By Digital Account Manager Kira Gilbert

As an independent agency, we’re conscious to ensure that we’re being diverse, equal and inclusive for all our team, clients and media partners.


Since coming back after Covid, some of our team have completed the IPA Diversity and Inclusion Essential Certificate and we have implemented a bi-weekly diversity forum; whilst we’re doing our best to respect, represent and understand all demographics within our day to day, we believe that ageism in advertising is a larger issue that the industry as a collective, need to become more accountable for.


It’s a privilege to work in an Industry that is innovative, data-driven and fast-paced. Since starting my job at The Village, not once have I felt like I’ve known it all - there has always been something to learn, something to read and a LinkedIn debate to get involved with. Recently a few others and I found ourselves heading down a bit of a rabbit hole regarding ageism, and, being an often overlooked topic in the industry, we thought it worth throwing our hat into the ring.


Throughout the past few years, Diversity has become (and remains) an important topic for companies around the World.  Perhaps encouraged in a post Covid world of flexible working, where it’s now, arguably, frowned upon for a company to demand 5 working days in the office, for a boss not to understand that a working parent needs flexibility for the school drop-off and so on.  Industry changes and new workplace cultures are being noticed, lots being spoken about daily and yet there are perhaps some areas being left behind.


When I ask many about what diversity covers, gender, race, sexual orientation, and religion are the first reeled off. When I push and ask, ‘can you think of anything else that needs to be considered?’ I'll hear ‘physical ability’ but very rarely do I hear ageism being an answer.  Of course, I didn’t do a 100+ people survey here, but those I did ask work in the media industry. 


All elements of Diversity and Inclusion are of course pivotal, but it’s not a secret that ageism in advertising remains a very visible prejudice. By no means am I saying that I’m the perfect marketeer, and I’m certainly not claiming to focus 50% of every client’s media spend on targeting 55+ - I write this having run campaigns for the likes of Lil-lets and Lambrini - perhaps I’m part of the issue in saying this, but even I can agree these ads should be only seen by a younger audience.  As a company however, we are lucky enough to work with Santhem Residences, a luxury retirement home in Essex, and it’s made us some-what familiar with older audiences and their behaviours. We’re aware that these are an audience not to be ignored. 


According to Campaign, the UK’s over 50’s control £6.2 trillion in assets, hold nearly 70% of all UK household wealth and are rapidly becoming the biggest spenders in every category, yet only 15% of media images include the appearance of them! We’re missing a trick.


As mentioned, having strategised campaigns that focus primarily on 55+, I can confirm that they’re not spending their days purchasing hearing aids and stair lifts whilst asking their grandchildren how to take a photo on their mobiles. In fact, we can learn, through research, that the over 50s are one of the most active demographics out there; many living to spend their hard earned wealth. According to Age Majority, experts in marketing to older consumers, three-quarters of  aged 55+ control around 70% of the US.  They’ve categorised these as ‘Active Agers’, representing older consumers who are mentally, socially, and digitally agile. Is this really a group to be ignored?


Sure, they want to relax too (as do I) but they are keen travellers and gamers who love to spend money within the entertainment industry. The stereotype that they have little motivation for socialising and a desire to hold onto their wealth as a security blanket is antiquated, as well as insulting.


This is all supported by the demographic themselves too, with a huge 72% of the 50+ community feeling as though the media’s perception of their lifestyle is outdated.  It begs me to think where this stems from and, when looking at the workforce, only 4% of adland employee’s are 55-64yrs old.  Compare this to the 17% in the general UK workforce, perhaps the lack of awareness is coming from a lack of presence?  Arguably, they’re being overlooked as a target demographic and to put them in an ‘Over 50s’ box lacks validation. I mean, imagine if we planned all campaigns based on age-brackets alone? We wouldn’t... Well, turns out we do when it hits the big 50.


When I think about it, there are many times where immediate assumptions defy logic.  When presenting to a client there’s the overwhelming response that ‘newer’ channels will only be understood and therefore used, by younger audiences.  Or there’s the perception that their ‘core target audience’ are 25-50 - why stop there?


MullenLowe’s research analysis highlighted seven segments for the older demographic, considering their interests, desires and needs via in-depth interviews and debunking those prejudices! These are as follows…


The Caring Conformists - 15% of UK adults - family, community and health conscious and will often choose the lower price brands.


Security Seekers - 14% of UK adults -consume lots of TV and appreciate an ad that amuses them.


Savvy Spenders - 18% of UK adults - impulse spenders but know how to do so on a budget


Carefree Hedonists - 12% of UK adults - committed to those brands they know and love and most comfortable on their current income.


Experience Lovers - 13% of UK adults - always wanting more and want to be entertained and inspired to act upon seeing an ad.


Accountable Citizens - 13% of UK adults - passionate about nature and the environment.


Social Progressives - 14% of UK adults - will respond to ads if informative, genuine and enjoyable.


So, to summarise, they care about themselves, their health, their family and the environment.  They spend, they’re social and they want to be entertained and will act upon seeing the right ad. Doesn’t make an awful lot of sense as to why they’re being left behind with so many brands.


If nothing else, with The Village having just a tiny understanding of this issue, we as an agency will do our best to contribute towards changing the advertising strategy within our relevant brands.  Whilst we always run data checks into our brands and audiences, never taking preconceived target demographics at face value, we’ll continuously challenge the questions of how we can make our brands resonate with such a striving, social and open-minded demographic. Brands and agencies constantly strive to ensure their ads are as impactful and relevant to meet their consumer needs and I hope that we’re soon able to close the gap between brands and 55+, ultimately, becoming seen.