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Advertising to the over 50s - how should we do it?

Patronised, labelled as old and stereotyped: advertisers are missing the mark with the over 50s. Our new research paints a bleak picture of how this important segment feels about the way they are marketed to.

advertising over 50s

N.B: This survey is from 2017. Read our brand-new data, which reveals which industries are the worst offenders and what advertisers need to do in order to better engage with the over 50s demographic.

The new survey of more than 1,000 Gransnet users and Mumsnet users aged 50+ reveals that:


  • Only 12% believe agencies creating ads really understand the 50+ age group (60% think they don’t)
  • 85% believe that ads aimed at older people rely on stereotypes
  • 79% say their age group is patronised by advertisers


Asked to rank the common marketing mistakes:


  • 63% say that brands don’t realise that 50 is not ‘old’
  • 61% don’t like the fact that ads assume that older people are a homogenous group, simply targeting ‘older people’ rather than individuals
  • 55% hate words like ‘older’, ‘silver’, ‘mature’ and ‘senior’
  • 28% dislike the casting of models and actors who are too young, while 19% disapprove of people who are too old portraying them in ads


According to the Office of National Statistics, the UK’s population is getting older. 51% of respondents say they shop around for a deal, so there’s a clear opportunity for brands to engage and win their custom.


  • 62% say they have more disposable income at 50 than they did when they were younger
  • A fifth (22%) describe themselves as a spender - life is for living and you may as well make the most of it while you can
  • And more than a third (31%) say that while they’re conservative in their own day to day life but generous with others, including any grandchildren and other family and friends


So how can brands strike the right note?


  • More than half (52%) say brands whose ads resonate with them win their custom
  • Almost a third (30%) say that they respond well to ads that make them feel something - ads that are funny, sad or surprising
  • Simply targeting consumers with the relevant product (26%) makes sense, and 17% like to see ads that engage with positive real-life experiences, like travel, grandparenting and socialising
  • 12% want to see realistic models or actors in their ads, and 10% want the ads to reflect themselves and their lives


Respondents named L’Oreal ("any ad featuring Helen Mirren"), Dove, White Hot Hair and M&S ("they use older models we can remember and relate to") as brands they believe are advertising well.


And what’s the best way of reaching this section of the market?


  • 77% react positively to a review from a peer (in real life, or online on a forum like Gransnet or Mumsnet)
  • Next most popular was magazine advertising, with a 41% positive response. TV ads came in at
  • 35% positive and although 19% responded positively to radio advertising, 27% felt negative about it
  • 47% responded negatively to Facebook advertising


Gransnet Editor Lara Crisp said, “What our users have made clear is that age should not be brought into the equation when it comes to marketing. They value peer to peer recommendations most highly, which makes sense as there’s no hard sell. Advertisers need to take more care not to patronise this demographic, and should focus on producing ads that don’t rely on outdated stereotypes of older people.”

Jane Stocks, Acting Head of National Marketing for BMI Healthcare, said, "I work with Gransnet often to talk to, listen to and hear what our customers want. Then we deliver it. Simple. And it works. We've done repeat campaigns on Gransnet because we've found them so successful in reaching an otherwise elusive target audience." 


Read the full survey results here or take a look at our infographic here.

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