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What Advertising Do Older Adults Like Best?

Creating advertising that resonates with the senior audience is something we think about every day. We test, we track response rates, and sometimes we go right to the source and ask seniors to give us feedback. That’s what we did in fielding a series of market research studies asking older adults about their attitudes and perceptions of advertising directed to them as consumers. We’ve shared some of our findings in a series of posts over the past few weeks. As part of the study, we asked 400 seniors to rate a number of popular national television commercials.

There’s no bigger stage for advertising than the Super Bowl. The ads are almost as newsworthy as the game itself. And for many years, USA Today has monitored audience reaction to these commercials, ranking them from best to least liked, based on audience ratings. We thought it would be interesting to test a few of this year’s commercials with an age- and income-qualified sample of seniors to see how that group’s ratings would track against the general population ratings reported in USA Today.


There is an old adage in the advertising game: “You can’t miss with kids or animals.” Well, we found out that saying is only half true when it comes to this year’s Super Bowl ads. Budweiser’s “Puppy Love,” featuring a dog and a horse, was the highest-rated spot by the USA Today audience, and it received the highest rating of the eight spots we tested with our senior sample. However, Doritos’ “Cowboy Kid”, featuring a boy and a dog, didn’t fare as well with our senior audience compared to the general population, although it still received a slightly above average rating.

You’ll see from the summary that, with a few minor exceptions, the seniors’ ratings tracked pretty much with the general population. Of the eight spots tested, three received senior audience ratings higher than USA Today, while five rated lower.

Both groups favored commercials with patriotic themes – Budweiser’s “Hero’s Welcome” and Coca Cola’s “America the Beautiful.”

Heinz’s “Happy and You Know It,” featuring a senior in the spot, and the foil for the commercial’s big laugh, was the lowest-rated spot of the eight we tested, for both our senior audience and the general population. The commercial with the largest negative differential between the USA Today rating and our sample, Doritos’ “Time Machine,” also featured a senior, although in a somewhat stereotypical manner. This may have contributed to the low rating.

We hope you enjoyed reading our research series over the last three weeks. You can always go back and read Part One on how seniors feel they are portrayed in advertising and Part Two on the importance of online resources to seniors researching communities.

Please stay tuned, because next week we will put our webinar on our site for anyone who missed it.

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