Why Do Ad Campaigns Feature Few Women Over Forty Plus

Have you seen any ad about sneakers featuring an older woman with silver in her hair? Or perhaps a lipstick advertisement which doesn’t crease out the skin of its forty-something superstar ambassador? Ad campaigns featuring forty plus women are a rarity unless the product in question has something to do with wrinkles or bone density. Across the globe, industries like fashion, aesthetics, fitness, etc use younger faces to market their products, conveniently shutting out women over forty. The idea is to sell products to us riding on superior aesthetics. And that essentially means wrinkle-free skin, toned bodies, dyed hair and every other quality that we associate with youth.


  • Not many commercials feature models over forty, who embrace their age.
  • A lot of women over forty buy sneakers, deodorants and branded clothes yet they are always missing from representation in advertisements for such products.
  • Do advertisers find models with grey hair and wrinkles unappealing?
  • Or do they think they are so irrelevant that the audience won’t be able to connect with them?

Such distancing not only pushes women above forties into shadows, but it also tells us how certain products are only suitable for young people.

We do not associate fitness products with a fifty-something woman who has a sagging belly. We do not want to relate latest accessories to a woman with silver in her hair. In advertisements for clothes, to purses, to lip balms to even lingerie, I am yet to see a woman with grey hair in the centre. Where she isn’t on the periphery but where the conversation is about her and directed towards a woman like her, whose number runs in millions. Photographer Linda Blacker pointed out to this bias in a beautiful and empowering photo-thread  on Twitter. This thread portrays why the approach of advertisers and even the audience needs to change.

Advertisers cannot go on marginalising a large chunk of potential buyers in their ads. Do women over forty not by sportswear? Do they not wear make-up or clothes for that matter? Don’t they use products like toothpaste, talc, deodorants, laptops, smartphones, etc? Then why is it that the faces on billboards and television are all young? What do brands fear, in getting models above forty for their campaigns? That they will lose appeal to their young buyers? Or that it won’t be as compelling or attractive as using a younger model?

 Ageing is still directly proportional to attractiveness for most of us.

Perhaps their choices only reflect our rejection of women over forties. Ageing is still directly proportional to attractiveness for most of us. It signifies the loss of youth and beauty. Women beyond forty should ideally fade into oblivion, living a quiet life away from the spotlight. All we want is to see them as supporting characters in stories of young people. We get uncomfortable when they sneak back under the limelight, because their creases remind us of our own impending reality. A reality we are desperately trying to filter out, constantly.

But we don’t just need to accept it, we need to celebrate it. We need to appreciate women as they are in whatever decade of life they are in. They deserve their spot under the light for the lives they have led. This is, millions of women we are talking about, who have relevant opinions on everything and even have the agency to make a choice when it comes to purchasing.

Picture Credit: Linda Blacker

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 Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.