Leveraging the power of the biggest generation
April 28, 2014
By Jenn Watt
CityTV founder and Canadian media mogul Moses Znaimer is best known for reimagining television and the audience’s role in creating the media.
Now he’s pushing a new revolution of thought: that the senior demographic – the baby boomers – aren’t a static, tired demographic, but one that should be holding the bulk of the power in society.
Znaimer is head of both CARP, a non-profit advocacy organization addressing aging in Canada, and ZoomerMedia, which includes radio, TV, and Zoomer Magazine, among other holdings.
“It’s still an argument that we have to have every day with advertisers and ad agencies because people squirm when you get close to age. Even though the companies are run by 50 to 80 year olds, even though they’re owned by zoomers … everybody gets nervous about aging. That’s why I invented ‘zoomer,’ because ‘old,’ ‘elder,’ ‘mature,’ they’re all variations of a word that make people nervous,” said Znaimer in an interview with Echo.
Zoomer is a combination of “boomer” and “zip,” he explained during a question and answer period at the Haliburton CARP chapter’s annual general meeting April 27.
CARP has had some semantic tinkering too, no longer standing for the Canadian Association for Retired Persons. It just seemed too, well, retired.
The R now can stand for refreshed, recharged or revitalized, but certainly not retired.
It seems that R-word is particularly offensive to Znaimer, who said the whole concept behind zoomers is a shift in mentality.
“What a terrible thing to say to somebody: you are officially useless. Get out of the way because your job now is to die. It’s awful, not to mention hugely wasteful. They’re talking about a body of experience, financial acumen and willingness to give that is immeasurable,” he said.
Western society has fixated on 65 as the age of retirement, but it’s an outdated notion, he explained.
When 65 was chosen as the appropriate retirement age, people hardly lived much beyond that point. Now, Canadians can expect to live well into their 80s and are largely happy – and willing – to continue working longer.
“Otto Von Bismark in the late 1800s, in an attempt to compete with the rise of socialism in Europe, did this enormous gesture of creating the world’s first government-backed pension plan and offered a pension to anyone who could reach the age of 70.
“The fact is, the age expectancy at the time was 50, so Otto wasn’t taking a very big risk. Two or three people might stagger across that finish line, then collect the pension for a year or two and then they die,”
Today, everyone lives longer, so there is no need to give up on staying connected and active at 65, he argued.
Intertwined with Znaimer’s notions about zoomers and retirement is his frustration that the media, government and society concentrate on today’s 20- and 30-year-olds as the influential generation.
While baby boomers were the focus of marketing campaigns up until a couple of decades ago, he said marketers have made the mistake of thinking the boomers were important because of their youth, not because of their overwhelming numbers.
Today, marketers look to a much smaller group of young people who don’t have the wealth or the influence the boomers (or zoomers) still have and expect them to buy goods the way the boomers did.
“All conventions around that, the idea that people in their late teens and early 20s were the world’s best consumers. That derived from the fact that if you got married at 18 and had kids at 20 or 22, you’re consuming. You were setting up a household, you were buying a bedroom set, you were buying a crib, kids’ clothes … not today. Those two people are in the basement living in their parents’ home. We’ve got to adjust,” he said.
This view of the baby boomers came to Znaimer back in 1984 – the year he founded one of the most youthful TV stations in Canada.
“The thought did strike me … and the importance of the boomers was not based on the fact they were young, but the fact that they were the most massive generation created,” he said.
His shift from youth-based media to ZoomerMedia has brought him some criticism for changing teams, but he said it’s quite the opposite.
“I’m the guy who’s still with my gang. Zoomer is simply an extension of the audience who liked CityTV and watched Much Music,” he said.
His goal now: to get more of those people signed
up for CARP.
The Haliburton chapter has 700 members and represents one of the fastest growing chapters in the country with the most members per capita. Across the country there are 300,000 members, with annual membership shrinkage of 35,000 a year.
That means CARP needs to bring in 35,000 new members annually just to maintain its numbers.
Numbers mean clout, Znaimer said, and Haliburton chapter president Bob Stinson echoed those sentiments in front of the crowd on Sunday.
He encouraged members to head to the chapter’s website to take part in surveys – including one that will dictate questions at the municipal all-candidates’ meeting.
The more people who join, the more seriously politicians will have to take seniors’ issues.
“When it comes to influence, when it comes to clout, size matters,” Znaimer said.
To read more about what the local chapter of CARP is up to, go to www.carp.ca and follow the links to the