Two-thirds of older Brits feel stereotyped in ads, and it could be due to 'the Brexit effect'


By Rebecca Stewart | Trends Editor

July 5, 2018 | 4 min read

Despite progress made by brands like Dove, Missguided and L'Oréal, two thirds of older Brits still feel as though they're stereotyped in ads, and the problem could be getting worse because of a so-called 'Brexit effect'.

68% of those over 65 believe ads often stereotype people in their age bracket, according to research from media agency UM.

The study, which questioned 2,000 people, found that 21% of all Brits thought perceptions of older people in the media have actually worsened over the past three years, with 33% of those aged 65-plus agreeing.

Missguided teamed up with 89-year-old model Baddie Winkle for a clothing range and campaign in 2016

Missguided teamed up with 89-year-old model Baddie Winkle for a clothing range and campaign in 2016

Overall, 62% of those studied agreed that the 'Brexit effect' – a negative perception of the elderly as a result of some arms of the media citing older voters as the main reason for Britain's exit from the EU – as the main culprit for an increase in discourteous representations of the elderly in media and advertising.

Over 65s said the most 'frustrating' stereotype perpetrated by marketers was that older people are inept with technology, with 26% saying they were offended by the term 'silver surfer'.

57% said they were perturbed by the cliché that older people were physically decrepit, while 59% thought advertisers treated them as ‘having nothing interesting to say’.

A further 66% of those aged 65-plus said they believed society tries to ‘sweep them under the rug’.

Meanwhile, almost half of the public (46%) said they wanted to see more older people in ads, but 44% said the main reason why this demographic didn't appeal to brands is because they weren't attractive to audiences.

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“It might seem obvious to suggest older people have interests that go beyond river cruises and funeral insurance, but this isn’t immediately apparent when looking at ads targeting them," said Sophia Durrani, managing partner of strategy at UM.

"Advertisers just don’t seem to recognise that offending a sizeable (and, let’s not forget, typically wealthy) slice of the UK population with crude stereotypes and assumptions, and even in how they refer to them, will not make this audience well-disposed towards their brands.

"The message here is that, while it’s possible to offend people through tactless, simplistic creative, you can also do so by not addressing people at all."

The research follows on from a study last year by YouGov which found that while people aged 50 and above represent around two fifths of the UK population, 68% of those who fall into the age bracket don’t believe that they are accurately reflected in advertising.

Big name brands like L'Oréal and Missguided (who teamed up with 89-year-old model Baddie Winkle for a clothing range and campaign in 2016) have made a concerted push to both appeal to or include older people in their marketing.

According to loyalty analysis firm Coniq, over 50s spend accounts for over £320bn of UK spending – an effect also known as 'the grey pound'.

UM's research follows on from research into both representations of class and disability in ads.


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