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Online Ads Effective For All Ages

My wife and I recently hosted an afternoon barbecue for my family. We had four generations talking, playing, laughing, watching television and surfing the Web on one of our computers (we have two). As I observed this parade of ages spending time online, I became acutely aware of various comfort levels and ways in which age influenced “interaction” with the digital environment. As a marketing executive, I was fascinated by the differences and wondered, “How does online or digital advertising affect these various age groups?”

While display advertising appeared to affect some in my family, one form of advertising cut across all age groups: search. According to JupiterResearch, search makes up $4 billion of all online media spending (more than 30 percent). From shopping to information gathering, search is the universal tool used across all age groups.

In the past it was assumed search had a larger effect on the shopping habits of the older demographic. This appears unfounded, based on a recent study released by Yahoo illustrating that the student demographic finds search engines more credible than TV ads.

As I watched my mother seek a good deal on new bedding, I asked her whether she noticed the display advertising. She was quick to point out that she does not click on banners. However, she did indicate that she occasionally notices the ads. This got me thinking, does display advertising work for the boomer generation or is online simply an ad medium for the young (beyond search, of course)?

The answer is that display and online video advertising can be effective for people of all ages. Immersive ads that let the user interact have proven highly effective and, in many ways, have become expected by younger generations. This audience has either grown up with or was an early adopter of the digital medium.

This is not to say that the older demographic can’t be influenced by online advertising. The usage patterns of older online users indicate that online advertising can influence them heavily.

According to eMarketer, three of the top six online activities of this older demographic include online shopping, seeking medical information and watching a video clip. All three of these areas are excellent opportunities to influence purchasing decisions with either a display ad or a pre-roll video.

As media becomes more fragmented, it is increasingly important to reach audiences in environments that are relevant and reach audiences at points in time when they are seeking information. The online environment lets marketers do both and, thus, effectively reach a wide range of ages.

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