Hosted in collaboration with Shoreditch House, the second in a series of demographically-focused events offered an insight into older groups.
Often ignored and absent from advertising, in recent years we've seen an increase in the presence of older people within visual culture, with marketers paying them more attention. Last summer Selfridges’ "Bright Old Things" campaign celebrated more experienced creatives, Harvey Nichols marked Vogue’s centenary with a print ad featuring 100-year-old model Bo Gilbert and Helen Mirren became the new face of L'Oreal with a spin on the brand’s iconic tagline — “We’ve still got it. And we’re still worth it.”
On the morning of October 3rd, we were joined by a panel of speakers who examined the valuable opportunities this demographic offers, considering effective approaches others have already taken to targeting them, as well as revealing some insights from their own research. First on the panel was Rebecca Swift, Director of Creative Planning at iStock by Getty Images. Rebecca shared insights from her extensive research into visual trends, examining changes in the way that older people are being depicted within our culture.
Speaking alongside Rebecca was Marie Stafford, European Director at The Innovation Group, J. Walter Thompson’s creative think tank. She shared statistics from a recently released report from JWT Intelligence which considered a demographic dubbed "The Elastic Generation,” examining how they've challenged established and often stereotyped notions of what it means to age, and exploring how brands and agencies can better engage them.
Georgina Lee, Co-Founder of The Age of No Retirement also offered her perspective on the subject, sharing learnings from some of the organisation's recent projects. Founded in 2014, the organisation aims to tackle pervasive stereotypes about age, seeking to forge new opportunities for people across generations to come together and share research, thoughts and ideas — and take collaborative action against these divisive attitudes.
Here's what we learnt.
Stating that we've been “fed a diet of youth," Rebecca argued that age is something to be celebrated, not feared. It's this view of celebration and exuberance, that imagery of seniors needs to capture.
She revealed that over-60s are less likely to be depicted in a group, to be active and even to be seen expressing joy in stock photos than their younger counterparts. Despite this rather depressing discovery, the 45 – 60-year-old category is responsible for the biggest dating boom, contradicting the idea that getting older means a declining social life.
Rebecca noticed that images of seniors are often associated with a beige colour palette, but that this washed out visual language is starting to change. Recently, images featuring older people have become more vibrant, focussing firmly on vitality. She used the example of social media, highlighting the Instagram profiles of the likes of Baddie Winkle and Daphne Selfe, whose pages were colourful, dynamic and, importantly, cool.
She also showed Nike's “Unlimited Youth” ad, featuring 86-year-old nun, Sister Madonna Buder, a record-breaking Iron Man triathlete.
We're witnessing the older generation taking charge of how they're perceived, redefining how old age can appear. This colourful, youthful portrayal is becoming a more accurate representation of age, something that Getty Images is also working to promote.
The Elastic Generation
Marie shared insights and statistics from JWT's research into the 50 - 69-year-old demographic, exploring how they are marketed to and represented in adverts. The overriding answer was not very well – 76% of older people were said to not pay attention to advertising, believing it irrelevant to their lives. As much as 83% of advertisers tend to assume everyone over 50 is the same, leaving this group feeling largely patronised and pigeonholed. Advertising agencies are therefore losing a key demographic, given that 50 – 69-year-olds form roughly a quarter of the population.
Exploring how advertisers might win the hearts, and ultimately the wallets, of this key demographic, Marie stated that advertisers need to show that over-50 is still aspirational and that, as a demographic often overlooked and sidelined, advertisers need to let them know that they're listening.
Marie recognised that representations of older people in society are improving, for instance in the fashion industry, with senior models featured more often in adverts and on catwalks. She warned that this may be merely tokenism and not mirrored in real life, but that it's certainly an encouraging start.
She highlighted Virgin's “Unleash Your Mojo” campaign, an ad portraying an older couple as high-flying, glamorous and sexy, rejecting the notion that older generations are more reserved – a stereotype which, according to The Innovation Tank, is statistically untrue. 68% of the “elastic generation” have said they're more outspoken now than when they were younger, and 62% say they enjoy life more. Marie questioned why we tend to glamourise youth but not aspire to age, when this is a group which largely tends to enjoy life — without caring what people think.
A Unity For All
Georgina asked us to consider whether there is a more creative way of thinking about age, exploring whether it was possible to rethink our established perceptions of aging which have unfortunately been shaped by the ageism so deeply ingrained in society.
She talked us through some of the ways The Age of No Retirement has attempted to do just that, for instance through its Age Does Not Matter festival hosted at London's South Bank. Four days of events, installations, talks and other activities last month encouraged attendees to wake up to older demographics' potential and celebrated “a world where age no longer matters.”
The Story Exchange is another project which works to break down stereotypes associated with old age. An ongoing collection, it aims to change the narrative of aging by gathering stories which redefine it.
Georgina also spoke of the importance of collaboration, saying that when the wisdom of age is combined with the innovation of youth, the potential for magic is unleashed.
Thanks to our speakers and to Sam Bush for the photos above.
Location:Shoreditch House Library,
London, E1 6AW,
Start:3rd October, 2016 at 9:00am
End:3rd October, 2016 at 11:00am