Burrell named AARP Supplier of the Year

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Tony-winning actress Felicia Rashad

Tony-winning actress Felicia Rashad

Burrell Communications Group received 2017 “Supplier of the Year” honors from the American Association of Retired People (AARP) during a celebration at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in Washington, D.C. on November 15.

As multicultural agency of record for the nonprofit organization, the Michigan Ave. firm helps nearly twelve million people over the age of 50 enjoy AARP’s unique advantages.

According to Account Director Lorraine Miller, one of Burrell’s main objectives is to inform retirees that AARP offers access to benefits and resources far beyond the travel deals that have helped the organization become a household name.

Ursula Burns became the first female African American CEO of a Fortune 500 company at 51-years-old.
Ursula Burns became the first female African American CEO of a Fortune 500 company at 51-years-old.

“Our main charge is to communicate that AARP is the go-to resource for all the things that help people progress and live comfortably,” she says. “There is caregiving, job training, financial management, fraud watch, Social Security, Medicare, and much more.”

During her three-decade career, Miller has worked on a myriad of brands for Burrell including McDonald’s, P&G, and General Mills. She considers AARP among the most rewarding because it allows her to bolster how people think of aging.

Dr. Lonnie Bristow was the first African American appointed President of the American Medical Association, at 65.
Dr. Lonnie Bristow was the first African American appointed President of the American Medical Association, at 65.

“Any time we can do that positively,” she says, “we are up for the task.”

Miller says that the campaign for Black History Month — titled, You Did What After 50? — is an excellent example of how AARP’s unique message was shaped by Burrell’s signature creativity.

“We chose to highlight African Americans over fifty-years-old who did something totally unexpected in terms of health, wealth, and self,” Miller continues. “It gave us the opportunity to shatter perceptions about aging.”

Known as “disruptors,” the venerable achievers appeared in ads featuring their portraits alongside the headline, “She/He did what after 50?” that graced social media sites and national publications.

James Patterson completed his first Ironman triathlon at 52-years-old.
James Patterson completed his first Ironman triathlon at 52-years-old.

Miller describes them as “people who did something so unexpected that it demanded the reaction.”

Members in the group range from amateur athletes and students to famous celebrities and CEOs, with a billionaire in between. Besides being remarkable, their accomplishments reflect a crucial attribute of the target audience: African Americans remain far more active than other Americans after they reach the age of fifty.

 Cynthia Cornelius entered law school when she was 56-years-old and, after the campaign, proceeded to graduate and begin practicing.
Cynthia Cornelius entered law school when she was 56-years-old and, after the campaign, proceeded to graduate and begin practicing.

“Burrell monitors multicultural segments through an insight lab,” explains Miller. “It affords real-time market intelligence to monitor and supply accurate information.”

According to the results, African Americans over 50-years-old are likely to live in multigenerational households where the main wage earner is female and some form of caregiving is provided for or received by a close relative.

They are also “15% less likely than their white counterparts to have access to job-based retirement plans,” says Miller, adding, “that racial gap is concerning.”

Robert Johnson, 54-year-old, is the first African American billionaire.
Robert Johnson, 54-year-old, is the first African American billionaire.

But the women in charge — who run their households “out of necessity and pride” — maintain a positive outlook on life, regardless of the financial and health concerns that affect people of similar age.

“When you ask her how she feels, she’ll say ‘pretty good,” says Miller. “There is a lot of optimism.”

Additionally, she continues, “the 50+ segment is becoming more tech savvy every day.”

“African Americans are leading the charge on Twitter and Facebook,” she says. “They are more on that than our Anglo counterparts.”

Felicia Rashad became the first female African American actress to win a Tony Award — for her leading performance as Lena Younger in 2004’s “Raisin in the Sun” — at 56-years-old.
Felicia Rashad became the first female African American actress to win a Tony Award — for her leading performance as Lena Younger in 2004’s “Raisin in the Sun” — at 56-years-old.

The AARP addresses these details with benefits and resources that seem tailor made for African Americans over the age of 50.

In response, says Miller, “they feel very positive about the brand.”

Evidently, the feeling is mutual. Burrell recently started searching for a new class of African American disrupters to appear in another campaign scheduled for February 2018.

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