Following Procter & Gamble's Marc Pritchard's recent prediction that age will be the next issue on the agenda for advertisers to address as the industry seeks to dispel stereotypes it helped to create, McCann has unveiled new research that further explores how aging is the next frontier for an advertising overhaul.
The agency's The Truth About Age research suggests brands must develop an "Age Philosophy." For example, brands in the beauty and pharmaceutical industries cannot operate in an age-agnostic way because they’re dealing with problems that are correlated with age. Thus the challenge for brands is to strike a healthy balance between age-awareness without tipping over into age-obsession.
McCann's report outlines recommendations for brands seeking to address this issue.
For one, young people are thinking about and worrying about age more than any other generation...but no one is talking to them about it. Nearly half of those in their 20s (46%) constantly think about aging compared to 35% of those in their 60s. Similarly, 60% of those in their 20s worry about dying alone compared to only 43% of those in their 70s.
The agency urges brands to address the challenges associated with getting older among young people to provide a more realistic — but optimistic — view of the aging process.
Also brands need to move away from traditional age-related stereotypes. Only 24% of those surveyed by the report believe the fashion industry understands the aging population and only 30% believe media or news organizations understand issues related to aging.
Too often the broader cultural conversation focuses on the “losses” associated with age (from reduced cognition to limited physicality) and aging is primarily framed as a negative process. The loss-oriented language associated with the second half of life—”retirement,” “empty nest,” "downsizing" — is particularly in need of a rethink, per the McCann report.
There is an opportunity for brands to rewrite the narrative and focus on the plusses at every age. Two in three people 70 and older feel positive about the process of aging. This group also reports becoming more spiritual, liberal and idealistic over time, as compared with their younger counterparts — adjectives not often associated with the older population.
McCann identifies five consumer segments more appropriate for advertisers to target rather than the current numbered demographic set. Ageless Adventurers (19% of the global population) define aging as a journey of limitless opportunities and personal growth. Communal Caretakers (20%) believe aging is a time of engaging with community and enriching personal relationships. Actualizing Adults (17%) view aging as a process of maturity and acquisition of adult responsibilities. Future Fearers (20%) see aging as a time of anxiety and uncertainty due to risks associated with old age. And Youth Chasers (24%) see aging as a decline and loss of their youth and vitality.
Intergenerational connections are seen as the key to aging well, but these are increasingly hard to come by in the modern world which is why McCann says brands have a responsibility to build connections between the generations and co-create an age-positive future. "For many people, life gets better and fuller over time, but society conspires to convince us otherwise," concludes the report.