Underrepresented, positively portrayed: Older adults in television commercials

Abhik Roy, Jake Harwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


This paper reports a content analysis of 778 television commercials. Commercials were examined for the presence of older adults. Commercials featuring older adults were then examined more closely to describe the nature of the portrayals. Consistent with previous research, older adults were shown to be underrepresented in the commercials examined, as compared to their presence in the population. This effect was particularly strong for older women and for members of ethnic minorities. However, older adults were found to be presented in a relatively positive light - as active, happy, and strong. In addition, older adults were shown to be least underrepresented in advertisements for financial services and retail chains, and most underrepresented in advertisements for automobiles and travel services. The results are discussed in terms of the changing position of the older adult consumer in the marketplace. Suggestions for future research are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-56
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Communication Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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