Were 'Longmire' Viewers Too Long in the Tooth to Matter?
Writing in a guest column, TV creator Annabelle Gurwitch makes the case for why the 50-plus crowd — and all of its disposable income — should have advertisers champing at the bit
When A&E announced it was canceling its most popular drama, Longmire, the news was confirmation of an antiquated advertising bias against catering to a viewership over 50. The accepted wisdom is that the spending habits of the AARP-eligible are immutable and, anyway, they’ve got one foot in the grave. You have to wonder when will we put this creaky canard out of its misery because it’s not your father’s 50 anymore. Every second and a half another American turns 50, which means that in a very short time, we will be the largest demographic in the country — and with our longer life spans, we’re not going anywhere. It also just so happens that 50-plus-ers account for of 75 percent of the disposable income in America.
Using myself as an example, here’s a window into the unexpected, unpredictable, whimsical and often misguided purchasing habits of the over-50 set.
I once fantasized about being the youngest person to win an Emmy. That didn’t happen, but I do have the distinction of being the youngest patient of my rheumatologist. He recommends exercise for my osteoarthritis. Lots of it. I’m going through sneakers like I used to go through relationships. I might as well be tithing my income to Nike.
My food budget? Skyrocketed. At 50, I gave up both my fertility and carbs. I like kids but I love bread, and it’s been a huge loss with unexpected consequences. Now that I can’t fill up on bread, the amount of dough I spend both at restaurants and at the supermarket has doubled if not tripled.
A few months ago, I caught sight of myself sitting in an antique rocker and wondered what Grandma Moses was doing in my living room. Yes, collecting antiques seemed winningly eccentric when I wasn’t a vintage item myself. I am now replacing my furnishings with modern streamlined pieces that won’t clash with the lines on my face.
You can purchase a romper for $24.99 at Forever 21, but my romper days are long gone. I won’t be seen in one unless I'm portraying the mentally ill or the incarcerated. The dresses I purchase now must be constructed, not unlike a full-body Spanx. Those garments are pricey! Plus, with my metabolism, chances are that sometime during the next six hours to six months I will need to purchase an entirely new wardrobe in a larger size.
The $45.6 billion cosmeceutical industry is one sector that is onto us. I’ve amassed a small arsenal of unguents, cremes and serums — and even though it’s unlikely that these elixirs contain the restorative, rejuvenating, and reparative properties they purport to deliver, at least I am contributing to keeping fiction writers gainfully employed.
After three consecutive leases of the same car brand and model, I switched it up. Why? 'Cause that’s how I roll. My decision was based entirely on not wanting to get fixed in my ways at the youthful age of 52.
Sure, it’s partly because I can’t remember my Netflix password that I frequent movie theaters, but I’m also part of a generation that enjoys seeing films on the big screen. Oh, and I have seen every single one of those found-footage genre flicks marketers assume are so popular with youth audiences. Why? Because I’m a helicopter parent. On any given day, my teenage son might be grounded for some minor infraction but we have an exclusionary clause whereby he can go out as long as it's with me. I also bribed him with 20 dollars to see As Above, So Below with me, but it was worth it: We were both so scared that he actually let me sit next to him during the movie.
OK, I admit it, there are some signs I’ve been reluctant to purchase new technology. I still have a Blackberry. But I bit the bullet and ordered an iPhone, and I will be burying the Blackberry in my backyard in a Sucrets box later this week. (That joke was intended solely for the Longmire demographic.)
So, advertisers, please don’t write us off. Even though I keep seeing those “prepare for a longer retirement commercials,” I’m not! I’m spending and I’d like to have something other than teenage vampire love stories to watch while I’m paying my credit card bills.
Annabelle Gurwitch is currently adapting her New York Times best-selling title, I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities and Survival Stories From the Edge of 50 (Blue Rider Press) with Liz Tuccillo (Sex in the City) and producer Sarah Condon (Looking) for FX.
Editor's note: Asked about Longmire's cancellation, an A&E exec tells The Hollywood Reporter: "The issue with Longmire is more about the ownership than the age of the audience. The studio model is broken and networks just aren’t able to monetize series that underperform in the key demos advertisers covet if they don’t own a piece of it."