Insights Committees of Advertising Practice publish advice note on depicting older people in ads


The Committees say that negative and offensive stereotypes about ageing and older people are still common. Using stereotypes about age in advertising may breach the CAP/BCAP Code, and its guidance is designed to help advertisers ensure that they do not include offensive depictions of, or references to age in their advertising.

The Committees explain that whilst the Codes do not require advertisers to ensure that ads are demographically representative, advertisers are responsible for ensuring that the content of their ads does not cause serious or widespread offence. Rule 4.1 states that particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of particular characteristics, including age.

Marketers should also not make any offensive generalisations about older people, e.g., implying that all people over a certain age are senile, pitiable, or incapable of carrying out certain tasks. Suggesting that certain activities are inappropriate or socially unacceptable for older people is also likely to be considered problematic for causing serious or widespread offence.

Whether or not an advertiser intends to offend, the ASA will consider how viewers are likely to interpret an ad. Using humour does not prevent an ad from being offensive, so marketers should take care before using humour in ads to ensure that it will not cause serious or widespread offence to consumers, even if it is intended as light-hearted. Therefore, marketers should avoid making jokes about older people using offensive clichés, such as “dinosaur” or “over the hill”. To read the advice note in full and for links to the guidance, click here.