NEW YORK–The international demographic community is reeling Monday following an announcement by scientists at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Demography suggesting the possibility of human life in the over-35 age range–a vast, mysterious, youthless area long thought to exist only in the realm of myth.
MID's Franklin Davies, a consumer-tracking consultant who has worked with such high-profile companies as Nike, Pepsico, and The Gap, discovered what he believes to be over-35, or "extra-youthular," life during an otherwise routine analysis of the market share of an NBC sitcom pilot aimed at audiences between the ages of 18 and 25.
"One element of the sitcom involved the characters exuding sassy, rebellious 'attitude,' thereby making them more appealing to the target group," said Davies, whose work is widely respected within Madison Avenue circles. "But much of this sassy content seemed to involve a strange, phantom 'x-factor,' if you will, that the characters called 'parents' and complained about having to deal with. We knew none of the characters could be parents of infants, since they were all unmarried, recent-college-graduate twentysomethings living, loving, and learning in L.A."
"Yet the unaccounted-for factor would not go away, regardless of how many times I recalibrated the equations," Davies added. "No matter how I crunched the numbers, it still came up. I could only conclude that any beings old enough to have parented characters who were now twentysomethings themselves would, by mathematical necessity, have to be older than 35."
"A shiver ran down my spine as the implications of this data became clear," Davies said.
Supporting Davies' theory are recent, unexplained findings by retail analyst Milton Roth, who discovered "significant sale revenues" for such items as the Weed Whacker, the Roly-Kit, and Gold Bond medicated powder–products which do not carry an aura of edgy, youthful rebelliousness and do not appeal to any known demographic markets.
"Someone had to be buying them," Roth said. "I realized then that we were entering the realm of science fiction. But in this case, it was all too real."
Because of their joint contributions to this new demographic frontier, Davies and Roth are being hailed as pioneers in a new market-research science, and are considered front-runners for this year's Nobel Prize for Demography. If the existence of over-35 humans is proven true, it could revolutionize the demographic field and shake such related disciplines as test-marketing, focus-grouping, and niche-market target advertising to their cores.
"We are talking about, potentially, an entirely new lifeform hitherto unknown to modern demographic science," Davies told a conference of international demographers at MID. "Such bizarre creatures would represent a whole new phylum of consumer. If such beings exist, they are presumably alien to everything we know about 34-and-under discretionary-income spending patterns."
"For example," said Davies, pausing to let the impact of his statement settle in before continuing, "they may not even watch The WB or Fox at all." The statement drew gasps from the assembled crowd.
Demographers have long considered the mapping of the human population–a body of consumers consisting of pre-teens (sometimes called "kids" or "children"), teens, and 18- to 34-year-olds–to be complete. Though largely uncharted as recently as a century ago, these consumers' favorite soft drinks, clothing items, and TV shows, as well as their average income and education level, are now so effectively-documented that even obscure demographic subcategories can be easily targeted by niche-marketing efforts.
Recently, some demographic experts even declared that a "Unified Theory Of Complex Spending"–a single, elegant formula encompassing all possible buyer categories–was just around the corner. But the new findings raise the possibility that there exists a new species of consumer who is not interested in the Sega Dreamcast, romantic comedies starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Abercrombie & Fitch baseball caps, or even the chart-topping ballads of Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync.
"Disturbing as it may be, it appears possible that right here in America, the very epicenter of corporate consumerism, individuals walk among us who do not own baggy pants and puffy shoes or watch MTV's Total Request Live," said American Demographic Society president Ronald Wilson, addressing the organization's members during an emergency session. "We urge calm until this crisis can be further analyzed and its implications can be fully absorbed."
Despite his concern, Wilson ended his remarks on an optimistic note.
"We must remember that even if such creatures do exist, it is likely that they would have far less sex appeal, fashion sense, and discretionary income than all known forms of under-35 life," Wilson said. "It is possible that if we just ignore them, their impact upon society will prove relatively insignificant."