Is promoting lastly addressing its age downside?

Advertising’s age problem has been well documented over the years. If you’re over 50, you’ve probably noticed the conspicuous absence of people who look like you in adverts, while marketing campaigns that do target older consumers tend to lump them together as one homogeneous group: the Saga generation, if you will. This is all despite the fact that the over-50s make up a growing portion of the ­global population and in the UK alone have a reported ­spending power of £320 million.

The ad world’s unrealistic and out-of-touch ­approach to depicting ageing is indicative of a ­wider societal problem, but it is also exacerbated by the ­industry’s insatiable obsession with youth, says ­Havas chief creative officer Vicki Maguire. “Creativity is ageless. It’s only when you get near the commercial arts, and especially advertising, where as an industry we ­always seem to chase the new. What we have traditionally done is attached fresh, vibrant, new and change with youth. Quite frankly, that’s bollocks, but we are a very short-sighted and navel-gazing industry, and that is to our detriment.”

The makeup of the industry certainly doesn’t help either, with the latest IPA census revealing that the average age of employees in creative agencies is just 36. “There seems to be an age cap where it all gets a bit Logan’s Run and you’re deemed to be spent,” says Jules Chalkley, chief executive creative director at Ogilvy UK. “We have to have fresh talent coming in that is adept at media platforms that are being created all the time. But equally, we shouldn’t be too quick to let go of more experienced talent. The craft capability that is locked up in those individuals, the experience, the knowledge, it’s a real shame we lose it.”

Top: Photo by Willie B Thomas from the American Association of Retired Persons’ ongoing collaboration with Getty Images; Above: Nike’s Unlimited Youth advert, featuring 82-year-old Ironman triathlete, Sister Madonna Buder

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