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The old and the beautiful: senior women’s exposure to models in advertisements and the impact on their identity

Bénédicte Bourcier-Béquaert (ESSCA School of Management, Aix-en-Provence, France)
Corinne Chevalier (Université Paris-Sud, Université Paris-Saclay, Paris, France)
Gaëlle Marie Moal (L@bISEN, Yncrea, Brest, France)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 15 June 2021

Issue publication date: 29 June 2021




This study aims to examine how exposure to female models in advertisements can create identity tensions in senior women and how they manage the comparison and develop different adaptation strategies to deal with these tensions.


This research is based on a qualitative approach involving 27 in-depth interviews with French women aged 60 to 79. Photo-elicitation with choice of models as reference points by respondents was used to capture comparison strategies with regard to models.


Interviews with senior women confirm that identity tensions due to appearance arise in the context of ageing, particularly when senior women are faced with advertising models. Three reactions of senior women to identity tensions are described, namely, avoiding comparison to protect the self, engaging in comparison despite its resulting devaluation of the self, proceeding to a positive comparison that reinforces their identity. This paper finds that comparison modalities are specific to each strategy.

Research limitations/implications

This research opens the way to further investigation, especially with regard to understanding social comparison mechanisms in an advertising context for senior women targets.

Practical implications

This paper raises awareness of the effects of senior women’s exposure to advertising on their self-perception in the context of ageing. It provides practical guidance to advertising professionals on the use of models in ads when targeting senior women and helps marketing managers in their communication strategies.

Social implications

This research reveals pronounced identity tensions in relation to appearance among senior women in the context of advertising exposure. By providing more diverse models, advertising representations could help to improve the identity perceptions of senior women.


Very few studies have hitherto investigated identity effects on senior female consumers of female model usage in advertising.



Bourcier-Béquaert, B., Chevalier, C. and Moal, G.M. (2021), "The old and the beautiful: senior women’s exposure to models in advertisements and the impact on their identity", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 38 No. 4, pp. 410-419.



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