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Category: Retail, Sales & Marketing

Advertising Effectiveness and Age

February 25, 2019 (RARC-WP-19-001)

* Results of our study showed that regardless of age, physical ads were more effective than digital in leaving a lasting impression.

* All age groups processed digital ads more quickly than physical, which could be advantageous with limited attention or time.

* There were noteworthy differences in the effectiveness of basic advertising design categories across age cohorts.

Companies need to tailor advertising efforts to specific consumers, and a long-standing component of marketing strategies includes demographic variables such as age. But with the ascendance of digital media, companies need to understand if and how their new and traditional advertising efforts resonate with younger, digitally native consumers. At the same time, Baby Boomers remain a key consumer group, and it is crucial for marketers to understand how best to reach them.

Recognizing the importance of age segmentation for advertisers, the OIG recently conducted a neuromarketing study with Temple University to compare physical and digital advertising's effectiveness with younger and older consumers, ranging from ages 18 to 68. We found that print advertising was effective for leaving a lasting impression of ads and brands across age cohorts.

The OIG also found some noteworthy differences in the effectiveness of basic advertising design categories across age cohorts. For younger participants, the ads designed to elicit an emotional response were generally more effective than the ads that focused on describing a product's function. Yet, this was not the case for older adults, for whom the functional appeals were more effective, especially when presented in physical format. Ads that used metaphors were consistently effective across all ages.

These findings expand on the OIG's prior neuromarketing work to provide scientific evidence that physical ads found in advertising mail can leave a lasting impression with both young and old consumers. As advertising mail is a crucial source of revenue for the Postal Service, it is important that USPS research and identify how, when, and with whom mail is an effective advertising medium. 

John Althen, Ann Spevacek, and Amanda Stafford contributed to this report.