Ted Dorf, vice president and general manager of WGAY-FM (99.5), and several other local executives are promoting older listeners as the coming demographic. Dorf is a founder of the 35 Plus Group, a national committee pushing advertising representatives to recognize the 35-64 demographic as being just as influential as the 25-54 age group, the currently favored target group of buyers.
Tied to this push is the survival of stations, such as WGAY, that have strong formats and loyal audiences that tend to be older. "Four years ago the beautiful-music stations decided to get together to bare our souls and think about our problems. The format was losing its appeal -- we needed to appeal to the older listener and at the same time get the younger listener," says Dorf. "I didn't think we had a programming problem but a sales problem."
Since then Dorf has expanded his minicrusade beyond the beautiful music stations. Joining him in a local effort are WTOP-AM (1500), WMAL-AM (630) and WWRC-AM (980), WGAY's sister station.
With research and a slide show to back him up, Dorf warms to his subject. First, the potential: 56 percent of all adults over 18 in the Washington area are over 35, he says. "The hot demographic of 10 years ago, 18-49, changed in the 1970s to the 25-54. Therefore, the 35-to-64-year-olds should be the next target group," argues Dorf. "Life expectancy is increasing, and people live differently." Some say people in that group tend to have limited incomes. Not so, says Dorf, knocking down the stereotypes. "The three highest income segments are in the 35-plus group. Most of the discretionary income in the country is spent by the 45-64 age group. They are mortgage-cleared homeowners, spenders with fewer obligations -- such as college tuition -- independent thinkers and active citizens," he says.
WGAY has seen some results -- a beautiful-music station for 20 years, it became No. 1 in the market for the first time in the last ratings. "We find it is not a cakewalk," Dorf says, "but we have a great more accessibility to the buyers. Our demographic requests for the 35-plus market have increased 16 to 18 percent."