NBCU Finds People Over 54 Buy Stuff, Only Nielsen Doesn't Measure Them

Last Updated Nov 5, 2010 2:42 PM EDT

NBC Universal yesterday presented advertisers, agencies, and Nielsen with a stunning finding: that people between the ages of 55 and 64 actually buy things. Wow! Of course, that exclamation point is facetious, but if you follow the TV business, you know exactly why. The advertiser interest in any of us stops at the moment we turn 55, an age at which -- the thinking goes -- we never again consider buying a brand we haven't bought before. Yeah, right.

But the truth of why people aren't measured above age 54 is weirder than even I believed. It turns out, per Mediaweek, that it is, in part, a software issue -- Nielsen, the major domo of TV measurement, currently doesn't have the technology to get the data out there. Allen Wurtzel, president of research and media development at NBCU told the magazine: ""Our goal is to raise a discussion among CMOs at the various companies and to get Nielsen to begin offering ratings data for the 55-64 demo. They have the data. It's just a matter of creating the software and adding staff to distribute it." He continued that the current age groups " ... were invented 50 years ago and are outdated."

Ya think?

Sorry everyone, but this is nothing short of laughable. But if you think this is just Nielsen's problem, you're wrong. Obviously, agencies and advertisers have been equally blind. If they really wanted to know what was going on with older demos, they would've pressed Nielsen on this issue years ago.

Here's what the NBCU research found, none of which should be surprising: the 55-64 group, which they call AlphaBoomers, have a median household income of $69,000. That's way above the groups advertisers most covet, the under 25s, at $27,000, and the 25-34s, at $58,000. (Advertisers target younger demos under the theory they should get 'em while they're young.) The median income is also within shouting distance of the 35-44 demo, which comes in at $75,000. There's also little difference in other attributes, such as penetration of HDTV and broadband, or the willingness to buy online.

Some very savvy advertisers are apparently being hoodwinked by the age bias. Outgoing NBCU president/CEO Jeff Zucker told Mediaweek that advertisers like Apple, Bing and Droid don't advertise on CNBC because it skews older. Uh, something tells me those viewers might be above the median incomes detailed above.

There's a reason this data is coming out of a media company by the way. They have the most to lose as people age. Younger demos don't make the distinctions between broadcast and cable, between online and TV, that older people still do -- even if their degree of technical savvy is higher than one might think. As older audiences age out of Nielsen's technology, and the minds of advertisers and agencies, revenue for TV could start to dissipate too.

Related: