A milepost in an increasingly exclusive demographic club

Because I’m busy today, I’ll re-post what I wrote about my birthday five years ago, because it’s no less true now. Here goes…

65plusI worked in retailing, wholesaling, journalism and radio when I was 18-24.

I co-founded an advertising agency when I was 25-34. Among the things I studied while working in that age bracket were Nielsen and Arbitron ratings for radio and TV. Everything those companies had to say was fractioned into age brackets.

The radio station I did most of that work for was WQDR in Raleigh, one of the world’s first album rock stations. Its target demographic was 18-34. It’s a country station now, aimed at 25-54.

Other “desirable” demographics for commercial media are 18-49 and 25-49.

The demographic I entered between the last sentence and this one, 65+, is the last in the usual demographic series and the least desirable to marketers, regardless of the size of the population in it, and the disposable wealth it is ready to spend.

Thus I have now fallen over the edge of a demographic cliff, at the bottom of which is little of major interest to marketers, unless they’re hawking the cushy human equivalent of parking lots. You know: cruises, golf, “lifestyle communities,” “erectile dsyfunction,” adult diapers, geriatric drugs, sensible cars, dementia onset warnings…

For individuals, demographics are absurd. None of us are an age, much less a range of them. We’re animals who live and work and have fun and do stuff. Eventually we croak, but if we stay healthy we acquire wisdom and experience, and find ourselves more valuable over time.

Yet we become less employable as we climb the high end of the demographic ladder, but not because we can’t do the work. It’s mostly because we look old and our tolerance for bullshit is low. Even our own, which is another bonus.

Nearly 100% of the people I work with are younger than me, usually by a generation or two. I almost never feel old among them. Sometimes I joke about it, but I really don’t care. It helps to have been around. It helps to know how fast and well the mighty rise, and then fall. It helps to see what comes and stays, and to know why those things matter more than what comes and goes. It helps to know there are sand dunes older than any company born on the Internet.

For most of my life I’ve worked in the most amazing industry the world has ever hosted. Technology is a miracle business. Lots of good new things come and go, but three aren’t sand dunes. They’re staying for the duration. I knew they would when I saw each arrive and then fail to leave. They were things nobody owned, everybody could use and anybody could improve. For all three reasons they supported boundless economic growth and other benefits to society. They are:

  1. The personal computer
  2. The internet
  3. The smartphone.

All three were genies that granted wishes without end, and weren’t going back in their bottles.

True, they all had problems and caused many more. They were like people that way. But these two graces — computing and worldwide communication ease — in your pocket or purse, are now as normal as wearing shoes. Nobody owns the design for those either. Also, everyone can use them and anyone can improve them. That’s pretty freaking cool, even though it’s hardly appreciated.

I could go on but better to leave you with what I said to Dorie Clark about what the Net will be like in five years. I’ve gotta sleep before we hit the road early in the morning to celebrate the beginning of the rest of my life. May yours be at least as long. And as good.

  1. Darren’s avatar

    It’s been amazing to get to know you over the past few years. Happy birthday to you and looking forward to celebrating in person soon, even if just to catch up.

  2. Marshall Kirkpatrick’s avatar

    Happy birthday Doc! thanks for this post, may your whole birthday be full of love and reflection

Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *