When you think about it, there is little downside to making a marketing message easier to access, whether the target is seniors, millennials, or anyone in between.
By Paul Flowers, Circa 46, a Senior Housing Forum partner
It should not be a surprise that as we age our vision tends to decline, making it more difficult to read. Yet, time and again, advertising that targets older adults does not take these vision changes into consideration – often because the ad creator is younger and does not have or recognize those vision barriers. As a result, the advertising message is often hard for the senior to read and ultimately ineffective.
Some of the manifestations of vision decline include:
- Declining sharpness of detail, which impacts a senior’s ability to read small or reversed type.
- Inability to discern contrast, making it harder to read words that are printed over patterns or pictures.
- Less definition between colors, creating difficulty reading colored type on a colored background.
In short, words and backgrounds tend to blend together visually.
(If you want to see how these issues impact readability, download the PDF at the end of this article that demonstrates these effects.)
Communicating with Clarity
However, there are some rules that can be used to make it easier for a senior audience to read an advertising message:
- Use a larger type size. Body copy typeface should be at least 12-14 point size – which is why most word processing programs default to a 12-point type size. Never go smaller when directing a message to seniors!
- Use common typefaces. The familiarity of common fonts makes reading easier in any circumstance. Printing these fonts in a heavier or bolder typeface improves message delivery even further.
- Stay away from reversed type – especially in large copy blocks – and use italics sparingly. (Advertising icon, David Ogilvy, once suggested that if an advertiser was ever required to post a disclaimer in an ad that he did not want to show his customer, he should print the disclaimer in small, italic, reversed type. Ogilvy assured that no customer would ever read the disclaimer.)
- Keep the area around the copy uncluttered, with generous margins. By doing so, the text will not have to compete against other elements visually. It also helps readability if the copy is justified on the left side.
- Shoot for maximum contrast between the text and the background on which the text appears.
While these rules are suggested for advertising to older adults, they are generally consistent with good advertising technique, whether you are advertising to seniors or their grandchildren.
These rules are also applicable for online advertising. Furthermore, it is a good idea to limit the number of points made on a page, when displaying text on a website. Keep the copy in bite-sized chunks, as too much text makes the messaging more difficult to read, whether on a monitor, tablet of smartphone.
Another change that impacts the way we communicate to older adults online is physical. Declining dexterity makes it more difficult for older adults to manipulate a mouse – which consequently impairs their ability to navigate a website. There are a couple of easy fixes to address this barrier:
- Make buttons on the website larger. This allows the senior to navigate a site without having to be precise in his or her mouse manipulation. The same goes for drop-down menus – make them large so mouse precision is not an issue.
- Simplify navigation of the website. Actually, this relates to mouse manipulation, too. Simpler navigation requires fewer mouse movements to work through a site.
It is worth repeating that these fixes are generally consistent with good advertising technique, too.
When you think about it, there is little downside to making a marketing message easier to access, whether the target is seniors, Millennials, or anyone in between.