Nikita Mishra
Aug 1, 2022

50+ market is cashed up, willing to spend and tired of being invisible: WPP's Rose Herceg

Campaign speaks to WPP's ANZ president who also insists marketers should forget the bland, predictable or transactional and instead make magic in the post-Covid world.

Rose Herceg, WPP President, ANZ
Rose Herceg, WPP President, ANZ

Australians want to be authentic, genuine, and truthful. And two years of the pandemic has brought that to the forefront.

These are findings from WPP’s annual Secrets and Lies Chapter Six: Fact, Fiction and What’s New in 22 report. Managing over US$50billion of global media investment annually with the majority of domestic clients, WPP leverages its unique position to identify critical consumer insights that impact the Australian economy and culture. 

The findings are based on a survey of 2,000 Australians across age, gender and region while revisiting key themes from the earlier five reports to show how values have shifted against the country’s fast-changing political, cultural, and social backdrop. 

Key highlights: Spooked into submission

The rule-breaking, age-defying, Woodstock-loving generation of 50-plus has been spooked into submission.

In 2019, WPP research found that 78% of Australians over 50 agreed that middle age starts at 60 rather than 40. Perhaps, it’s the close brush with mortality during the pandemic that now pushed that percentage down to 61% this year. While 78% of Aussies felt much younger than their biological age before the pandemic; the figure has dipped to 59% in 2022. 61% thought they were living their best years in 2019; now it’s is down to only 40%.

Individual identity

The findings show that Australians are more likely to tell ‘white lies’ to avoid social events yet are less likely to lie to employers and are far more authentic on social media than in 2018.

52% have lied about their whereabouts to family or friends in 2018, compared to just 28% now.

Additionally, almost a-third use work as an excuse to avoid time with family, a 9% jump from 2018. Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to lie than Generation X, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation in each of these scenarios.

Buzzwords bingo

The application of language is broad. Its power, unlimited. But the craft of language needs to strip back and simplify for maximum reach.

A whopping 40% Australians speak a language other than English and connect in their native tongue with families. Perhaps, that is why they find the use of industry jargon in marketing materials distrustful.

In 2021, 81% respondents felt confused after reading about a product or a service and thought buzzwords are deliberately used to make it hard for consumers to get to the bottom of what a brand is selling, now nearly 87% echo that sentiment.  

So how can marketers can use such information to tailor their offerings better?  Campaign spoke to Rose Herceg, WPP President, Australia & New Zealand, about the importance of this report and its findings:

Explain the importance of Secrets and Lies in a post-pandemic world and why marketers in need to take note.

People are done with the morbidity of Covid and being depressed.

Our report finds that they are yearning for magic, and marketers seem to have forgotten what it means to make the customer feel extra special. They need to upend their playbook and raise the bar.  A lot of our clients are wondering just how much magic are consumers are waiting for? And the answer to that is quite a lot.

Consumers want marketers to be imaginative, almost overreach in their ambition, little bit of fantasy, wonderfulness and extraordinariness will help re-ignite the lost spark. And I think a lot of brand marketers right now have forgotten that you've got to get out of the mundane to connect with customers.

Give an example of how that magic can translate into delivery?

Let’s say you’re a bank, and I am about to get money into my account. Let's have a little bell going ting ting, “Rose, congratulations, you got paid today!” Why don’t hearts and flowers appear on my screen each time I get the paycheck?

When I’m online shopping for dresses or shoes, why can’t the app give me the option of uploading my picture and the VR show me how it’s going to look on my body type? Same goes with shoes. I want to see how the pair will look at me before I involve the wallet. We have the technology available for all these tools for upping the customer experience and making it almost magical, so why not?

This is the sixth edition of Secrets and Lies. In the past, how have you implemented findings of this study in WPP’s marketing strategy, and has it helped win over new clients?

Yeah, so we've won quite a lot of new business off the back of the last five reports. Given  confidentiality agreements, I am not at the liberty to reveal names, but we’ve cracked big-ticket clients. From getting into healthcare businesses, gaining a telecom giant client, big banks, commercial airlines–findings from the past five editions of Secrets and Lies have opened a lot of new frontiers for us.  

What are the main findings of the report which surprised you?

50-plus makes for about one-third of the population in Australia, half of private wealth and yet 94% of ad dollars are spent on under-50s

The most shocking finding was in the 50-plus demographic.

A couple of years ago, we found that this age group considered 60 as the new 40 but now with Covid, mortality has become real for them. I am really surprised about how this population has suddenly become so fragile and timid to where they were even two years ago. These numbers in this bracket are a huge opportunity for marketers to wake-up and shake-up the sleeping giant, because they have the dollars.

Not just the dollars, but your research shows they also have the free time on hand to engage with the brands they connect with. Clearly, ageism in marketing is bad for business?

The changes in attitude among the 50+ population is stark: WPP

True. A lot of companies want to look youthful or be associated with youthful enthusiasm to appear 'fresh'. There’s nothing wrong in it but the over 50s account for 30% of Australia’s population and sit on half of the private wealth. They are cashed-up and have the will to spend, yet 94% of all marketing dollars are spent on the under 50s.

The elder consumer bracket is tired of being invisible. The message to all the marketers is to not be fixated with the 28-year-olds, speak to this generation in an authentic language and see your business reap giant dividends for the brand.  

What are WPPs plans to tackle this demographic?

We've already talked to 20 clients about reconnecting with this age group and flipping the script on ageing and reminding this age bracket that they better get up and get busy living.

But we have to remember that over-50 is not a homogenous group. Some 50-year olds are still paying off a chunk of their mortgage and likely raising kids. Over 80 might be grappling with health issues. Marketers have to target their specific audience, grouping them together could be a fatal mistake.  

Any particular areas which many brands haven’t quite nailed down yet?

I would say it’s marketing for singles. I don’t think there is a single marketer who understands that many people are single by choice. That they embrace singlehood. That alone is not lonely.

Why do we always have chocolate ads with the whole family sharing it, or chocolate used as a gift, again to be shared? Why can’t a single person just buy an indulgent bar, eat it all by themselves and that is shown in celebratory light?

Same goes for fast food. We always show delicious food as a shared moment. Wouldn’t it be great if a marketer was brave and decided to show it as a wonderfully indulgent moment for the self?

Even in the traveling industry, why is still more expensive to get a hotel room on your own than with two people. Things have got to change. Individual isn't selfish, it’s just indulgent. I think there’s a whole industry for single people that no one’s tapped into.

What are the other more reassuring marketing hacks you can sum up from the survey?

Crack the multiculturalism nut. A third of Australians aren’t natives, almost 40% speak a language other than English. So, if gender is now regarded as fluid, why not culture?

I am Croatian, when I speak to my mum, it’s one word of English and nine words of Croatian. There are about 300,000 Croatians and Bosnians in Australia and if one brand was to change even a single word in Croatian and keep the rest in English, for the love of God we’ll all follow that brand!

Finally, keep up the desire for extraordinary. Forget bland, predictable, or transactional. People want magic and we should bring it back for them.

Related Articles

Just Published

1 day ago

Tech Bites: Week of August 15, 2022

News from Coca-Cola, Nielsen, Hivestack and more.

1 day ago

Serena Williams: Inspiring brand lessons from the GOAT

Williams is as much a master on court as she is off-court when signing major brand deals and honing her personal brand. Brand experts pick out lessons to pick up from the tennis legend.

1 day ago

Dentsu scores high with a third of the wins in June

Global new-biz round-up: However, the largest account was picked up by WPP’s Mindshare.

1 day ago

M&C Saatchi and the brutal complexity of (being) bought

Why the hold-up in the takeover process and where are things now? Campaign explains.