Age has always been a contentious issue – especially in the world of marketing – and we are only just starting to see older faces in mainstream advertising.
We were excited when we saw Iris Apfel on the cover of Stylist. “Cool!” we thought. “Great to see a woman in her nineties looking rad on the cover of a magazine!” But then we started thinking about what this actually means.
It seems that brands are keen on using older women to promote their brands – but only to attract younger women. If you look at Iris Apfel’s range for MAC or Joan Didion’s advert for Céline, the focus is very much on enticing younger consumers to make a purchase. These are not brands particularly popular with the older generation. Why are older people not used to talk to older people about brands they would actually use?
Admittedly, Marks & Spencer does go some way to communicate with the older generation by featuring Twiggy in their adverts, but she isn’t that much of a radical choice and we feel this could be pushed further. We also struggle to think of a brand that uses older men in its advertising to speak to older men – life insurance adverts are the only ones that spring to mind.
This is disappointing as, in actual fact, many older people are more tapped into “the new thing” than their younger counterparts, whether that’s new technology like the Apple Watch or a new restaurant that’s just opened. Boomers have the time, and often the money, to spend on themselves, so why don’t we see more brands speaking to them? Even when it comes to an age neutral product like a pair of jeans, it is rare to see older people featured in a brand’s communications in a way that would actually attract Boomers (not in a beige advert at the back of a Sunday supplement).
We would love to see a brand speaking to older people and acknowledging their buying power, rather than using them as a commodity to sell to the younger generation.