October 31st, 2009
05:27 PM ET

50on50: The Halloween "Demo" and H1N1 trick-or-treating


Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

Forty-seven days before I turn 50, I must interrupt my mission to destroy my industry's worship of the 18-49 audience demo, to bring you urgent health news. Today, we're all part of the same demo. The Halloween demo. And there's valuable advice to spread on how to proceed during this first H1N1 Halloween.

The advice comes from my CNN colleague, senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth is not a germophobe. She's always struck me as fairly laid back about these matters. Which is why she caught my attention on CNN's Campbell Brown last night with this very graphic advice:

"No grubby little paws in the bucket this Halloween. I'm handing out candy with gloves, and offering sanitizer squirts."

I hope, on this first H1N1 Halloween, that the Elizabeth Cohen method becomes, as they say on the web, viral. You can spread this link and retweet Elizabeth's message here

Elizabeth's advice certainly led my wife and me to start coaching our young children this morning not to eat their holiday candy until they wash their hands. Actually, my analytical wife observed, that's not good enough. What about the germs on all the wrappers they touch. It's gonna be a hard night of enforcement.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2007/US/10/31/halloween.offenders/art.halloween.kids.gi.jpg]

I just realized something. This is not just a health story. It fits right into what I consider the myth of the 18-49 demo.

The Under Armour shopping spree I described here yesterday may not be typical of my age, but it's not all that bizarre either.

And the fact that I'm about to turn 50 and have three trick-or-treating age children is also more common now than it was back in the day when 18-49 was first declared the golden audience target.

As I learned from Turner's audience research chief Jack Wakshlag, it's been about four decades since 18-49 became king. I had our 23-year-old editorial researcher Catherine Fowler do a little checking of her own. The census bureau did not break down the age of parents back in 1970 or 1980. But in the 1990s – more than 40 percent of households with parents 45 – 54 years had children under 18. We're still digging to see if there's a breakdown for the 13 and under prime trick-or-treaters.

We on-the-verge-of-50-year-olds only have to think back to our childhoods to know that when we were children, there weren't as many 45-54 year-olds who had young kids.

I hope this aging Halloween demo helps erode the ground beneath the 18-49 worshipers. But will those of us on the verge of being kicked out of the 18-49-year-old demo be able to surmount the hard facts thrown at my face by the head of Turner Broadcasting's audience research.

Come back to this space Monday to find out.

In the meantime, as Elizabeth Cohen advises, keep those grubby little paws out of the candy bowl.


Follow Michael Schulder's battle against getting kicked out of the 18-49 demo here

Filed under: Michael Schulder
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Judi Knight

    Ooooh I read this too late. I already raided my nephew's trick or treat bag, never thinking for one minute about all the germy little paws in the Halloween candy bowls. I was too busy feeling guilty about the sugar.

    November 2, 2009 at 12:17 am |
  2. Belle

    My neighbor's son was diagnosed with H1N1 on Friday afternoon. He was home with a fever of 104 Friday night. He was given Tamiflu and by Trick or Treat time on Saturday his fever was "only" 102 so she let him go trick or treating! I glad I decided not to give out candy this year!

    November 1, 2009 at 9:07 am |
  3. NightWriter357

    I didn't pass out any candy this year.

    November 1, 2009 at 2:25 am |
  4. Donna Barrus-Woodland CA

    Great idea, I work at a local high school and have always sanitized the desks in our room once a week, unless a student is sick and then each period. This year I have added a huge bottle of hand sanitizer to my desk and invite the students to use it. I'm not sure how well this will work in slowing the spread of H1N1, but it makes me feel better. Who knows by the time the H1N1 vaccines are available to the general public we all may have had this piggy flu. But if not I'll be in line for my shot along with everyone else. 🙂

    October 31, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  5. Diana Herrington

    I make sure that my actions show how much I care for the welfare of the children on this earth by not giving them sugary 'treat'. Give the Children Real Treats Instead of the Usual Sugary Path to Diabetes and Obesity! http://bit.ly/healthytreats

    October 31, 2009 at 7:20 pm |
  6. Sharon - Nova Scotia,Canada

    We always enjoyed letting the trick-or-treaters pick their favorite from the bowl. Not this year, and yes we have sanitizer by the door... We are having an exceptionally warm and clear Halloween on a Saturday night which should mean higher than average for us sub-division dwellers (150 trick-or-treaters). Still curious if H1N1 will prove the scariest part of Halloween for parents. So far it seems light and older kids out earlier, but still in the first hour of prime time....
    Oh and we are one of the "slightly over 50`s" who just celebrated the birth of our first beautiful Granddaughter! We`re all lucky in our own ways... (BTW We still *ask* their preference and Fuzzy Peach seems to be very popular.) Happy Halloween!

    October 31, 2009 at 6:05 pm |