PPC Marketing to the over 50s: Connect with the Silver Spenders

Andy Vale

By Andy Vale
22 Jan 2019

5 min read


No business wants to miss out on a substantial, often untapped revenue source. Yet for those ignoring the over 50s in a breathless chase to capture the millennial zeitgeist, it’s an everyday occurrence. Unless there’s a very strong reason for them to adopt this approach, more fool them.

While targeting solely by broad demographic alone shouldn’t be your final goal, it is always worth understanding wider trends and audiences to identify opportunities. Guiding marketers on their approach to the over 50s was the theme of a talk by Stephen Kenwright, who was Strategy Director at Branded3 at the time, at the London Hero Conference for PPC professionals. We think it’s a vital audience that too many marketers are overlooking, so we’ve picked out the key points from the talk and how you can use them in your marketing.

Why target your PPC marketing to the over 50s?

For many years there has been a concerted effort for marketers to appeal to young people. This works for some brands, but it makes little sense for everyone to chase them. Especially when you consider how much spending power older generations have.

branded3 “The sheer volume of content and conference speaker time devoted to millennials is substantial, but over 50s are a huge and valuable audience. They constitute a third of the UK population, and hold 80% of the wealth in the country 1. Millennial spending is growing by 1.2% a year, whereas the over 50's are spending 4.4% more each year. By 2025, they will be responsible for one in four pounds spent in the UK"

Stephen Kenwright | Strategy Director, Branded3

Is chasing the latest trend really worth leaving that revenue on the table?

Many are getting it wrong...

...if they’re even doing it at all. Too much marketing aimed at this demographic misses the mark, and the audience is noticing.

“If you search for images of “over 50s” you will quickly notice a predictable trend of grey haired people smiling in care homes. The truth is, that’s simply not an accurate reality for most of them. This is why 72% feel that advertising representations of them are outdated, and 89% feel like they are ignored by brands." 2

What is most likely to resonate with the over 50s?

Firstly, it’s key to get an understanding of the technical activity of this demographic. Despite the stereotype of senior parents always needing their adult children to fix their computers, the over 50s are certainly not lacking when it comes to their internet proficiency.

“Most of this audience research deals online, and over half have booked a holiday online at some point.3 They are close to other demographics at recognising PPC ads 4, and overall spend twice as much time on smartphones as they do on desktop/laptop computers. They are digitally savvy, but are less likely to respond to web terminology (“navigate”, “homepage” etc.) so keep that in mind when drafting your ad copy.”

Prepare for mobile growth

Mobile usage among the over 50s may be high, but it’s still lagging behind other age demographics. This is likely to not be the case forever though, and brands targeting an older audience cannot afford to put off mobile any longer.

“Other demographics have adopted smartphones quicker, and are almost all using them. However, the over 50s aren’t totally converted, are twice as likely to be desktop only, and are less likely to be using a smartphone at the moment. But usage is increasing (5% are mobile only), so there is growth to prepare for.5 A lot of retailers targeting this audience currently don’t have a mobile site, this is already holding back their conversion rates.”

They’re more tough to influence...

If you’re thinking you can mimic the thinking behind a campaign aimed at teens and twenty-somethings, you’re in for a rude awakening. Tapping into a fear of missing out on the latest trends, even with an influencer involved, isn’t going to connect with them in the most effective manner.

“People in older demographics read & write reviews more than other groups, but data from Incite shows they are still more likely to trust their own judgement, and are harder to influence. For example, only 2% claim to have had a purchase influenced by social media.”

...but not impossible

As with any audience, the trick lies in understanding what they’re looking for from a brand, and connecting with them on those terms.

“Over 50s are less likely to spend frivolously, but will spend more to get the best. They are more rational, and don’t care how a brand makes them look. Research by Pragma shows they are more concerned about quality and value than anything else, and are most likely to use coupons or voucher codes when they call or visit a store. Service is close behind too. However, a brand being new, different, or cool does not appeal to them if there’s no clear benefit alongside it.”

Messaging and content are important here. This audience are more likely to read everything (including the terms and conditions), so ensure you have produced content to satisfy every question, and made it easy to find and navigate.

How do you target the over 50s?

Simply pushing out a collection of adverts targeting anyone over 50 isn’t going to work. This audience are as diverse as any other, and needs thoughtful segmentation to match your messaging and content to the right subsections of the audience.

For example, in his talk, Stephen highlighted six distinct attitudes identified by Pragma for retailers looking to target over 50s in the UK:

Opportunist - See ‘growing older’ as a positive. Have time for experiences and what they want to do.

Up to the minute - Don’t feel old, they still feel like they are in their 30s/ 40s and have no interest in slowing down.

Rejector - Don’t want to admit they are getting older, struggling to come to terms with changes in their life.

Traditionalist - Want to get rid of noise to spend time with family and what matters.

Acceptor - Comfortable with getting older.

Creature of habit - Want to stick to what they know and trust.

“Looking at demographics of these personas, most are a similar age despite vastly different outlooks. They are all approaching life in a distinct manner, and to connect with them you need to understand the wider implications of their outlook beyond their age. Reach them in a way that’s relevant to the individuals that they are. In other words, target rock stars who happen to be 72, rather than 50+ year old rock music fans.”

As with any group, you need to understand what’s connecting with them, and adjust your budget accordingly. Call intelligence will show you what has lead a caller to your site, and what they did while they were there before picking up the phone. Start a conversation with Infinity today to see the benefits we bring to you.


1) "Consumers in 50s and 60s feel ignored by brands despite controlling 80% of UK's wealth", Campaign, 2017a

2) "The 50+ age group is still a grey area for brands", Campaign, 2017b

3) "Intrepid over 50s now account for 58% of travel and tourism spend", Saga, 2016

4) "Adults' media use and attitudes", Ofcom, 2016

5) "The 2017 U.S. Mobile App Report", Comscore, 2017

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