When I first started blogging nine years ago, I was always banging on about the lack of older models, my Grey-dar permanently on high alert. But whereas in the past, the older model was restricted to a healthcare or life insurance gig (cue woman strolling jauntily down the beach in a lilac waterfall cardigan and stretch chinos), now nearly every week there’s another gorgeous silver-haired model in an advertisement for a fashion brand. While this age-appreciation is fantastic – it is wonderful to see women such as Daphne Selfe, 88, Maye Musk, 69, and Lauren Hutton, 73, looking vivacious and stunning, I still can’t help wondering: where have all the fifty-something models gone?
Although the fashion industry has finally woken up to the power of the Silver Spend (in the UK, the 50+ customer accounts for 47% of consumer spending), advertisers appear to have resorted to a kind of “diversity checklist”. Model with grey hair: tick. That’s age sorted then. But the view of the older woman we’re being shown is signified by someone in her 60s, 70s, or beyond. It’s lazy; it creates an age gap and we still end up with extremes. Young and sexy or old and fetishised – take your pick.
“Part of the problem is that people who create the ads don’t look like the people who buy the products,” points out marketing expert and vice-chairman of the Mature Marketing Association (MMA) Kevin Lavery. “The average age of an ad agency account executive or creative is 28. It’s the same in marketing departments and, believe me, a 28-year-old can’t think like a 50-year-old. Unconscious age bias is a proved academic fact.”
Social media has enabled us to look beyond appearance and demographics to lifestyle, personality and psychographics. Like-minded people interact online via style blogs and Instagram, and information relating to their interests and attitudes is essential for marketing departments to consider. “Brands are scared,” says founder of Grey Model Agency Rebecca Valentine, “because they’ve never had to pitch to people who were revolutionary and rebellious in the 1960s and 70s before.”
What’s needed is more variety, more diversity. Women over-50 come in lots of different shapes, sizes and ethnicities and we want to see images of women who reflect that and look like us. Women we can relate to, as opposed to tokenism. This takes commitment from fashion brands and advertisers, as well as continued pressure from consumers, outside agencies and influencers. “It could take six months it could take two years,” suggests Valentine. “We do need to see more diversity, more wrinkles, more curves, more black models. But so far, so quiet.”
Read my full Guardian article HERE.