The always interesting Lurzer’s Archive has this fascinating look at the trend of famous, older women appearing in ads for various fashion brands. This is a welcome development as far as I’m concerned; most advertisers are obsessed with youth and targeting their ads to a younger consumer. These products presumably are not strictly trying to reach the geezer demographic. Of course, the buyers of expensive luxury brands skew older; those are typically the consumers who can afford them. But fashion brands can’t afford to be seen as being “for old people.” That would be the kiss of death.
The flip side to this trend is the way products like Medicare insurance plans advertise. They wouldn’t touch this sort of thing with a ten-foot pole. Not because Joni Mitchell is a chain smoker. Or because Joan Didion is too elitist. (Well, those reasons, yes.) But mostly because these ladies are just too damn old.
In my job as a copywriter and Creative Director I work with a great many brands that provide Medicare insurance and other kinds of health-related products that are solely aimed at oldsters. Typically, these brands demand that the actors and models appearing in their ads be deliberately younger than their target audience. While I can buy this argument to a certain point for products like adult diapers, which might want to expand to a younger audience, in the case of Medicare insurance, it can’t be sold to someone under 65 who is not on Medicare. (The only exception is people who are permanently disabled; but rarely do you see ads for Medicare insurance with disabled actors.)
The clients’ reasoning for “younging up” their models is that today’s aging baby boomers are “different” and think “younger” than earlier generations. Never mind that this is a highly debatable premise when you are looking at a hip or knee replacement or living with some chronic ailment. The practical effect is that we sometimes see ads with actors who look decades younger than the 65-year-olds who are the customers we’re targeting for Medicare supplement plans and the like. There is an art to finding models who look their age but also look good for their age, not simply casting people who look ten years younger than they’re supposed to be – which is the way many clients want them to look. So I say, good for fashion brands for showing older people who aren’t trying to hide their age. Maybe brands that are actually targeting older consumers will someday catch up.