are By Steve Moran

Someone posted an article on LinkedIn titled  “Ageism in ads “– why are brands still failing to properly represent older women?” The answer is so obvious that it is hard to imagine why they asked the question. What I am not quite sure of is this:

Is it really agism?

First The Article

According to the article the advertising industry is aware of the problem and has even tried to change, but more needs to be done. 

  • Older people make up more than a third of the US population but are only represented in 15% of ads.
  • When they do appear it is largely in a home setting with an older partner or medical professional. They are rarely portrayed as workers.
  • Older women are even more underrepresented than men.
  • Beauty and self-care are the worst (more on this).
  • There are massive numbers of ads that sell “anti-aging cures”, further stigmatizing growing older. 
  • The number of people working in ad agencies and making ad-buy decisions, and are age 50 and older, is very small.


As someone old enough to be impacted by ageism, I am sensitive to the issue. But I don’t think advertising is where the problem is. Advertising is 100% fake. It promises something that a product or service can never really deliver or at least deliver for a sustained period of time. Advertisers would use older people, and more specifically older women, if it were effective. But it’s not.

It’s a simple answer.

There are reasons for this:

  • You rarely see an ugly person in an ad. This is because ads with unattractive people are not as effective as ads with attractive people, regardless of age.
  • Ads, at their heart, promise that if you purchase whatever they are selling you will look like or feel like the actors and actresses. While rarely true, it is a formula that works. No one wants to purchase a product that is going to make them feel old or unattractive.
  • Older people are less susceptible to advertising. While they typically have more disposable income they are also less likely to be swayed by the promises of advertising. In many cases, they have largely settled on products and brands that work well for them.

The Bigger Problem

The bigger problem is much more subtle. It is the patronizing way older people are treated every day in businesses and even in senior living. I have heard way too many stories from residents whose views don’t count for much because they are residents and because they are older.

We need to be combating ageism. But we need to do it where it counts, and ignore silliness.