AARP Unexpectedly Taps a Spoken Word Artist to Reach a New Generation

Its Gen X's time to shine

The Def Jam vet's appearance marks a strategic pivot for the 60-year-old organization. AARP
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AARP isn’t strictly about retirement. And it’s not just for Baby Boomers, either.

A new campaign from the 60-year-old organization and its agency of record Grey New York reminds us that the time has come for Generation X to enter its fifth decade—and my, how the time files.

The work also takes a notably different approach from past campaigns in encouraging young(er) Americans to reconsider their golden years with the help of spoken word artist and Def Poetry Jam veteran J. Ivy.

The anthem spot below debuted during American Idol’s return this week.

The brand refresh comes as this country’s demographics evolve along with, as J. Ivy mentioned above, the very definition of aging.

“We serve all people 50-plus, and the oldest Gen X’ers are 53,” said AARP svp of brand integration Barbara Shipley. “We do lots of generational studies … and while people don’t always act the way generational trends dictate, there are lots of truths in those trends. For us, it’s about building an emotional connection with this [younger] set because it’s so much more important to them.”

Even within the so-called Baby Boomer generation, the older cohort views its relationships with brands differently, Shipley said—and AARP wants to better cement a unique identity among consumers who aren’t quite ready to start considering life on Social Security.

As Shipley said, “We’re trying not to just be a series of Getty Images.”

Part of that pivot included bringing in a decidedly post-Boomer talent like J. Ivy, who is still eight years away from his own 50th birthday. The second spot featuring the performer gets to the heart of the campaign: making the most of every day, no matter what your age may be.

The Grey and AARP teams landed on the concept of spoken word early in the conceptual process for this campaign, Shipley said, and J. Ivy made for a natural fit even though his is “an art form that may be surprising coming from AARP.”

In short, the organization wants to help Americans 50 and over with all aspects of their lives, from fitness and business to, yes, managing savings.

“Most people don’t want to be defined by one data point, which is how old they are,” Shipley said. Regarding responses to the new campaign, she added, “I just love hearing from people that we look cool.”


Agency: Grey New York
Client: AARP
Campaign: “Take on Today”

Chief Creative Officer: John Patroulis
Executive Creative Directors: Linda Mummiani and Caitlin Ewing
Group Creative Director: Jon Sayegh
Associate Creative Director/Art Director: Vicente Jorge
Associate Creative Director/Copywriter: Trent Davidson
EVP / Account Director: Irene Little
SVP / Account Director: Alan Perlman
VP / Account Director: Jennifer Luongo
Account Supervisor: Lauren Berger

Production Agency: Townhouse
Townhouse Head of Integrated Production: James McPherson
Townhouse Integrated Producer: Jennifer Truss
Townhouse Music Producer: David Steinberg

Production Company (location): Partizan
Director: Michael Williams
Director of Photography: Darren Tiernan
Editor (person & company): Jai Shukla at Nomad
Music/Sound Design (person & company): Jody Nazzaro at Super Exploder

Principal Talent: J. Ivy

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.