Combating Ageism Within the Advertising Industry

Combating Ageism Within the Advertising Industry

Say your age

3rdThird backs the #sayyourage campaign by encouraging individuals to own their age

As an agency specializing in communicating with people in their 3rd third of life, 3rdThird Marketing works diligently to remove ageism from advertising content and to help educate our clients about unconscious ageist messages or images that might slip into marketing materials. Ageism is defined as a prejudice or discrimination based on the grounds of a person’s age. It’s one of our last “isms” to tackle as a society, right along with sexism and racism.

Ageism is prevalent in modern advertising and marketing content because, let’s face it, we’re a culture that values and celebrates youth, and youth alone. It all started in the 1960s with advertising to teenage baby boomers, and our youth obsession has never stopped.

Advertisements often over-emphasize being youthful and the benefits of being young, while those who are considered “older” are too often left out or depicted as being less “vibrant” than their youthful counterparts. In reality, most people in their 3rd third don’t yearn to be young, but young people aspire to one day become like them—wise, mature, self-confident and comfortable in their own skin.

The way we view age in the advertising industry needs to change. As it presently stands, a large share of the market is being overlooked because they don’t resemble the youthful image of society’s ideal consumer.

To tackle marketing issues and discuss current industry trends as a team, 3rdThird meets every other Thursday for 3rdstyThursday. Not only is this a fun time for us as an agency to collaborate and eat delicious treats, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to dive into current marketing issues and trends.

Each 3rdstyThursday meeting is led by a different 3rdThird team member. This last Thursday, in a presentation hosted by our interactive marketing director, Trish Mayer, we learned how age is viewed differently around the world. This was a very intriguing topic to cover because the way we view age varies so greatly from culture to culture, showing us that attitudes towards aging are fluid, including our own. For example, people across the globe have various beliefs about how to age healthily. Here in the United States, we believe that regular visits to the doctor is the key ingredient to aging well. Meanwhile, individuals in India believe that the key is feeling respected by society, while, those in the U.K. believe it’s keeping a good sense of humor. (We like the Brit’s approach, so strike up Monty Python’s song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!”)

As an agency, we are thrilled to see ageism beginning to be addressed in the media and becoming a more mainstream topic. In an AdAge Magazine op-ed piece entitled “As an Industry We Can Battle Ageism,” writer Cindy Gallop encourages agency professionals to act to end ageism and to “own your age.” Aging should not be frowned upon or feared, she says; instead it should be celebrated. Aging is a learning experience that gives you the self-confidence, power, and knowledge to excel in life. If we didn’t age, we wouldn’t be who we are today because, as Cindy puts it, “You are the sum total of all your learnings and life experiences to date and that’s what makes you valuable.” We’re sharing Cindy’s article here. Enjoy!

AS AN INDUSTRY, WE CAN BATTLE AGEISM

Advertising has the power to change perceptions-here’s how to do it
By Cindy Gallop

A proud 59-year-old, I’ve been championing the power of age in the advertising industry for years. We are a powerful force in popular culture with the ability to shape what people think, believe and do. We can change the way aging is depicted in advertising by changing ageism within the ad industry itself. If we do that, we can change the way society views aging. So I’m asking all of you to help eradicate the one ‘ism’ that affects every single one of us-because we all age. Here are some powerful actions you can take to end ageism.

Do what we’re great at: reshape culture
For too long, we’ve been part of perpetuating a culture that celebrates youth. Tap into the aspiration of age. We’re very happy with who we are. We don’t aspire to be young. But young people aspire to be us.

Here’s why:

  • We don’t give a shit.
  • We have self-confidence that comes with age.
  • We know what really matters.
  • We’re free to express our individuality.
  • We’ve developed our own sense of personal style.
  • We have better relationships because we know what really matters.
  • We’re experienced-at everything.
  • We’re starting businesses at the highest rate of any entrepreneur group.
  • We have money to spend.

So lead with what’s aspirational about being older, and the young will follow-not the other way round.

Show us as we really are
We don’t look, dress or act like those old-people ad clichés. But we don flirt, date, fall in love and have sex. You can tell great brand stories with us at the center, behaving as we do in real life.

So next time you cast an ad, cast older.

Conduct the thought exercise of “If we were to target people 40 and over with this brand, what would that look like?”
Research older consumers’ attitudes and behavior toward your brand; quantify the opportunity with them; identify the trends that would make your brand especially compelling to them. At the very least, it’ll make you think differently; at best, you might find you have a huge money-making opportunity.

Use or pioneer the data
AARP has a wealth of data, insights and trends-everything you need to do all of the research. But you can add older respondents into any research you are doing. Broaden the age range of who you’re talking to, and see what they have to say.
Pioneer an insightful, newsworthy research study into over-40s as the marketing target of today-and coin new, creative terminology.

There’s a new study on the habits of millennials released pretty much every week. Be the first to do a study on over-40s, over-50s, over-60s. We hear that millennials are “killing” this thing and that thing… why not identify instead of what older people are “birthing?” And while we’re at it, let’s have some new names. It’s time we retired “boomer.”
When you’re told the target is youth and millennials, ask “Why?”
Seriously. Ask why. Have the discussion with your client or agency.

Change up your teams
Create cross-generational work interactions at every opportunity. Keep hierarchical structures flat. Put the youngest person on the team in charge of leading the team. Bring in older, more experienced people to be “part of”, not “in charge of”, a team.
Introduce a “menternship” scheme by recruiting older people to provide mentorship and experience in return for opportunity and skill-building.

Hire the biggest industry growth driver-expertise
Think how much smoother your business would run if your employees know exactly what to do in a crisis because they’d seen it all before. If they were able to analyze any business situation to get to a solution quickly; stay calm under pressure; are great people managers; have excellent craft skills and technical capabilities; and are extremely time- and cost-efficient?
Guess what? There’s a ton of is out there who deliver on all of that.

Test-drive us
Identify upcoming employee “gaps” (parental leave; sabbaticals; vacations; sick leave) or short-term opportunities (pitches; projects; experiments) and actively look to fill them with older, expert candidates. Brief HR, your recruiter, your employees to search out candidates and make recommendations for short-term positions.
Actively seek older candidates for open positions and be straightforward that salary trade-offs are balanced with opportunity and the chance to gain new experience/training and to build up their resume.

Lastly, #sayyourage
Own your age. You are the sum total of all your learning and life experiences to date, and that’s what makes you valuable. Ageism exists at every point along the age spectrum. You can be dismissed for being too young as well as for being too old. Be proud to #sayyourage all the way through your career and life, because that’s another small way we can change ageism for all of us.

Say your age

Above: 3rdThird Marketing team at 3rdstyThursday joins in on the #sayyourage campaign by owning their ages