Significant yet anonymous: a study on older consumers’ portrayal as models in UK print advertisements

PhD Thesis

Frimpong, J. (2020). Significant yet anonymous: a study on older consumers’ portrayal as models in UK print advertisements. PhD Thesis London South Bank University School of Business
AuthorsFrimpong, J.
TypePhD Thesis

Increase in the population of older people (over 50’s) particularly in advanced countries such as the UK has been gaining scholarly and advertising management attention. This could somehow be due to the enormous commercial potentials of this demographic group. However, authorial work on the subject has mostly been undertaken in the USA with the few in UK generally converging around the role of television advertisements in stereotyping this consumer group.
Focusing on the UK context, this interdisciplinary thesis attempted to extend the extant knowledge by deploying theories developed by the advertising and sociology community to provide a somewhat contemporary understanding on the broad subject of older people and the media in UK. It employed a two-stage and a two-method research design of (1) content analysis of newspaper adverts (N=1424) from the six highest newspaper readerships across the three UK newspaper categories. This was used to support the understanding of how older consumers are integrated into mainstream advertisements. (2) quasi-experiment (N=200) to measure the groups’ emotions and beliefs expressed toward mainstream (bottled water) and age-related (finalarrangement) product adverts targeted at them using three categories of models: young, subjective-young and objective-senior . Results of the content analysis indicated that although most of the overt images of older people in the dataset were positive, variables indicating negative stereotyping cannot be controverted. The quasi-experiment results showed that the emotions and beliefs exhibited by older people toward adverts varied based on the effects of the tri-factors of product category, perceived-age of the model and the target’s own cognitive-age.
Ultimately, this thesis has extended the existing knowledge on the subject by advancing the need to redefine the portrayal of older people in UK advertisement to include not just the overt images they are depicted in but also the mediating role of variables such as product association, physical settings, frequency of appearance and roles played. Moreover, the findings of the thesis affirmed that cognitive age rather than chronological age influenced the emotions and beliefs older people expressed in adverts with models they shared age-affinity with.
The study has a number of implications including the need for advertisers to increase the frequency of older models in advertisements whiles ensuring stereotypical meanings are avoided. Moreover, the thesis underscored the need for a confluence between the cognitive age of targets and key elements of an advert such as model age and product category. Theoretically, this thesis makes a case for the cognitive age of models to be considered in developing the framework for studying advertising effectiveness among the older consumer group in UK.

PublisherLondon South Bank University
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Publication dates
Print13 Jul 2020
Publication process dates
Deposited28 Jul 2023
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