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Ageism in the Advertising Industry – Older People are being Ignored

December 12, 2019  · 2 min read

In the advertising industry, where campaigns against racism, sexism and discrimination are tremendously common, ageism in its practices remains a huge issue. "It's a Peter Pan industry”, says Bensman, an Italian, Florida-based senior writer who turned 57 this year. Fewer people rise to the top and the others just burn out and get let go.



According to AdAge, in 2017, the majority (63%) of professionals in advertising, public relations and related services were under 45 years of age. 79 % employees in the advertising and marketing sector agree that the sector comes across as ageist.[i] Rory Sutherland, Ogilvy’s Vice Chairman, explains this issue as below.


“Advertising, by failing to ally itself to any recognisable science or body of knowledge, does not really pay a premium for experience. Every argument, every point of view, has to be defended from scratch. This becomes increasingly frustrating with time.” [ii]


It does not stop there. In 2018, AARP analyzed a random sample of more than 1,000 images taken from news pages, social media channels and blogs. Although 46% of the U.S. adult population is aged 50 and older, only 15% of the images contain members of that age group.



An additional myth perpetuated throughout society is that older people spend their money quite prudently. This misconception is debunked in a recent report from Nielsen,[iii] which explains that older people make up 49% of sales for consumer goods and services.  In fact, older people are the most valuable generation in the history of marketing, yet are ignored as only 5% of all advertising are targeted to adults aged 35-64. If only 5% is targeted towards this age group those over the age of 65, who arguably have the greatest spending power in our history are being completely overlooked by the industry.


The world needs experienced, creative, older people in the advertising industry. Brands need to target not only a younger audience a greater priority in needed for older consumers. Ultimately, we need to achieve balance. Balance in the work place, balance in the audiences and, most of all, balance in our approaches to advertising and marketing. The IFA currently partner with WHO to host a series of webinars that are part of an ongoing dialogue to bring to knowledge, new ideas and innovation around age-friendly environments and to end ageism.


The IFA also works alongside intergovernmental agencies and its members and supporters to combat ageism by: viewing all organisational priorities through the lens of equity; representation at the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing; membership in the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People; alignment of priorities with the WHO and UN; and committed to the central theme of “Rights Matter” at the IFA’s 15th Global Conference on Ageing (1-3 November 2020).


[1] https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/why-ageism-adlands-next-frontier/1416455


 [1] https://www.directnewideas.com/magazine/?id=1352


 [1] https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/report/2012/introducing-boomers--marketing-s-most-valuable-generation/


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