ITV: TV is a powerful medium to connect with older consumers

ITV director of client strategy Kate Waters believes TV has a clear role to play in addressing the “hard creative challenge” of appealing to older consumers.

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Television could play a key role in unlocking the missed opportunity of older consumers for brands, according to speakers at Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing (6 October).

TV presenter and journalist Lorraine Kelly joined ITV director of client strategy and planning Kate Waters and System1 chief customer officer Jon Evans, to discuss new research into advertising to older consumers.

The study – ‘Wise Up! Getting Ads Right for Older Viewers’ – highlights that while consumers aged over 55 account for 32% of the UK population, they control 60% of its wealth. The report was co-produced by ITV and System1.

“For advertisers, older consumers should be much more a considered target audience, but they are a hard audience to please,” said Waters. Unlike other audience groups, there is less of a ‘diversity dividend’ seen just from representing older people in ads, the research finds.

The report identified six key themes that do resonate with older viewers. These include cultural references, which prove popular with audiences who have lived through massive cultural changes, from rock and roll to space exploration, and the power of friendships.

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Also important is to recognise older customers weren’t born yesterday, but resent being portrayed as bewildered or out of touch. Other important factors include that experience can be priceless, older customers value being part of a wider society and established stars – such as Sean Bean in ads for Yorkshire Tea – are very popular with viewers of a comparable age.

While the panel acknowledged there can be a creative challenge in finding ways to portray older people in better ways in advertising, they did see opportunities to improve representation.

“I feel passionate about the role of media and the role of TV to do that. We say that it’s a hard creative challenge, but ironically in an age where media is becoming much more fragmented, it’s a really easy media challenge,” said Waters.

“Older people watch a lot of TV and TV is an incredibly powerful medium through which to do that.”

She argued it is incumbent on everyone, particularly those working in the media, to think about the power platforms hold to present much more aspirational role models.

As a woman working in television, Kelly agreed TV is taking major strides in improving the representation of older consumers and women in its content. She cited her own personal experience.

“I think 20 years ago you would not have got a 62-year old woman hosting her own show. It just wouldn’t have happened,” she said.

“Now if you look, particularly at ITV Daytime, not only are the people in charge women who are a bit older, but also on screen. Most of the women hosting are 40 plus. So maybe it is seeing it that helps.”