Older Australians treated as ‘brain dead’ by ‘patronising’ advertisers – survey

A large number of Australians over the age of 50 think advertising directed at them is patronising, a survey has found.

Online research into 5,402 Australians from the age of 50 to over 80 revealed that 40.5% of this group feel patronised by advertising.

Only 8.1% find ads to be entertaining, while 33.9% say they are informative, the research found.

One comment from a survey respondent read: “It appears that we either do not exist – or are treated as if we’re brain dead.”

Another read: “Just because I’m a little bit older doesn’t mean everything has to be dumbed down.”

The survey, by publisher YourLifeChoices between August and September this year, also revealed attitudes to media among seniors.

The older age group is more likely to get their daily news online than in a newspaper – although print is the medium they trust the most.

TV tops the list of daily news sources, followed by online, radio then print. Smart phone apps are the least likely source of news.

Mobile is the least trusted advertising medium among over fifties.

But the smart phone is the technology that this group is most likely to buy over the next 12 months.

The internet is the most popular tool for researching purchases before buying – followed by word of mouth. Direct mail was next, above newspapers, magazines, TV and radio.

Kaye Fallick, publisher at YourLifeChoices, concluded from the research that older Australians are being underestimated by advertisers.

“It seems inconceivable that the 24% of the Australian population holding 56% of the net assets have to beg to spend their money. Consumers aged 50, 60 and beyond have twice the money and even more time to purchase goods and services,” she said.

“They are researching and purchasing online, often via a mobile device. But no one is listening and even fewer brands are engaging with this potentially lucrative sector.”

“So is this lack of success evidence of ageism, a dearth of older creative heads in agencyland or a lack of useful insights into what older Australians really want? Sadly I think it’s all three,” she said.


  1. Peter Cox
    3 Oct 12
    1:07 pm

  2. I have been arguing the importance of the older generation for many years because of the pig in the python effect of the baby boomers, their large share of wealth, increased leisure time and interests including health, travel, holidays, life style and financial investments. As you can see from the research they are comfortable with online and smartphones. Yet i am on an industry body that wants to take the 55+ demos out of recommended core trading demographics.

  3. Joey
    3 Oct 12
    1:09 pm

  4. On the other side of the coin, one thing I cannot understand is why retirement home companies promote themselves to people aged 50+. WTF!!! I find that patronising (I’m 58).

    My parents are in their 80s and they think a retirement home is total anathema.

    And yes, ageism is rife in adland.

  5. Paul Pascall
    3 Oct 12
    1:10 pm

  6. Most advertising assumes that the majority of people are idiots, which could be true when you see who we have running the country!!!!!!!!

  7. Serena
    3 Oct 12
    1:44 pm

  8. Well, people vote in politicians of all persuasions, some of whom take turns in running the country. The quality of political debate does suggest that the majority of voters take no interest in important matters and advertising is trivialized to match. Hardly surprising then that the social media crowd don’t recognise or respect the power of the 50+ generation or care that their advertisements are ineffective in persuading this economically important demographic. Nor does the retail industry appreciate that the attractiveness of buying online is that one has a wide choice of products, attractive pricing, good service and since generally the cost of transport exceeds 10% of the price, GST or not GST is not an issue. Ordering an import through a local retailer is time consuming and economically crazy.

  9. Tony Richardson
    3 Oct 12
    1:49 pm

  10. No mystery here.

    The ‘creators’ and ‘approvers’ of advertising are all fired before their 40th birthdays – hence a complete (and understandable) lack of understanding or interest in the over 50s.

  11. Deborah
    3 Oct 12
    1:56 pm

  12. As editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly from 1999-2008 I spent a lot of time trying to convince advertisers to relook at the way they targeted 50 plus – and to even consider this age group at all. Almost every time I went to the launch of a new product it would cut out at around 40 in terms of the target audience. The 50’s and over make up a large proportion of the people buying the Harley motorbikes, tickets to most of the rock concerts (usually featuring bands and stars we grew up with), exotic adventure holidays, anti-aging creams, technology, not to mention health products, gym memberships, insurance, wine and gourmet foods. You just have to know how to talk to us. We are “forever young.”
    It’s also important to note that Baby Boomers in their mid to late 60’s are very diffrent from those in their 50’s – particularly given that the latter is often at the peak of their earning power.
    It’s a fascinating group for any marketer – ingnore them at your peril – or that of your clients.
    PS If you have time compare the BB’s with Generation Jones.

  13. Chris Cormack
    3 Oct 12
    1:58 pm

  14. Its interesting that people still don’t realise that the baby boomers and seniors influence up to 5 generations and what they buy – now and the 60 plus generation have over 3.5billion a week of disposable income. Marketing to people who have money to spend is sexy. Thats why marketing to the 50 plus market is the sexiest part of communications market! Stat to marketers – 6081 people each week celebrate their 50th birthday in Australia!

  15. nell schofield
    3 Oct 12
    3:52 pm

  16. is the problem bad stereotyping or is the problem the specific targetting of over 50s at all?

    if you’re complaining about bad stereotyping but essentially agreeing that over 50s need to be marketed to with age as a key parameter, why dont you suggest who they are rather than just complaining about who they aren’t?

    failing to do so makes you sound like a whinging old person

    ironically, many over 50s will also complain that they’re no different to 40 year olds in many ways so shouldn’t be treated differently at all – this would mean they should be unresponsive to any advertised archetype, no matter how favourable

    what about those who’d say that if the over 50s want to be taken more seriously they need to stop listening to the likes of Alan Jones…?

  17. Wil
    3 Oct 12
    3:57 pm

  18. works well for Australian Pensioners Insurance

  19. Phil Tripp
    3 Oct 12
    4:10 pm

  20. Now that I’m one of the wrinklies. I’ve learned to totally ignore the few ads aimed at me. You can’t miss the funeral plans and last chance life insurance commercials as well as APIA ads, but I’m too busy living and spending to think of saving and dying.

    I’m 61 and still the perpetual teenager. I just bought a new iPhone 5 and a new Macbook Pro to boot even though I’m retired. Had only just bought a large iMac for ripping all my 4000 vinyl albums a couple of months ago when I got my replacement iPad. I shop online for most non-perishable items, opting for markets for fruit, veg and meat, not afraid to spend up. I only got off the plane from Hawaii first class with 120 kilos of luggage (mostly purchases which were waved through from the gallon of Patron to spices and kitchen goodies).

    I’m constantly gobsmacked by the brainless ads aimed at seniors. In the US they are more about constipation remedies, Viagra, hemorhoid creams and incontinence pads so I guess we’re ahead of them. Funny though that senior travel mags and similar publication sell out quick at the newsagent. Get the message?

  21. Tom
    3 Oct 12
    4:12 pm

  22. Ad Contrarian has (brilliantly) been banging this same drum for years.

    About time it got beaten down here, too.

  23. Hmmmm...
    3 Oct 12
    4:48 pm

  24. I don’t understand this at all.

    In ten years, I’ll be one of these over 50’s. The last thing I’ll want is advertising aimed at me because I’m over 50.

    All I want is advertising that’s entertaining and engaging and that credits me with both intelligence and a sense of humour. The same kind of messaging I liked when I was 30, is the same kind of messaging I like today, and it’ll be the same kind of messaging I’ll like in a decade.

    The problem is that, almost by definition, advertising ‘created for’ over 50’s is going to be shit.

  25. Kaye Fallick
    3 Oct 12
    6:15 pm

  26. I think entertaining, engaging, intelligent and humorous is exactly what we all want!
    But when it is also linked to a life stage that is relevant to my age – say downsizing/emptynesting – then it might really hit the spot … as opposed to a more general approach.
    So linked to relevant life stage isn’t really shit at all?

  27. mike
    3 Oct 12
    9:11 pm

  28. Most advertising is annoying. For 50 years if it did not annoy me I might buy it, if it did annoy me I never did buy it. Choice consumer advice was and still is a much better guide.

  29. Sharon
    4 Oct 12
    9:31 am

  30. Bravo Nell.
    Whinging Baby Boomers–again. Once they stop conning themselves 60 is the new 40 etc we’ll all be better off. Just because they refuse to acknowledge they’re getting old that doesn’t the rest of society should be forced to “enable” their denial.

  31. Sharon
    4 Oct 12
    9:32 am

  32. Bravo Nell.
    Whinging Baby Boomers–again. Once they stop conning themselves 60 is the new 40 etc we’ll all be better off. Just because they refuse to acknowledge they’re getting old that doesn’t mean the rest of society should be forced to enable their denial.

  33. Phil Tripp
    4 Oct 12
    10:51 am

  34. Hell, we’re not whinging, we’re celebrating. The freedom is amazing. Especially if like me you have no kids to leave it to, having already paid out the last wife (yes we’re friendly!). Being older has its benefits too. I am just learning the ropes of Centrelink, safety nets and $5.30 scripts for drugs. Too bad cannabis-based medications are not yet legal but that will be coming soon.

  35. nell schofield
    4 Oct 12
    1:37 pm

  36. isn’t this all just another manifestation of the Boomer entitlement mentality?

    properly resourced public schooling – check
    free tertiary education – check
    comprehensive public health care- check
    massive public sector lifetime pensions – check
    never-to-be repeated house price growth – check

    why shouldnt the most advantaged generation in history keep demanding to be treated the way they know they deserve????