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Carrie Bradshaw at 55: Still fabulous, but too old for advertisers?
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Carrie Bradshaw at 55: Still fabulous, but too old for advertisers?

The character of Carrie Bradshaw made her debut on HBO as the lead of Sex and the City (SATC) in 1998 at the age of 33. For six seasons, SATC became a kind of secret roadmap for those looking for love, those starting out or starting over, the cool kids wanting the latest look and anyone who just wanted a fabulous life in what many believe is the greatest city in the world.

Showrunner and creator Michael Patrick King and lead actress Sarah Jessica Parker started their little endeavor, based on the novel by Candace Bushnell, on a shoestring, scouring thrift stores and friends’ closets for the iconic looks that defined the image of the Parker’s character, a sex columnist who spent a disproportionate amount of her paychecks on shoes—shopping is Bradshaw’s sport, and she’s a champion.

The action of the show, when it wasn’t living up to its title, took place in restaurants, in boutiques, looking for real estate, and occasionally in travel away from NYC—the swipe of credit cards could have been the soundtrack. Carrie and her friends, and so it goes—their audience—were smack in the middle of the key 25-54 buying demographic—that’s golden for advertisers.

Being on HBO meant that the show was free to explore creatively what it wanted without having to consider advertisers. But when the show became a hit, syndication followed. Thereafter, SATC found a huge broadcast television audience, and designers and brands piled on. Thrifting became a fictional endeavor, not a production necessity.

Nearly 18 years after Carrie and friends closed out their final season, HBO rebooted SATCthis past December with And Just Like Thatwhere the characters picked up their storylines in real time. Everyone has aged (magnificently) and matured into the next chapter of their lives. Our dear iconic Carrie, who graduated at the end of SATC from her one-bedroom/one-bath walk-up, where the stove doubled as extra sweater storage, to her penthouse with a closet the size of many Manhattan living rooms, has now, at the age of 55, also graduated out of the key demo of 25-54. Does that mean that advertisers should give the cold shoulder to the darling of designers?

In the 10 years between 2011 and 2021, the 55+ segment of the population grew 14.74%, while two cuts of the key demo shrank: persons 35-49 decreased by 4% and persons 50-54 decreased by 9%1. Expanding that key demo to persons 25-64 would incorporate Carrie, half of the Baby Boomer segment, and all of Gen X2.

Carrie’s credit card still sings, and loudly, as demonstrated in the current 10 episodes of shopping, restaurants and real estate. Likewise, the buying power of the 55-64 segment is strong; this group outspends younger demos on new vehicles3 and in many other key categories, because, to riff off of Carrie herself, “Enjoy yourself! That’s what your 20s are for. Your 30s are to learn the lessons. Your 40s are to pay for the drinks.” I say, your 50s and 60s are to buy what you want.

The 55-64 age segment, in fact, spends more on several key home improvement categories, including pools, bathrooms, kitchens, siding and the not-so-sexy but let’s-face-it-gotta-have-it HVAC categories. Looking at net worth, the trend is clear: 55-64 is the age break with the money to spend. In a 2021 survey4, household net worth broken out by age rose from $380,000 for persons 25-34 to $450,000 for persons 35-54 to $504,000 for persons 55-64.

If the past informs the present, And Just Like That could have a second and extended life in the syndication world that could mean an even larger broadcast audience. While broadcasters have already made the case for adoption of the extended demo, our data shows that if you don’t include the 55-64-year-old set as a buying target, you may miss a big opportunity. No doubt advertisers are already paying attention to the aging population trend which necessitates keeping up with consumers, consumer spending habits and audiences. And just as the creative world adapts and expands to an aging audience, so should the key demo.

This article originally appeared on Broadcasting + Cable.

Sources

  1. Nielsen NPOWER, UE and Sample Information, Past 11 February Measurements
  2. Nielsen NPOWER, % of P2+, Total U.S., July 15, 2021
  3. Nielsen Scarborough USA+ 2020 Release 2; *Scarborough measures adults 18+
  4. Nielsen Scarborough USA+ 2021 Release 1; *Scarborough measures adults 18+