The ageing face of marketing


Marketing. There’s no avoiding it. You simply can’t do much in this life without being faced with some image or other enticing us, or showing us, just how good our lives could be if only we purchased said product.

Personally, I’ve been on many sides of the marketing game. As a consumer, I’m compelled to eat cake after a gorgeous Insta post or want to up my watch game after spying some pretty rose gold number in a magazine. I have also worked in various marketing roles in my life, looking after campaigns aimed at getting you lot to drink more in your favourite bar, aspiring you to buy a Bentley or simply finding your next role through an excellent recruitment agency. Finally, and more recently, I’ve jumped career and become a commercial model. For those of you unsure of its meaning, basically, you’ll never see me on the front cover of Vogue but it’s highly probable that you’ll find me on the front of a B&Q kitchen catalogue 😉

Now, perhaps it’s something to do with passing 40, but all of a sudden some advertising campaigns have started to grate on me. You know the ones aimed at verging-on-middle-aged-me that use a fresh faced, 19 year old model? The age fighting eye serums shown on a woman without a single, tiny claw on her crow’s feet? Or the expensive loungewear catalogue aimed at over 40s-disposable income ladies, yet modelled by the lovely 23 year old? Yes, those ones!

Now, I have nothing against aspirational marketing. It’s the whole point of it after all. We all aspire to a bigger, better, faster, stronger and occasionally younger version of ourselves and if we want to put our faith in that new gravity defying mascara (knowing full well that we have short, stubbly lashes), well we jolly well can.

However, I honestly think that some marketeers are missing a trick by not using more age appropriate models, particularly where there is a definite demographic; and this applies to all ages! 40 year olds modelling mobility furniture aimed at 70+ must be frustrating for them too.

Let’s take mother of the bride outfits as an example. In an era where the average age of a bride in the UK is over 30, most mother of the brides are going to be over 50. So why are many of the clothes modelled by tiny under 30 year olds? I recently heard one Love My Dress bride say that her mum found the whole experience demoralising because of the unrealistic images in the boutiques showing her how she should look in that outfit. And we all know that we are highly less likely to buy something if we’re feeling crap about ourselves!

Dare I be so bold as to mention older ladies modelling lingerie and swimwear? A quick online search of some of the UK’s favourite underwear sellers confirms what I thought – that there isn’t a model over 30. Maybe 32 at a push; even those advertising granny bras (not being rude, but you know what I mean!) Now, underwear modelling is obviously not for all us mere mortals, but have you seen the figures on some women over 40?! Flipping heck, they’d give that Victoria’s Secret lot some competition in the sexy stakes and would a 55 year old lady get a better idea of how her potential new bra or swimsuit is going to look on her by seeing it on a gorgeous, aspirational, older model? Hell yeah!

Personally, I do feel that things are starting to change (albeit slowly), particularly in lifestyle images. After all, I wouldn’t be employed if some companies weren’t looking for 40+ models. Moreover, model agencies have expanded and sprung up solely to promote a range of ‘classic’ models; be they curvy, sexy, grey haired, silver-fox-like, quirky, short or skinny (and everything in between) so there are obviously interested companies and clients out there – and to them I say yay! However, when it comes to high end and designer fashion, using an older model seems to be done only to shock, go viral or grab the headlines, rather than the norm. Particularly for women.

Yes, we all know that men definitely get away with getting older more easily than women, who are meant to desperately hold onto their youthful looks or risk being resigned to the scrap heap and traded in for a younger model. Now, with the likes of Botox and fillers, it’s easier to keep those wrinkles at bay for a while longer. However, for those who don’t want to indefinitely inject the unknown into their faces, they will potentially look older and more haggard than ever! I once did a job for a new American, skincare brand and when the owner saw my forehead lines, he was fascinated as “no one has wrinkles in LA anymore!”

We want inspirational, beautiful yet real women, full of life, fun and passion. This is not the 1970s; people do not don the brown slacks and look old by the time they are 35. However, I do believe that we lack, gracefully ageing, role models. If we were to be asked to name some aspirational, older celebrities, I’m sure we’d all go for the same few women – Helen Mirren, Dame Judi Dench and Twiggy. Where are all the others?!

Importantly, it’s not all about turning back the clock and looking younger, it’s about embracing where you are now and it’s about looking and, more importantly, feeling great at every stage of life. I would never go back to being 20, even if some magic unicorn offered me the chance. I am at my happiest and most confident right here, right now and I would love the marketing world to realise that. I am not chasing some long faded youth and I’m not about to hang up my style or my Zara/All Saints addiction, nor swap my jeans for linen chinos, a twin set and pearls.

Finally, the salt-and-pepper and silver grey pound has the biggest clout on the market. We are BIG consumers, miss out, or alienate us, at your commercial peril! I believe that even in the make-up and beauty sectors, traditionally a real youth market, we are now the biggest spenders. However don’t read this and think that we are all desperately trying to hold onto our youth and slapping expensive, useless creams on our face in a vain attempt to look 25 again. It’s just about making the best of what we’ve got and what we’ve got is actually pretty damn good!

Kevin Lavery, the vice chairman of the Mature Marketing Association, says: “The fact is we are an ageing society. But that’s not the thing – the older demographic controls the world and it is becoming apparent to so many companies, because 80 per cent of the UK’s wealth is held by the over-50s.”

So I appeal to designers and marketing directors out there; please target us older lot appropriately and tap into more real beauties that truly represent your target demographic and beyond. Far from potentially putting people off your brand, it’s pretty much guaranteed to have us ladies flocking to it!

I, for one, as a massive consumer of pretty-much-everything you care to market to me, would most definitely love you for it.

Katie xx


I would like to thank all the mature simply beautiful models for volunteering to send along some of their images to be featured in this blog post. I hope that this tiny selection illustrates just how beautiful older ladies are.

What do you lovely readers think? Have I got this all wrong? Do most of you want to see more age appropriate models or do you prefer to see someone 20-40 years younger because they look better? I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment below.

10 thoughts on “The ageing face of marketing

  1. Hey…great blog…..the market is definitely changing for the better where there are more 40+ models aimed at people who have more disposable income. There is also a change where plus models are included in more campaigns which again is progress. It is so much better all round than it was in 1980 when I shot my first cover. I use my age group now as 35-45 which works for me!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for adding your comments Joycelyn, it’s lovely to hear that it is improving. I really think the answer is honesty – use a range of ages and size appropriate models for all target audiences and go easy with the retouching! 🙂


  2. Excellent piece Katie. Well written and said.
    It’s very frustrating, but also the in the other direction!

    Clients wish to book me and other colleagues like myself for Stannah stair lifts or the chair that aids you to get up!

    So they wish to sell 70 year old products using a 40s model who does triathlons and is a long way off needing aid to climb the stairs unless it’s after a few Proseccos!

    Will they ever learn we just want honesty.

    Also hate seeing retouched pictures! Why why why! You have to turn up and face the client. Be yourself.

    Fi xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Fi, brilliant point, thanks for highlighting that it goes on for all ages. Why every demographic can’t just get the right models for their own age and market, I don’t really get. Easy really. And ditto with the retouching. Wouldn’t it be great if everything we saw was the truth! xx


  3. I also think that name ‘classic’ model is quite demoralising. Plus sized models are calling for that tag to be dropped, quite rightly, as it seperates them from ‘normal’ models. The same should be applied to classic.
    Great write up x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for taking the time to add your comment Cole21. I know what you are saying as I’m not a lover of labels in most areas of life. Fortunately I don’t mind the classic term as I suppose that it’s quite a positive way of classifying us. But maybe in the future all these additional labels can be dropped? And we can all simply be models of different shapes, sizes and ages.


  4. I loved reading your article, it was written with honesty, warmth and wit, and mirror my thoughts exactly. After being a successful model in my late 20’s and early 30’s, I have tried to get back into modelling in my now middle 50’s, yet have been told I don’t look old enough! Yet when I was younger, the commercial modelling I was asked to do was focused on the older consumer, it seemed crazy!!
    I think it would be fabulous to see advertisements with older women in them… like you said, it would have us ladies flocking to a brand who dares to be different.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you *so* much Lesley-Ann, I really appreciate you taking the time to add your comments. What you’ve said only highlights that it’s a mad world out there!! So much good luck with your new/old career 🙂


  5. Thanks, Katie. I am finding your blog to be so informative and helpful too, as I’m just getting into this as a “classic” model. I’m eating up any advice you are giving! I follow you on Instagram and I didn’t realize you only started this two years ago!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, thank you so much Joanne for your kind words. I really appreciate them, especially as I still feel like the new girl compared to colleagues who have been doing it for 20 years.
      Stay in touch! xx


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