Advertising imagery of the over 50s can often feel as if its from the 1950s. The new Image Source Visual Briefing delivered by Ashley Jouhar unpacks the visual code of shooting this powerful demographic

The Image Source A/W 2013 Workshop kicked off on Tuesday with a Visual briefing by Creative Director Ashley Jouhar on the demographic beloved by Advertisers – Seniors/ Matures. The reality is the attitude of media is more ‘respect’, ‘admiration’ and even a little envy, because for at least a decade this demographic have been exercising enormous political, corporate and economic clout, our media haven’t quite nailed how to talk to this diverse group of over-50s.

The briefing highlighted the kinds of statistics that are more statements of social power than marketing data – people over 50 buy half of all new cars. And indeed some mainstream media are registering this – the 73 year-old Tina Turner appeared on the cover of Vogue Germany earlier this year.



Marks and Spencer in the UK continually show how photography of the over 50s can be done without feeling patronising. Their current campaign is shot by Annie Leibovitz featuring a variety of successful women including Helen Mirren, Tracey Emin and Grace Coddington, and supported by a series of virals/interviews with journalist Mariella Frostrup.  Yet even this campaign has generated criticism, Cambridge Classics don and TV presenter Mary Beard tweeted, “Women in the new M&S ad are a great & feisty bunch. But unless I have mistaken H Mirren’s blonde, don’t spot a whiff of grey. Women go grey M&S!” The Daily Telegraph reported that in response Marks & Spencer called attention to both last Autumn’s campaign and the current one featuring grey haired models, noting that” Marks and Spencer was praised last year for casting grey haired model Yasmina Rossi in its Christmas ad campaign.” This media spat shows how the public are becoming more sophisticated and nuanced in their expectations around imagery.



There was  trend in the middle of the decade for imagery and campaigns showcasing boomers/seniors/matures on Harleys/Skydiving but as one Creative Director of an agency told me once when working on a pensions campaign, sometimes people who are retired actually just like having a cup of tea. It’s not that Seniors don’t appreciate an expensively acquired adrenalin jolt, but they also appreciate the domestic ritual and time out of a ‘cuppa’.

Woman drinking coffee at window
Daniel Allan / Cultura RF

It’s a fascinating brief, capturing the many different dimensions of an age group that:  has considerable assets; whose comfortable retirement and leisure is being paid for by the young who have no assets, little security and unlikely to ever have the kinds of pensions their parents have; and yet others who simply cannot afford to retire, who need to retrain and work, suffer serious job insecurity. Like the episode in Friends where they go ambulance chasing for a new apartment – for younger people waiting to step into the shoes of retirees, ambulance chasing just became a marathon.

There are rich visual stories to tell, of people with a spectrum of life experiences of being sons and daughters, parents and grandparents, and whose sense of lived time is more keenly felt than any other generation.

Over the next couple of months we will be exploring the visual language of seniors, talking to photographers and Art Directors who have moved it forward and to agencies who have generated insight around this.

The “Over 50, Not Over The Hill” briefing will be available soon. For more information on shooting for Image Source click here.


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