Leading figures from all walks of life will take part in the Longevity Revolution - a symposium on the implications of an ageing population that takes place in London today. Meanwhile, research to be published tomorrow will show a fundamental shift in how the young and old view getting older and identifies six new, clearly defined over-50s "tribes". For policy- makers and researchers, age is the issue of the day. So why does advertising lag stubbornly so far behind?
"Although society is ageing, older groups in particular feel alienated by advertising - the obsession with youth culture despite the reality of the population make-up," says Melanie Howard, co- founder of the Future Foundation. "Older people feel excluded from the media and advertising mainstream." And no wonder. While brands such as Honda and Toyota are more popular among older consumers because of their reliability, their advertising daren't admit it. It's a similar story with many brands. Although now widely bought by a broader cross-section of consumers than ever before, companies such as Pepsi and Nike are eager to maintain their youth credentials.
"Over-55s tend to be more loyal to brands than younger people. Why would a sensible marketing person target an older housewife with an ad campaign if that person is least likely to defect from a rival brand?" says Clare Rossi, managing partner and executive planning director at advertising agency Grey.
Now, however, things are starting to change. We are living longer and staying healthier. And with this has come a fundamental shift in attitude towards the process of ageing. Once getting older was a simple process - over-50 meant over the hill. Not so now, with a boom in adventure holidays for 50- and 60-year-olds; the number of 65- to 74-year-olds regularly eating out, and the arrival of "silver surfers" - British grandparents now regularly correspond with their grandchildren over the Internet.
The traditional view has been that 50-plus consumers are a single, dull, homogenous mass. In an attempt to redress this, BDP this week publishes a survey on attitudes to ageing. The aim? "To encourage advertisers to communicate more effectively with the growing number of older consumers buying their products," explains Richard Shirley, director of London sales promotion company BDP. …