The Tyranny of 18-49

The holy grail for mass media is the 18 to 49 age group. Entertainment programmers, marketers and advertisers covet that demographic. It has a huge impact on what we see and hear. Is this power based on myth or reality? Could the 18 to 49 audience and its dollars be too influential?

This project explores the “Adults 18-49” demographic — its history, its cultural effects, and its validity as an advertising CCCHeader400category. On April 9, 2003, the Lear Center held a free-wheeling half-day conference on the topic featuring Neal Gabler, author of Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered RealityAn Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood and Walt Disney: Triumph of American Imagination. Other panelists included David Klein, publisher, Ad Age; Steve Sohmer, former EVP of marketing, advertising and promotion, ABC; Durk Barnhill, SVP, McCann-Erickson Worldwide; and Anne Reed, executive council member, American Association of Retired Persons. Martin Kaplan, USC Annenberg Associate Dean and Director of the Lear Center, moderated.


Lear Center Senior Fellow Neal Gabler wrote a broadside on the topic called “The Tyranny of 18 to 49: American Culture Held Hostage.”

Read the conference publication, which includes extensive Lear Center research on the topic by Patrick Reed, an annotated bibliography, and Gabler’s broadside.