AGEISM IN ADVERTISING: Brain wave research shows how and why “older” audiences are tuning out advertisers – ZoomerU

AGEISM IN ADVERTISING: Brain wave research shows how and why “older” audiences are tuning out advertisers

Zoomers — Canada’s most powerful audience — are used to not seeing themselves reflected in today’s advertising. Although they control 60% of consumer spending, they receive less than 10% of targeted ad spend. Where they are portrayed in the messaging, it’s often with images that reflect the old stereotypes of “aging.”

But does this affect their actual responsiveness? Does it influence how they actually process the message? Their emotional connection? How much they remember?

To find out, HomeEquity Bank, providers of the CHIP Reverse Mortgage, carried out a unique research project. In partnership with Brainsights, a neuroscience research firm, and with ad agency Zulu Alpha Kilo, they showed 117 samples of video content to over 300 Canadians, and tracked and analyzed their unconscious brain activity. The videos included commercials, movie trailers and news clips.

The subjects were divided into two groups — Baby Boomers (over age 55), and those under age 55. As they watched the video samples, their brain waves were recorded every 2 miliseconds, using electroencephalography (EEG). The devices measured three forms of response:

  • Level of attention
  • Connection – did the video resonate emotionally
  • Encoding – how memorable was it?

The method enabled researchers to determine what drove responsiveness at the unconscious level, and to identify differences and similarities between the two groups.

Bottom line: the older group did respond differently. There were four key findings:

  1. Boomers are alienated by old-age stereotypes. They don’t want to see images of helplessness, frailty, confusion and fumbling. When they’re portrayed as youthful, active, and capable, their attention, emotion connection and encoding scores go up.
  2. They like nostalgia. Attention, connection and encoding get a lift.
  3. They like positive (not struggling) images of parenthood.
  4. They want information in digestible chunks, with more time to process what they’re seeing/hearing.

At ZoomerU, we thought these results were so intriguing that we wanted to know more.

So David Cravit, VP of ZoomerU, sat down with Yvonne Ziomecki, HomeEquity Bank’s EVP, Marketing and Kevin Keane, founder and CEO of Brainsights, to talk about the research in more detail — including how HomeEquity Bank used those findings to modify advertising it had already created.

Watch the video of our chat. You’ll find it interesting and informative — and very important.

Today's Factoid


That's how many Zoomers plan to purchase a home in the next 12 months. It's more than any other age group. Source: Vividata Spring 2021