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Title: Older people as models in Malaysian television and print advertisements
Author: Idris, I.
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2016
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Despite a global ageing population, many businesses in general and advertisers in particular have been criticised for not meeting the needs of older consumers. Older Malaysians are relatively neglected and ignored by marketing and advertising although this market is growing. The majority of research pertaining to ageing consumers has been conducted in Western countries and cannot always be applied to the East because of cultural differences. As Malaysia is experiencing a demographic transition where the number of older people is increasing, it is essential for advertisers and marketers to understand older adults’ specific preferences in the marketplace. The central aim of this research is to advance knowledge by analysing the usage and portrayal of older models in both television and print advertisements in Malaysia and investigating the attitude of older consumers towards such advertisements. This study evaluates the portrayal in terms of function and roles of older adults in both television and print advertisements. On top of that, attitudes of older consumers towards the use of older models in advertising are also investigated. Since not many studies on cognitive age has been done particularly in Malaysia, this study also measures cognitive age among older adults and analyses its impact on attitudes towards older advertising models. Lastly, this study has also compared and contrasted the attitudes of older and younger adults towards older models in advertisements. Based on the review of the international literature pertaining to older adults in advertising in terms of their representation, roles in advertisements, the way older models are portrayed in advertising, age-related social attitudes in terms of young people attitudes towards age and ageing and also discussion on the concept of age, a number of propositions emerged. Several relevant gerontological, psychological and sociological theories and concepts also underpin the review of the literature. Content analyses were used analyse the use and portrayal of older adults. A total of 2,230 TV advertisements and 2,687 print advertisements comprise the sample, making this the largest content analysis of Malaysian advertising ever conducted. Then, a total of 600 questionnaires comprising 400 from adults’ age 50+ years and, for comparative purposes,200 from younger people, were collected in order to assess attitudes towards different portrayals of older models. Cognitive age was also measured. The findings of this thesis have made several contributions to knowledge. First, this is the first Malaysia study to consider the use and portrayal of older models in both print and television advertisements. Results show that older adults in Malaysian advertising are portrayed as active, happy and are shown in a variety of settings. These findings are in contrast to many international studies, and are important because advertising can impact the way older adults are treated in society and influence the self-esteem of older adults themselves. Second, the thesis analyses the different ways in which gender is depicted in advertising, and finds that despite older females being financially successful, advertising still restricts them to mostly support roles and rarely shows them in non-domestic settings. Third, the thesis has also considered how different ethnic groups are portrayed in ads and analysed attitudes of different ethnic groups towards older models which have never been studied before, which have implications for advertising design. Fourth, the study establishes that older Malaysian consumers use advertising to inform product choices in different ways to younger adults. Different media usage and attitudes towards advertisements also emerged among the older group, all of which have implications for segmentation as well as helping marketers to design better advertising strategies and media plans. Fifth, the study explores age differences in attitudes towards older advertising models and finds that younger people actually had more positive attitudes towards advertisements with positive portrayals than did the older adults. However, advertisements that portray older models with positive stereotype are more preferable by older adults compared to younger people. Lastly, this study has also measured self-perceived age among older Malaysian consumers, considers the impact of self-perceived age on attitudes towards older models in advertisements, and finds that self-perceived or cognitive age is a useful concept for consideration when advertising to this increasingly important consumer market. Existing literature indicates limited research has identified segments of older adults in Malaysia. The findings of this study on media usage and self-perceived age make a significant contribution to the body of knowledge on segmentation of older Malaysian adults. The different segmentation variables that emerged from this study show that older consumers are not a homogeneous demographic. In addition to these contributions to knowledge, the study strengthens and contributes to theoretical perspectives on successful ageing. Notably, this research finds that older Malaysians are capable of remaining socially active and continue many behavioural patterns with which they are comfortable. These findings support Activity Theory and Continuity Theory. A key contribution to these theories is the finding of a ‘youth bias’ in that older Malaysians feel on average 14 years younger than their actual age. The research therefore lends a new dimension of support for these key gerontological theories. The thesis makes several practical contributions. The research finds that older adults rely on product and service information contained in advertising to make purchase decisions, hence informational as opposed to solely emotional advertising execution strategies should work well with this older demographic. Second, the findings pertaining to self-perceived age suggest that advertisers should create ads that portray older adults in the same way as they perceive themselves. Results also suggest that both younger and older adults prefer older adults to be portrayed in a positive light in advertisement. Indeed, younger people showed more positive attitudes towards older adults that portray positive stereotypes in advertisements compared with older people themselves. Analysis of the study data revealed that the methods used in this study are appropriate to be employed with this age group and the study has guided other researchers in ways of collecting data from older adults. This study has also suggested that mixed methods can be also applied to get in depth analysis.
Supervisor: Sudbury-Riley, L. ; Patterson, A. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral