Over 55s are finally closing the gap on youth media habits

Over 55s are finally closing the gap on youth media habits

The days of markedly divergent media consumption between older and younger generations may be drawing to a close, according to a new IPA report.

Making Sense - The commercial media landscape draws upon data from consumers aged 16-34 as well as those aged 55 and over to support its findings, which focus on the role played by the pandemic in driving adoption of digital media among older holdouts.

Studying the correlation between the commercial media use of 16- 34s and 55+ from a time spent perspective, we've seen years of divergence. From 58% in 2015 to a low of 8% in lockdown 2020. There was a 92% difference between the two audiences which makes the job of a media buyer difficult. In post lockdown 2021, we increased to 18% convergence. This hints at a digital media catch-up from the 55+s.

The same pattern emerges with a 'dramatic' increase in the correlation for the reach of media channels to 52% since the lockdown ended in 2021, again up from a low of just 21% in 2020.

Distilling its findings to five key takeaways the report warns that increased generational overlap does not translate into similar consumption patterns within platforms. Now there is also no single curated channel that can reach over 90% of all adults per week, rendering the task of building broad-based campaigns that much harder.

Online video is the runaway success story of the past five years and now commands a greater proportion of media time among the 16-34 group than broadcast television. More time is being spent on digital than non-digital channels across the board with the split for all adults growing from 58:42 towards non-digital in 2015 to 46:54 in favor of digital in 2021. As a consequence, the IPA notes that combining digital with non-digital brand building is crucial to overall success.

Simon Frazier, head of marketing and data innovation at the IPA, said: “As the commercial media landscape continues to evolve, an experimental mindset, more diverse media plans and a stronger focus on outcomes, have never been more important for marketing to be effective in both the short and long term. It’s clear from the data throughout this report that the combination of both digital and non-digital media has the greatest potential for brand building today and that traditionally opposed media platforms often work far better in harmony with each other than in competition.”

Attributing the seismic shifts to the rapid growth of smartphone usage and subscription media the IPA caveats its conclusions with the observation that such shifts are not universal and difficult to pin down in an increasingly fragmented and complex commercial media sphere.