Reimagine Everything: AARP Survey Finds Women Want to See a Variety of Ages in Product Ads

October 25, 2019 • AARP, Columnists

Ron Mori

I recently took my mom to a national big box beauty store, and we were both immediately overwhelmed as we walked into the store. I immediately thought to myself that it was going to be impossible to find the one product that she was looking for in a sea of beauty products, test samples and images featuring youthful faces. It was information overload, and the only way out was the entrance door. Lucky for us, we found the aisle as we were just starting to give up.

A national survey of nearly 2,000 U.S. women finds a significant number of respondents in their 50s and above feel ignored by the beauty and personal grooming products industries, AARP reported, upon the release of “Mirror/Mirror: AARP Survey of Women’s Reflections on Beauty, Age and Media™.” AARP conducted this study as part of a longer-term effort to shape a new image of aging in advertising, marketing and media.

Forty percent of Gen-X women (ages 39-54) and 53 percent of Boomer women (ages 55-73) disagreed with the statement “the beauty and personal grooming product industry creates products with people my age in mind.” Seventy percent of women age 40 and older want to see more perimenopausal and menopausal beauty and personal grooming products.

The survey, key elements of which will appear in the November issue of Allure, also reveals dissatisfaction with how women are portrayed in advertising, with 64 percent of Gen X women and 74 percent of Boomer women reporting that they feel older adults are underrepresented in product advertising, and more than 7 in 10 women in both age groups stating they are more likely to purchase products from brands that depict people of a variety of ages in their ads.

Consumers feel better about brands that feature a mix of ages in their ads.

Interestingly, 76 percent of Millennial women (ages 22-38) reported they, too, are most likely to purchase products whose ads feature people of a variety of ages.

Elsewhere, 85 percent of women of all ages reported they wish ads had more realistic images of people, and 75 percent of women said that seeing beauty and personal grooming ads with real people makes them feel better about themselves. Survey results indicate that companies seeking to connect with consumers should produce advertising campaigns that show people of all ages.

Advertisers should show ads with age diversity, especially if they want to target consumers ages 50-plus, who say they are eager to buy from brands that represent them, according to the survey results.

Consumers ages 50-plus overwhelmingly (80 percent) say that marketers portray their lifestyle based on stereotypes. Furthermore, 70 percent say they are more likely to buy brands that feature people who are their age in advertisements.

Although women ages 50 and older are decision makers for their households, they are feeling particularly overlooked. Three in four women in this group feel people their age are underrepresented in media imagery, and more than half feel invisible when viewing ads.

With more than 80 percent of consumers ages 18-plus saying they feel better about brands that feature a mix of ages in their ads, age diversity in ads provides the opportunity for brands to connect with consumers of 
all ages. Women age 50 and older spend an average of $29 monthly on beauty and personal grooming products, representing nearly 
$22 billion in annual sales.

“Mirror/Mirror: AARP Survey of Women’s Reflections on Beauty, Age and Media™” was conducted in July 2019 and polled 1,992 U.S. women. The complete results are available online at www.aarp.org/womenonbeauty.

Ron Mori is a member of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.

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