Epoch Strategy Director Alex Murrell wrote a fascinating piece a couple years ago on “The Ageism in Advertising” and the knee-jerk way that marketers obsess over younger generations.
Alex cited that only 5% of advertising spend is targeted to adults aged 35-64, despite the fact that over 50s hold 80% of the wealth (in the UK), make up 60% of car sales, 58% of travel spending, 50% of health and beauty sales, and 49% of all FMCG sales.
He concluded that “the over 50s are one of the largest, wealthiest and most underserved audiences available … the fact that the over 50s are so dramatically under-represented in our advertising appears to be commercially reckless.”
Ad Contrarian Bob Hoffman put it this way:
“Marketers, it seems, would rather pander fruitlessly to young people than make real money selling things to old people. The idea of people over 50 driving their cars, drinking their coffee, eating their hamburgers, and wearing their sneakers is so appalling and such an embarrassment that they willfully ignore and disparage the most valuable economic group in the history of the world.”
Meanwhile, the hype machine is already ramping up for Generation Alpha — kids under 10, “the tech-savvy young children of Millennials whose rising influence could soon make Gen Z an afterthought,” as one AdAge article breathlessly put it.
Ryan Wallman observed that “marketers will continue to ignore all consumers over the age of 35, unless someone discovers a way to put these consumers on the blockchain.”
Advertising veteran Cindy Gallop has long led the charge against ageism in advertising. I like how she argues that the ad industry flip the aspiration of age:
“What advertising does, and has done very effectively for centuries, is basically create aspirational culture. Fundamentally, advertising’s job is to make people buy things. There is this very mistaken thinking at the moment that everyone aspires to be young. For older people, that is not the case at all.
“We are comfortable. We should tap into the aspiration of age … When you’re this age, you don’t give a shit. We have the confidence that comes with age. We know by now what really matters in life. We feel free to express our individuality however we want. We have better relationships because we know what really matters. We’re experienced. We are starting businesses.
“If only advertising talked to us in a way that made us feel we were the primary target, we would spend that money big time. Lead what’s aspirational about being older and the young will follow.”
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: