Date of Award

Winter 2000

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration-Marketing

Committee Director

Earl D. Honeycutt, Jr

Committee Member

Kiran Karande

Committee Member

James P. Johnson


The seniors (55+) market is a growing, attractive market. While this market represents almost one-fourth of the total population in the United States and is slightly higher in the United Kingdom today, this segment is projected to grow to approximately one-third of the population over the next quarter century.

Relative to their proportion of the total population, seniors, and especially women, have historically been underrepresented as general advertising models. When seniors are portrayed, they are often used in supporting roles or in a negatively stereotyped manner. While the aging process is associated with declines in mental and physical capabilities, and healthcare is a major concern of the group, this is only one of many areas of interest to this diverse population segment. There is evidence that the portrayal of seniors has improved; but advertising is still designed by persons with an average age of 30, who are focused on the declining youth market and who do not, nor do they desire to, know the senior market.

This research expands prior advertising studies by investigating advertising practices toward seniors. That is, only limited research has been conducted using magazine advertisements targeted towards seniors and no cross-national studies were found in the literature. The study investigates (1) how firms currently advertise to the senior market; (2) how practitioners communicate with seniors in comparison to published academic research; (3) the similarities and differences of print advertisements for seniors from two similar countries; and (4) the support for standardization of print advertisements directed towards the senior market based upon advertising practices in two similar cultures.

The literature advises that advertising targeted to seniors should utilize certain methods and techniques that are beneficial in reaching this market, although little evaluation has been made of the adoption of these recommendations. The literature also indicates that advertising is an important source of information for seniors. Half-page and larger advertisements from 1999 issues of magazines targeted specifically to the seniors market were analyzed utilizing the content analysis methodology (Kassarjian 1977).

A number of advertising characteristics were discovered, which revealed that (1) senior models are frequently employed in advertising directed towards this population; (2) the frequency of usage of women has increased; (3) positive role portrayals of seniors in advertising are strongly evidenced; (4) senior models are associated with a limited number of high involvement products and services; and (5) greater amounts of informational cues are found in healthcare and financial service advertisements.

Because advertising is a significant portion of marketing expenditures, the use of standardized advertising cross-nationally can result in economies of scale and efficiencies in creating a universal brand image for multinational companies. In this study data were collected from magazines in the U.S. and the U.K., two countries considered to be similar in many ways, including demographics. The cross-national data indicate that certain advertising techniques recommended in the literature for seniors are similarly utilized, but that significant differences remain in the application of advertising practices in the two countries. The findings suggest that advertisers should exercise caution and think locally, even when their advertising follows a global approach.