Divisiveness is a fact of life in America today. Sadly, too many brands and their agency partners see an opportunity in it. When you make fun of one group, it excites another group and moves them to action. That’s the idea and it’s not wrong. What’s wrong is using fear, judgment, and other wedge issues to sell.
Ken Dychtwald is a nationally recognized expert on aging and ageism. In a new article for AARP, he points to ads that show contempt for older people. An egregious example that he exposes is 2018’s ‘Dear Young People, Don’t Vote.’ “While the goal of the ad was noble — to get young people to vote — its approach was both divisive and derogatory,” he argues.
“Advertising that stereotypes older adults and reinforces negative biases is not harmless,” says Paul Irving, chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. “Imagine this ad portraying women, people of color, or LGBTQ individuals in the same way. The response would be angry, and rightly so. It’s high time to call out ageism in advertising.”
Is E-Trade Clueless About Ageism?
E-Trade’s ad ‘This Is Getting Old’ enraged many people with its depictions of buffoonish older adults who were forced to work jobs they did not want and were not competent to do because they hadn’t bothered to save for retirement. Dychtwald says the ad campaign mocks retirees who were struggling financially and alienated those who actually control the largest share of wealth.
Here’s a new ad from E-Trade—it also mocks people who are over 50 and perpetuates the flimsy myth that older Americans can’t effectively use technology.
I wonder, are you tempted to buy stocks without the help of a broker now? Maybe humor at the expense of another is what works. Or, maybe it worked in 9th grade and then stopped working soon thereafter.
Ad Agencies Continue to Feed and Let the Ageism Problem Fester
A major cause of ageism in advertising may be the lack of age diversity among those who are actually creating the ads. The median age for a manager in America’s advertising agencies is 37, and the average age of a creative person in the industry is only 28. Plus, 71 percent of creative directors are male.
Meanwhile, people 55-plus now control 70 percent of all personal wealth in the United States.
Insulting the buyer and prospective buyer of goods and services is a mistake and a waste of everyone’s time and money. Why go there? Why approve these faulty concepts, produce them, and back them with tens of millions of dollars in media? Is it because no one knows better? That can’t be. Someone does know better, and that someone is likely over 50 and controlling the purse strings.