Have you ever wondered why the Led Zeppelin song Rock and Roll (1971) is used in commercials for Cadillacs? Or why music by The Who, Won’t Get Fooled Again (also from 1971), introduces every episode of CSI: Miami? Ad agencies have paid these groups big bucks to use their 37-year-old tunes in hopes of making the targeted audience, primarily aging baby boomers, feel hip and groovy again. By musically taking us back in time (I, too, am a boomer, born in 1950), the ads seduce viewers into buying the vehicle or staying tuned to the ensuing gory episode.
Sacramento magazine’s look at baby boomers&emdash;people born between 1946 and 1964&emdash;begins on page 142 and makes me think about how, with boomers, it’s all about us. We have been easy prey for marketers who seek to attract our dollars by tying a message to a time when we were younger (and dumber). Our interests, especially in popular music, command a disproportionate share of attention and airtime, crowding out new artists and sounds. Our music is used much too often to help sell things, which is unfair, not only to us but to other generations as well. How troubling to think we are such an easy mark!
Music from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s is in huge supply. No fewer than five commercial radio stations in Sacramento play it regularly. Tom Petty’s music is terrific; he and his band played during this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, but why not show newer musicians, closer in age to those playing the game? Consider all the old groups recording and/or touring:The Eagles, Cream, Van Halen, The Who. They’re cashing in on baby boomers’ nostalgia, old habits and dough.
It’s not just in music that we baby boomers are the kids with the ball. Product marketers follow us because we’re the big spenders. New autos&emdash;Chevrolet’s Malibu and HHR, Ford’s Mustang, Chrysler’s PT Cruiser and Volkswagen’s Beetle&emdash;remind us of cars sold in the 1950s and ’60s. Comfort foods, zippered sweaters, narrow ties, never-ending Peanuts and Doonesbury comics&emdash;all are throwbacks for us boomers, bait for the hard-earned bucks that are supposed to be going into our retirement accounts.
Even our drugs get prime-time coverage. I’m not talking about the illegal drugs boomers stupidly ingested during the Summer of Love, but rather the prescription medications available to help deteriorating bodies. Watch any sports on TV and you’ll likely see ads offering medications for male boomers’ enlarged prostates, or other parts apparently not enlarged. (Viagra runs a commercial that borrows too liberally from Elvis’ 1964 hit Viva Las Vegas for its jingle.)
I must close. I have some important decisions to make. Maybe I’ll apply for a loan from Chase International (the music behind its TV spot is Brenton Woods’ terrific oldie Gimme Little Sign from 1967) and use the money to buy a Hummer (listen for The Who’s Happy Jack, 1966). Something about these products seems so right.