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Boomer Knees and Thighs: A Missed Ad Opportunity

Is it time to use our bodies to promote 50+ products and services?

By Donna Sapolin

There’s a new advertising trend raging through crowded Tokyo, one designed to combat its over-stimulated population’s resistance to more traditional advertising messages.

Ad execs are casting aside the static billboard in favor of “walking ads” — decals pasted on the shapely thighs of young women who are paid to parade promotions for movies like Ted and apps like Taxbird.

The approach is designed to garner both in-person gapes and activate viral attention within social media arenas. To participate in the program, a girl must be at least 18, have a minimum of 20 followers and post photos of herself sporting the ads.

This new marketing phenomenon got me thinking about the measures to which advertisers and publicists must now go to hook our eyes and minds and lure us into buying products.

There’s nothing new about the young, beautiful, sexy and famous endorsing products. Luminaries have long been enlisted to lend goods the kind of appeal that derives from association with fame or achievement.

But as we know, the nature of fame has been redefined over the last few years; social media has given us all a public platform and turned us all into potentially potent influencers. The new Japanese approach to advertising is a twist on traditional promotional techniques that rely on youth and beauty, one that compounds the halo-effect allure via the “everyman ability” to spark an unending ripple of interest and desire.

(MORE: My One and Only Resolution: To Keep My Wrinkles)

What Do Ad Decals Mean for Boomers?

I’ve been thinking that marketers should get wise to the fact that there’s a whole world of attention-grabbing skin out there — it would be sheer folly for them to ignore the 50+ audience’s derma and formidable buying power, not to mention its insatiable yearning for ongoing vitality and youthful looks.

The aging population is exploding worldwide and that growth is matched by a burgeoning hunger for products and other types of solutions that promise to make the later years as healthful and meaningful as possible.

Given all that, the vast terrain of wrinkled, sagging skin could not only boost sales but also much-needed insights via truly critical messages.

What’s Next?


According to the originator of the Japanese campaign concept, Hidenori Atsumi, chief executive officer of WIT advertising agency, men will take notice of an ad pasted on a flawless band of skin below a flared miniskirt and above a long sock. But my guess is we’d also pay attention to a stick-on ad for a local plastic surgeon on a fiftysomething’s neck, a diet aid decal on a boomer’s upper arm and a knee replacement surgeon’s promo pasted just above a crinkly knee.

(MORE: 4 Ways Boomers Will Choose Brands in the 'Age of Aging')

Other possible ideas for “boomer-and-beyond skinboards” promos:

  • Adult diapers, incontinence and erectile dysfunction meds placed on upper thighs
  • Physical therapy practices, gyms and fitness apps on any area of the body
  • Skin creams and other anti-aging products on foreheads and jowls
  • Muscle relaxants, analgesics, acupuncture and footcare products on shins and ankles
  • Sclerotherapy and varicose vein treatments on legs
  • Hair replacement company on a bald head
  • Eyewear and hearing aids on a cheek.

Why Stop at Skin?

But, actually, why would the stickers have to go on bare skin? Decals and printed T-shirts on fully clothed bulging bellies, love handles, backs and butts might also be incredibly effective. I’d like to see an ad on the back of a boomer bod that touts an intelligent movie about the real-life concerns of mature audiences, like last year’s Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Or a movie promo that celebrates a device that bolsters capacity, like the nifty bionic apparatus that gives Matt Damon super strength in Elysium or the robot in Robot & Frank.

And how about messages like these not-so-subtle reminders that we best prepare for old age?

  • Ready to retire. But how?” — from a financial company
  • “Boomer in search of work” — from a job board site
  • “This body needs a vacation” — from a tour operator
  • I just keep on going” — from a sportswear or coffee outfit
  • Who will take care of me”? — from an insurance or health care company
  • I need a hug” — from a boomer dating service.

I’d be willing to use this body I’ve lived in for oh-so-long to promote an important message or a truly helpful or inventive solution. Heck, I might even do that for free. Marketers, if you’re listening, I have way more than 20 Facebook and Twitter followers.

Donna Sapolin is the Founding Editor of Next Avenue. Follow Donna on Twitter @stylestorymedia. Read More
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