Rhiannon’s Gran – By @ThatPinkSuit

Rhiannon Butlin

By Rhiannon Butlin


Rhiannon’s Gran



11.8 Million, the number of the UK population who are aged 65 or older. And yet, I think I’m

right in saying that a lot of us found ourselves a little stumped in one of our recent portfolio

brief, which was concerned with older consumers. It often felt as though comedy tropes

characterised the consumer, perhaps because classmates didn’t feel as though they could

comfortably demonstrate customer insights. So is it any surprise that older consumers often

feel overlooked or offensively represented in advertising.


Waaaaaaitasecond Rhiannon, what’s that? It would be completely hypocritical and

counterproductive to discuss this without someone aged 60 or older. Well you’d be right. So

let’s bring her out now. *Enters stage right* that’s right, Mary Butlin, my Grandma!




R: Mary is a 73 year old retired civil servant, a fashion enthusiast, a Jazz lover and holidays

in Southern India.


G: This is just my frivolous side Rhiannon, I spend a lot of my time organising charity

fundraising events, and I also do voluntary work in the local community.


R: Which brings me to my first point, what do you have in common with the next 65+ YO,



G: I think I’m probably a fairly typical member of my peer group (except perhaps for the

fashion), however if you mean the way the advertising industry views people of my age

group, then you are right.


R: Okay so, how do you speak to such a large demographic who share only one definitive

commonality, having been born before 1950? What’s more, perhaps this is yet another

argument against the industry’s addiction to classifying people on the basis of their age,

class, race or sex, instead of their interests, their personality traits or their life experiences.

G: Also, I often feel that the industry has in some ways very outdated assumptions about

older people, which perhaps need testing against reality more rigorously from time to time.

Yes, we make time to enjoy ourselves, and we love our holidays, but most retired people I

know are very busy working in the community, in their church community (usually for the

less fortunate), helping with child care to a greater or lesser degree ( that’s something I

have been doing for 22 years now – almost a second career?), and also in some cases still

looking after their own elderly parents.


R: In the year of Caitlyn Jenner (yes, her again because is there anything in 2016 to which

she does NOT bear relevance? Probably not), a trans woman, an olympian, a 66 year old, a

reality TV star and a father, who better captures the fluidity of roles a person is capable of

playing in right now. DS3 released an ad which revolves around design queen and 94 year old

Iris Apfel. She brings a colourful vitality to an ad which emphasises the elegant, modern

design of the car. Interestingly the ad was not aimed at people of Apfel’s age but the 25-35

bracket. Apfel’s role is not to play the mature woman but to embody cool creativity. This

doesn’t mean her age is a coincidence. The makers describe her as a ‘disruptor’. People of

her age are so invisible in advertising that her mere presence carries enough impact to

garner attention for a small-budget and otherwise uninteresting video ad.


G: Don’t forget that we are SOMETIMES in the ads for walk in baths, stair lifts, hearing aids,

incontinence products, care homes, trousers with elasticated waists, and other elements of

the supposed retired people’s lifestyle, although these apply to only one element of our

demographic. Also, quite often an older person is not considered suitable even for this field,

and the person smiling beside the walk in bath appears to be about 35!


R: Well, Perhaps the use of Apfel heralds a change within the industry this decade. The 2011

Toyota Venza ad, this time aimed at mature consumers, cleverly turns stereotypes on their

head in a way that might better capture the experiences of those 60 and over.


G: It would be good if more adverts aimed at us were made like this, i.e. witty in a way we

appreciate, and showing us in a positive light. We really like being appreciated for who we

are, as intelligent and involved as we have always been. We know when we are being

‘talked down to’, either in person, in the press, or in adverts. Yes, we know we will all be

REALLY old one day, and perhaps when we get there we will need more care and time from

others, but for most of us that is sometime in the future, we hope!


R: Well with a rapidly ageing population it seems only inevitable that the industry will be

forced to up their game in coming years, but only time will tell.


So thank you Mary, let’s have a round of applause for my Grandma. *Applause*. Well,

that’s all folks!



Related SCABs

Go back

Student Application

  • Fill out the Application Form below to be a part of our next Award-Winning intake.

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY