Traditional Advertising vs. New Media

By Pam McDonald

                       “The report of my death was an exaggeration . . .”

That’s what Mark Twain told the New York Journal after his obituary was mistakenly published. The same could be said for the premature eulogizing of traditional media, says Paul Flowers, President of Circa 46, an advertising agency with a speciality in senior living, and a Senior Housing Forum partner.

Paul notes, “Let’s not kill off the media we grew up with just yet. Senior communities, especially those offering independent living, should take note that the senior cohort has not been fully won over to ‘new media’. It’s a little soon to expunge advertising options like television, radio, newspapers and direct mail from your marketing arsenal.”

Old School

Seniors tend to remain “old school” with regard to how they obtain information about products and services they are considering. Paul points out that a recent Pew Research report tags the percentage of seniors (65+) using the internet at 58%. He says, “While a majority of seniors are internet users, it is not a landslide majority.”

What they are really doing is watching television – 97% of them – and they’re watching A LOT of it!  According to a 2014 Horowitz Associates research survey, the 65-and-older respondents reported watching an average of 5.1 hours a day. That compares to a little less than the two hours per day they spend online.  

Television is not the only traditional medium outperforming the internet. Newspapers, which have been on death watch for years, outperform the internet with 69% of senior males and 57% of senior women regularly reading them. Even radio, with a senior male listenership of 58%, matches internet usage.

Why This Matters

Paul states that there are at least two reasons why this matters:

  1. Reaching the largest number of prospects Concentrating advertising online for an independent living community will eliminate more than a third (42%) of the prospect pool. That’s a lot of prospects who will never hear a senior community’s message, if it is limited to the internet.

  1. Delivering the selling messageAmong seniors who go online, data is ambiguous about their degree of engagement. According to a 2014 Harris Interactive survey conducted for Goo Technologies, approximately 88% of seniors who use the internet report they ignore online banner ads. This compares to 42% of seniors who say they ignore newspaper ads.

Senior Housing Marketing

Based on these observations, a senior living community that provides independent living should not advertise exclusively online. But that does not mean there isn’t a place for the internet when marketing your senior housing. A 2015 survey conducted by Google/Ipsos shows that the internet plays a big role for older adults actively seeking information about senior living services, ranking second to word-of-mouth:

Word-of-mouth – 52%

Internet – 36%

Friends – 31%

Brochures – 29%

Magazines – 25%

Television – 22%

Direct mail – 20%

Actively Seeking Information

The operative phrase here is “actively seeking information”. When seniors are proactively looking for senior living information, the internet is a common tool. And, as Paul says, “They are not simply ‘surfing the net’. They most likely are visiting search engines and senior living websites to secure specific information. So, they are not being influenced much by internet display/banner advertising.”

(Note: the other information sources sited most by actively seeking elders – that is, word-of-mouth, friends, and brochures – are not mass media where you would expect to find advertising.)

The point is this: The internet is a valuable tool for delivering information about your senior community to prospects who are actively looking for such information. But to cast a wider net – to present information about your community to a broader spectrum of prospects – don’t overlook those traditional advertising vehicles that have historically delivered senior market.

There is still a lot of life in those old media options.