Facebook and smartphone use skyrocketed among Romanian seniors after an experimental campaign by UK telecommunications giant Vodafone connected them with hungry Millennials.

A recent social experiment by British telecommunications provider Vodafone has resulted in a surge of senior citizens adopting smartphones and social media.

Believing that technology can fight the loneliness felt by many senior citizens, Vodafone - the most valuable brand in Europe, according to WPP - taught two grandmothers how to use social media. From there, the women, widowed roommates who love cooking and no longer have large families to feed, created Sunday lunch menus and shared them on Facebook, quickly connecting with college students who miss home-cooked meals.

"Their story is a living demonstration of how simple it is to connect and how easy it is to upgrade your life," says Laura Barbu, director of brand, marketing and communication for Vodafone. "With this campaign, we are aiming to touch everybody who is considering technology a 'not for me' subject, either because they consider it too complicated or because they don't clearly see its benefits."

After a documentary by McCann Bucharest about "Bunici de duminica" - or The Sunday Grannies, as the campaign's name translates in English - aired on TV, the women's apartment became a lunch hotspot. With more than 400,000 likes, their Facebook page became the second most popular campaign page in Romania.

Having since created a Facebook app for other grannies to organize their own pop-up lunches, Vodafone's campaign has garnered more than 380 million impressions. As a result of its success, there was a 20 percent increase in Romanian seniors with Facebook accounts. In addition, 4G smartphone sales got a 78 percent boost among the demographic.


Chris Kubbernus, chief executive (CEO) of social media management platform Choir, thinks the Sunday Grannies campaign is brilliant (Read more...) it manages to target two completely different demographics: the coveted Millennials and the largely-untapped senior citizen market. By getting more seniors to use smartphones and social media, more advertisers will be able to reach and target them. And Kubbernus thinks that because seniors didn't grow up using the Internet, they tend not to have the same ad blindness as their younger counterparts.

"Senior citizens online are less jaded. [Millennials are] totally blind to banner ads and Facebook ads because we've always had that, but if my grandmother was on Facebook, I bet you she'd click on more ads than I do because she isn't as desensitized as I am," Kubbernus says. "So there's an opportunity there once you do get them on these platforms; if you do really targeted advertising, they're more likely to click on [the ads]."

Kubbernus is impressed that Vodafone monetized a social media campaign, especially one that didn't promote any specific phone or data plan.

"[Vodafone] actually made sales from this. Beyond impressions, beyond Facebook likes, they showed some campaign ROI, which is also something that a lot of advertising agencies struggle with when it comes to these social campaigns," he says. "Vodafone and McCann were able to crack that code, and that's pretty spectacular."

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