Study: Millennials Say Adulthood Starts At 30 … The Average Ad Agency Creative Is Only 28. Boomer Consumers Not Surprised.

Half of Millennials say adulthood starts at age 30

A new study by CBS researcher David Poltrack finds the median age at which Millennials say adulthood begins is 30. Apparently, the other half see themselves fending off grown up status until as late as 40.

Of course, Madison Avenue is highly attuned to adolescent thought leadership.

The average ad agency creative department staffer is only 28 and, at 24, the typical media planner is even younger (Brent Bouchez / Bouchez Page Advertising). Wow! We’re really talking youth: the ingenues who create brand communications have less than half the life experience of the consumers who influence most of America’s buying decisions – the Boomers, median age 60.

What could possibly go wrong?

Don’t blame adland Millennials for Mad Men era dogma 

It needs to be said: adland’s former Boomer bosses – and their Silent Generation bosses before them – not Millennials, are to blame for the industry fixation on youth.

In the dynamic economy of the 1950s through the early 1970s it made sense to focus on the 18-49 demographic as the driver of brand fortunes. In the Mad Men era younger Americans were diving headlong into a national spending spree, setting up households, buying new cars and earning more than their Depression era parents ever dreamed possible.

But that was then.

Today, most 20-and-30 somethings lag in disposable income – buying a home or a new car is simply out of reach for a long, long time to come. Meanwhile Boomers and older Gen Xers aged 50+ have become the sweet spot for the (few) brands with enough smarts to realize it.

In a sobering piece, These Financial Stats Show Why Brands Shouldn’t Focus Too Much on Millennials, data archivist Marketing Charts reports that Boomers far outstrip Millennials in terms of credit card usage (76% / 25%), home ownership (79% / 28%) and net worth ($333K / $22K). And in the most telling comparisons of all, Boomer income and household spending index at 217 and 153 respectively over Millennials.

You’d think the grownups in adworld would have figured out the new paradigm and mandated targeting the 50+ space long ago. The problem is that almost all agency personnel are shoved out before they reach age fifty themselves … less than 4% survive to that point. (Brent Bouchez).

Can Ayn Rand help Millennials avoid a John Galt Boomer moment?

Mid-century style has enjoyed a renaissance in the past few years. It’s de rigeur at on trend ad agencies, of course, but one doesn’t have to invest in a genuine Eames chair to participate. With affordable design on offer from the pages of dwell Magazine to West Elm to IKEA, today’s young professionals can recapture the cool ambiance of the avant-garde fifties without breaking the bank.

Sprawled on that low-slung leather couch, sipping an Old Fashioned, with Dave Brubeck’s Take Five playing softly in the background, some of them are discovering the literature of the I Like Ike era as well.

According to The Washington Post, author Ayn Rand (1905-1982) is enjoying a comeback among young professionals. From Silicon Valley to Manhattan and even – according to the UK Guardian – across the pond, hot-shot Millennial business leaders are exploring Rand’s philosophy of individualism and self interest. Controversial, eh?

Devotees find the Big Idea of her 1,100 page opus Atlas Shrugged (1957) intriguing: what would happen if the most productive captains of business and industry decided to strike, and encouraged by mystery-man John Galt – of who is John Galt? fame – just walk off the job and totally disappear?

Inspired by Rand, perhaps at least some of those talented 28-year-old ad agency creatives are asking themselves – and their brand manager clients – what would happen if some Boomer John Galt came along and enticed the 111 million consumers in the 50+ space to turn off the money spigot, just say no and drop out?

As owners of 80% of U.S. household net worth and the source of around 60% of retail sales, they represent the world’s third largest economy.

Just imagine a marketplace where Boomers decided to go on strike.

And why shouldn’t they?

Despite their dominance, consumers over fifty are treated as cash cows for advertising budgets, 90% of which goes to pitching the 18-49 demographic (Nielsen). Even worse than being ignored, of the stingy trickle of ad dollars allocated to targeting Boomers, much shows up in depictions that are clumsy, cringe-worthy and condescending.

Sure, it’s not easy to change ingrained culture, learn Boomer-speak and master Boomer-think, but those who do will reap rewards for their brands and – individualism and self-interest alert – dare one add, their careers.

For the rest, there’s always the Boomer-Galt fate.

Boomer - neXt SM logo_MMOriginally published as a Boomer-Plus Consulting Group post; in September, 2017, we up-branded as Boomer / neXt to welcome the 4 million Gen Xers who join the Boomers in the 50+ space each year.

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