December 12, 2023
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” “Let’s hire a young person to run our social media; the older creatives don’t get it,” and “Clients want to hear from a younger strategist who’s keeping up with the latest trends.” We’ve all heard these statements before, usually in the boardroom of a brand or agency and if you are like me, before I knew any better, you’ve probably even spoken one of them, or at least thought it.
In the world of marketing and advertising, professionals are standing at a critical juncture where they have the power to forge real change against ageism, an issue deeply embedded within the industry. Considering the burgeoning Longevity Economy, this is not just a societal or ethical mandate but an economic one.
The Longevity Economy, as defined by MIT’s AGE LAB, recognizes the significant socio-economic impact of a demographic shift towards an older population. This shift is characterized by an increasing number of individuals over 50, fuelled by lower birth rates and higher life expectancy. Far from being a niche, this segment has been termed the third largest economy in the world, following the US and China, with over $8 trillion in the United States alone. Yet, despite its size and influence, ageism has clouded the market’s vision, hindering progress.
Ageism in the workplace, particularly in marketing and communications, manifests through the undervaluation of experience and a bias towards younger employees. The results of a recent Canadian Marketing Association DEI survey highlight this bias, with 44% of marketers acknowledging that age-based discrimination is more tolerated than other forms. Such discrimination not only harms the workforce and the work environment but also limits business potential. A multigenerational workforce has been proven to yield more productivity and better results, fostering creativity and innovation through diverse perspectives.
The misrepresentation of older adults in marketing is another reflection of ageist views. This demographic is often either underrepresented or portrayed in a stereotypical manner that doesn’t reflect their actual lifestyles or capabilities. Such narrow portrayals not only skew public perception but also neglect a consumer base willing to shift loyalties when brands fail to resonate with them.
However, there are shining examples of organizations that have successfully targeted aging consumers. Dove’s Pro-Age campaign, Toyota Venza’s “Keep on Rolling” ads, and initiatives by Merrill Lynch and Nike demonstrate the potential of embracing and celebrating life at all stages. These campaigns not only challenge stereotypes but also engage with the aging population in meaningful ways.
To begin addressing ageism, the marketing and communication community must first acknowledge its existence. Inclusion of age in DEI policies, recruitment biases – unconscious or not, engagement strategies tailored towards older employees, and an educational approach towards the benefits of a multigenerational workforce are key steps. Moreover, marketers must look beyond traditional demographic segmentation, and understand that the over-50 cohort is incredibly diverse, with distinct preferences and behaviours.
Authentic representation of older audiences, stretching brand propositions to embrace new audience behaviours and aspirations and creating communication that resonates with the true nature of the aging population are not only the right things to do but also smart business strategies.
Junction59, along with our partners at Candela and YouAreUNLTD have come together under the umbrella of 3rd State to create the Ageless Universe Initiative, a multi-phased campaign with the aim to dismantle ageism in the workforce and the work produced by the industry. If you are a marketer or communicator, I encourage you to learn more about the impact ageism has on our industry and support this change, showing that our industry is not just about selling products but about shaping society and influencing cultural norms. The time to act is now, with the opportunity to lead a new narrative that not only rejects ageism but also harnesses the untapped potential of an aging world. Learn more and consider signing the Ageless Universe pledge today, there is Superpower in the aging world!