1 October marked International Day for Older Persons 2021.
Although the ASA receives a small number of complaints about depictions of older people in advertising, the CAP Code recognises the impact of harm and offence caused on the grounds of age. Code rule 4.1 states that ads must not contain anything which is likely to cause serious or widespread offence, and highlights ‘age’ as one specific characteristic where particular care should be taken.
As with any challenge under rule 4.1, the ASA will take account of the tone, content and context of an ad when determining whether the rule has been broken. An ad for electronic cigarettes was considered offensive because it implied that a relationship between an older woman and a young man was a socially unacceptable and inappropriate “taboo, and therefore judged that it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
It goes without saying that marketers should not mock, humiliate or degrade older people. Gentle, tongue-in-cheek humour may however be acceptable, depending on the wider context, and light-hearted wordplays, in a context that portrays older people in a positive manner, seem likely to be considered acceptable.
It’s important that advertisers are able to recognise and celebrate the contribution of older persons to society, both in their lifetime and their achievements today. However, advertisers looking to market their products to this demographic, and indeed more generally, should do so responsibly and be mindful of avoiding causing harm or serious or widespread offence on the grounds of age.
For further information on how to make sure your ads comply with the Codes, our Copy Advice Team are on hand to provide free, fast and bespoke advice.