Ad industry failing to represent older people

The advertising industry may be “failing” to represent older people, instead reinforcing damaging stereotypes about ageing (according to a new report from the Centre for Ageing Better) but the experience at Griffin Media Solutions is entirely different.

Discussed in Marketing Week, the research finds that many adverts portray older people as sad and lonely – usually sitting in a chair or staring out of the window. Adverts for anti-ageing products speak of avoiding the negative effects of ageing, reinforcing the idea that ageing results in decline and is something to fight against.

“Over-50s make up over half of consumer spending, and yet can only expect to see people their age represented in adverts about pensions or funerals – or for products that claim to ‘fight’ the ageing process,” comments Anna Dixon, CEO at the Centre for Ageing Better. “There’s a huge lack of representation of older people in mainstream advertising, so when the few adverts that do show older people play to stereotypes, these become deeply reinforcing.

“These outdated stereotypes have a damaging impact, affecting how individuals feel about themselves and how we as a society think about later life. But they also risk alienating customers and missing out on potential sales to this age group.”

Gildas Walton, CEO at Griffin Media Solutions, agrees:

“Many agencies appear to have a hard time when it comes to helping their customers market products and services to the 50+ markets. For one thing, there is more than one market out there – a fact that is often overlooked. We are living longer and healthier lives, so marketing to a 50 year old can be entirely different to someone in their 80s.

“At times, depending on the item or the system being sold, there may be a need to take a more thoughtful tone, for example when reaching people with specific health needs who seek to make daily living easier, more comfortable and enjoyable.

“We’ve been successfully helping our clients forge respectful – and fun – relationships with older consumers for over a decade. It makes financial sense and has a definite feel-good factor too.”

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