Boiling Springs, Penn., AT NOBO mile 1117.5, Wednesday April 23, 2014 — The mourning bells are ringing on Madison Avenue because I died today.
As members of the original Pepsi generation, advertisers promised Boomers we were never going age. We weren’t supposed to trust anyone over 30. Our uniform was going to be Levis, mop tops, and sandals! We were forever young and the most coveted demographic of all time.
Given the degree of indoctrination we endured, I don’t know if this was a shared Boomer experience, but I felt a little strange when I woke up the morning of my thirtieth birthday and nothing changed. I didn’t look or feel any less trustworthy. Same thing when I reached a few other magic milestones that society commemorates with sacrificial candles.
This morning yet another of my life’s supposedly defining markers slipped by. Yup, another birthday.
This time something is different. I really am dead.
Dead, you say? Like a doornail? How could that be?
It’s actually a metaphor. As someone who worked in the marketing and PR world for many years, it’s like this: I know that I might as well be dead.
Here’s the logic.
In some circles, being in a coveted consumer demographic is high status. Everybody wants to talk to YOU. They know that ME is the most important word in the English (advertising) language.
Oh yes, you’d better be talkin’ to me!
If that’s the case, it’s over for moi. I’m not in anybody’s coveted demographic anymore.
I’m tuned in, but Madison Ave. dropped me out. Studies say that most of my brand preferences have been locked in – like NRA paranoia – for decades. They think I’ve stopped thinking, because I can’t.
It’s ironic. By the time you reach a certain age, overnight the ad industry writes you off – you’re a non-entity completely unworthy of ad service. In short, you don’t count in the ratings.
Nielsen, I know you don’t love me anymore. It’s okay. You can have your box back.
As boomers, mainstream advertising no longer covets our eyeballs and ears. Our music has faded from the soundtracks of hit TV shows, and from the commercials that pay for them.
Our generation’s stars have been reduced to playing grumpy and eccentric grandparents on the new TV shows. Even the E-D ads target younger men. To know that all you have to do is look at the age of the women who play the wives.
In the modern American consumer economy, when nobody wants to sell you anything, what’s left for you? You might as well be dead. As far as the sales department is concerned, you are.
Big deal. Life’s interesting. I can personally attest that the mirror lies like a dog. My hair isn’t gray, it’s only color-challenged. I mean, I’m glad to still have some. But hey, I hear the Fountain of Youth is somewhere over the horizon, but that’s not why I’m walkin’. (Or is it?)
“They” think the bell is tolling for me. They are soooo wrong!
Being retired is like perpetual vacation from school. There’s a lot of time to fill, and there are a million things to do. If you didn’t notice, our generation has accomplished a lot and we still have talent. Most of us aren’t willing to go quietly into the great good night either.
Guess what Mad Men? There are better roles in daily life than playing manipulated consumers whose primary benefit to society is buying stuff. Boomers are born activists. Remember the 60’s. I know. If you can remember the 60s, you weren’t really there.
Buckle your seat belt. As more of us retire with too much time on our hands, it could get interesting, so let’s get ready to rock and roll.
Enough rant. There’s something more important to say on this, my first birthday without my mother.
“Thanks for the birthday mom. Without you, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to become uninteresting to advertisers. I’ll always love you for that alone.”