

Age, interests, gender, demographics, all layers of targeting are being utilized and coming to play in these examples.

Childhood is a short season though, and new restrictions on age targeting have arrived and become tighter across platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Google’s YouTube.

It started with Instagram disabling interest and activity-based targeting for those under 18.

You can still target to ages 14-17 but the targeting is very basic. Only age, gender and location. Keep in mind, this audience will still receive ads, they will just be less targeted specifically. So instead of my son seeing soccer cleats that look very similar to what he purchased 6 months ago, he may see a less targeted ad for a Coca-Cola.

These restrictions are taking place right now. The announcement said, “Beginning in a few weeks, advertisers will only be able to target Instagram, Facebook and Messenger users under the age of 18 (or older in certain territories) based on their age, gender and location, As such, previously available targeting options, such as those based on interests or activity on other sites or apps, will become unavailable to advertisers.” This policy change will roll out worldwide and, as mentioned above, applies to Instagram, Facebook and Messenger.

What is the impact for marketers on this? Well, if you are running campaigns that target this age group, you will need to find more diverse ways to reach them if you want to reach this age demographic. You can still target them by where they live, their age and gender but for these platforms, that’s it.  You might want to switch to some of our other digital products like Display, Native and Social Mirror that do not have these age targeting restrictions.

As soon as a user of the platform turns 18 however, they will have a happy birthday choice to make. At this point, Instagram will inform them about the targeting options that advertisers can now use to reach them and the ad settings available to make the selections they want.

In combination with this change, Instagram also announced some new privacy settings. From now on, all users under 16 (or 18 in certain territories) will have their accounts set to private as a default when they join the platform. Instagram wants to create an experience that’s safe and private for young people without dealing with unwanted messages or comments from strangers.

The company is also implementing safeguards to make it more difficult for potentially suspicious accounts to follow minors: “We’ve developed new technology that will allow us to find accounts that have shown potentially suspicious behavior and stop those accounts from interacting with young people’s accounts,” the company said. Accounts owned by minors won’t be shown to adults in the Explore, Reels or “Accounts Suggested For You” sections of the platform.

YouTube has followed this lead and has also announced limits for ad targeting for teenagers and an increase in privacy. YouTube announced it will begin blocking advertising that targets teenagers based on data compiled about their age, gender and interests. Google said in a blog post Tuesday that it’s “also planning privacy changes across video site YouTube, standard Search, Google Assistant, location history, the Google Play Store and Google Workspace for Education.”

So how are they doing this? “The company by default will make private the videos uploaded by users ages 13 to 17. The automated privacy setting means videos of those users can only be watched by them or approved viewers. These teenagers, however, will be able to unlock their videos to be viewed publicly if they are working on becoming YouTube famous.  YouTube will also, by default, include reminders for younger users to take a break and to go to sleep at bedtime as well as disable the autoplay of consecutive videos.”

There’s more for Google, in regards to Search, “Google said it is expanding its SafeSearch feature to filter out explicit results for users who are 13 to 18. This feature will also apply to Google Assistant on smart screens. The tool also lets users under 18 flag images of themselves that appear in Google Search for removal. The company also said it would no longer collect location history for the age group.

So when it comes to age targeting, remember there are restrictions by products for younger audiences, however, a key audience is open, online and available for several hours a day. Who am I talking about? Seniors.

In fact, a bulk of online seniors spend at minimum six hours a day online and own around five devices. FIVE. I did just get my mom a new iPad because hers was not working well anymore and she needs it to take yoga class on zoom.

Boomers (and by the way my sons say I’m a boomer and I’m rapidly approaching the ripe old age of 47) are not only online, they have some hefty spending power.  Advertisers would be remised to ignore this viable crowd or assume those 55 and over have not progressed their media habits. According to the Pew Research Center, “About 80% of Americans 55 and over are online, and today’s 65-year-olds have spent much of their adult lives experiencing advances in technology firsthand: They were only 36 years old when the first internet browser was introduced in 1992 and 42 years old when Google was founded in 1998.

There is plenty of research to back this up. In fact, Google partnered with market research firm Known to conduct qualitative and quantitative research in summer and fall of 2020. This research wanted to comprehend the digital habits and behaviors of today’s boomers and seniors, especially as they relate to health and wellness.

Survey says! “86%, according to our analysis, which segmented seniors by their tech adoption and utilization — are enthusiasts who spend at least six hours a day online and own an average of five devices. We call this group “digital seniors.” These are sophisticated, engaged consumers: 8 in 10 continued their education beyond high school, and 82% use their smartphone every day.” That’s right, every day and at least 6 hours.

A vast majority of seniors who took part in the research described technology as a requirement rather than a choice. Saying, “Digital platforms play a big role in our lives, and there are always new possibilities that come along. Digital is here to stay, and it’s good to learn all we can,” said Maude, 77. Jeff, 59, put it more bluntly: “I just don’t want to be a dinosaur, you know?”

There are many drivers for digital seniors to be online. They want to keep up with relationships and friends and family – to the tune of 91%! 87% are working to organize their finances, while 73% are working on their health and wellness.

While I do think, and the experts agree, the pandemic pushed some seniors into technology (if you can’t zoom you can see your grandchildren’s graduation after all), however, 70% of seniors say that they’ll spend the same amount or more time online once they’re no longer anxious about the pandemic.

That being noted, social distancing and being on a lockdown absolutely had direct impacts on the role that technology plays in seniors’ health and wellness. “I had my first telemedicine call with my doctor … [and] it was wonderful,” said Wendy, 66. “It gave us a little bit more time and was a better use of our time together.”

Marla, 73, was scheduled to have knee surgery and said that “before my … surgery, I did research on YouTube to find pre-exercises to get myself ready.” And Pam, 61, found a new medicine relevant for her condition. “It came up on the center of my screen. It was like ‘try this new medicine.’ It was a miracle for me.”

So we know they are engaged with digital and finding hours and hours to be engaged. What is being left behind? Traditional TV. EMarketer estimates that all baby boomers will watch 5.7% less TV this year than in 2020, with continuing declines into 2022, while Comscore reports that time spent watching YouTube videos among adults 55 and over grew by 10% from May 2020 to May 2021.4

I have watched my own parents and my in-laws transition from the daily newspaper to a laptop to iPhones to iPads and now are also streaming to watch shows we recommend on Netflix and Pop etc.

Strategies that focus on TV and Print to reach older Americans will need to make changes to meet this moment and reach the “digital senior.” Marketers recognize the pandemic absolutely accelerated the rise of the digital senior; however, the trend is expected to continue will beyond Covid.

So what products can you use to reach all ages? See our updated restrictions chart. With display, native, OTT, online Audio and Social Mirror, you can target teens and above. For Facebook and Instagram, if you target ages 14-17 you can target by age, gender and location, but that is it, you cannot layer in any interest categories until they are 18. With Mobile Conquesting, you can target 18 and older. If doing a list, the age parameter doesn’t apply.  YouTube, 14-17 is only location, no gender or interest.

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