Is This the Beginning of the End of Ageist Advertising?


Three’s a trend, they say, and in the past month three ads have emerged that portray seniors as regular human beings — not as cute grannies, aging teens or tech-averse stone-agers. The ads aren’t perfect — it’s going to take America a while to become post-ageist — but whether they signal the slow start of a new era or are just a temporary drop in the bucket, they’re worth a look.


Portal is a new broadband router designed for urban environments where too many people living in close proximity are competing for internet bandwidth. To get the point across, the company’s commercial features the inhabitants of four apartments: a family, a yuppie couple, a bunch of flatmates and an older woman — who, it turns out, is the early adopter who’s having a ball with the latest technology. Even better: No OMG expressions on the youngers’ faces when they discover that their elder has the answer (hey, why be surprised?). Too bad everyone has a real name except  “Grandma.”

(Video link)

Dashun Wang

“Some people call me ‘the hottest grandpa’. Some also said that I’m an instant internet sensation. But do you know what? To prepare for this day, I’ve been getting ready for 60 years.” That’s Deshun Wang telling his story in what appears to be an ad for himself. It’s a “never too late” story with heart: As he tells it, Wang’s late-life back-from-the brink story could inspire even those of us who feel like we’ve made a mess of our lives. “Believe me,” he says, “potential can be explored when you think it’s too late.” After moving to Beijing in his 40s and becoming a penniless drifter, Wang’s big turnaround came in his 70s, and at 79 he modeled on a catwalk for the first time.

(Video link)

Dove Chocolate

She starts the day as a little girl and ends it as an older woman — gray, a little wrinkled and smiling in the mirror. Along the way, to the sound of Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” we see a free-spirited person holding her own in a relatively unconventional female narrative. Yes, she’s charming the guys, but as AdWeek says in a piece about the commercial, “Our protagonist artfully bypasses the benchmarks of an established life. You don’t see professional successes. There is no love story, no man guiding her footsteps. Her weight doesn’t seem to be a primary concern, and she will not be surrounded by grandchildren.” Hallelujah.

(Video link)

What’s good and not-so-good about these ads? Comments, please!


18 responses to “Is This the Beginning of the End of Ageist Advertising?

    1. I love this ad. While I see nothing insulting about showing a senior woman surrounded with grandchildren, the truth is that not every older person is a grandparent, and you are not necessarily defined by that. It is a reflection of a life passionately lived. Wistful about her youth perhaps, but not despairing. This is my favorite of all the senior ads, and one of my favorite ads period.

  1. These ads are fabulous! Yes, next time, please give a name to the grandmother. Love the Dove ad and how this girl grows into a free spirited teen, young woman and beyond and is not consumed by fashion, men, or children. Kudos to all on the ad team!

  2. Straws in the wind perhaps but signs of change for the ad world and the viewing public – that’s us.. All to the good, and even more impressive because they are in significantly different areas of marketing. I’m an optimist and think the message is getting through.

  3. All these ads are so refreshing! What a relief! Completely agree about “Grandma,” but I love her role in the building, and I love the fact that the admakers catch themselves almost saying “even Grandma can do it,” making a point of the ageism of that phrase. So good for them! Love Deshun Wang, and totally agree he’s hot! I love the message that it’s never too late — just keep going, keep pursuing your dreams. Not dead yet! :)

  4. I love the hot guy, and I like most of the Dove ad — my only objection is one not shared by most Americans. The Piaf song is spliced, and since I know the words, I found it jarring, particularly the last two lines. The real end refers to a new beginning, not again saying “f*** the past.” (this is the translation of “je m’en fous du passé). And I totally agree that “grandma” is an offensive term, unless used by one’s actual grandchildren. Given her age, she could be a Betty or a Sue or a Nancy or any other names popular among my generation.

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