Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why brands need to reframe their approach to midlife women in media

By Silvia Marinescu, Executive Strategy Director, OMD

Imagine a world where every commercial break feels like a time warp. This is what it’s like for me: a woman in my late 30s, working in media and advertising, with many plans and dreams, and yet I find myself surrounded by an avalanche of images of wrinkle creams, child rearing and retirement planning.

I wonder where are the stories that reflect the reality of my life, or the future which awaits me? Stories that reflect a more diverse take on life, guided also by ambition, independence, and enthusiasm? And this isn’t just about me; it’s about a powerful demographic systematically excluded from the conversation. Let’s see why they really matter more than we think.

Reframing midlife women in media

Women in their 40s, 50s, and beyond represent a powerful economic force that marketers are still neglecting. Data shows that most women over the age of 44 under index when it comes to feeling represented by advertising, and 45% of women agree that “society expects them to vanish from public life as they get older”.

And when they are represented, this representation is not considering the reality on the ground: more and more European women aged 45-64 don’t have children, and more and more of them are in active employment. Furthermore, it is proven that life, for women, improves after 50, based on what researchers call “postmenopausal zest”.

The lack of, or misdirection of representation in media alongside with the hyper-fixation on youth reinforces a dangerous stereotype: that as women age, they become invisible, irrelevant to consumer culture. But as the saying goes, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” The absence of relatable role models leaves a powerful demographic feeling excluded and disengaged.

Why brands need a shift

Bluntly put – because middle-aged women control a vast amount of wealth. Studies show they make up a significant portion of the workforce, hold decision-making power in household spending, and are more likely to be loyal to brands they trust. 82% of 50+ women are open to new brands, 75% are willing to pay more for quality, and 75% are willing to pay more for convenience.

Towards a new approach

So, how can brands bridge this gap and start connecting with this influential demographic? Here’s a quick, editable roadmap for success:

  1. Embrace authentic representation: it’s time we ditch the tired trope of the youthful ideal, walk the talk and showcase real women of all ages and ethnicities in marketing campaigns. Let them tell their stories, as they really are, reflect their diverse interests, and show the vibrancy and diversity of middle age. Intersectionality matters: middle-aged women are not a monolithic group. Acknowledge the intersection of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background.
  2. Focus on values and interests: It’s also time we move the conversation beyond demographics and connect with the values that resonate with middle-aged women. Highlight themes of empowerment, self-care, financial security, and meaningful relationships. And let’s focus on their real passion points. Industries like fashion, beauty, and personal healthcare are already successful in targeting middle-aged women. But data shows other industries could also have a lot to gain from targeting middle aged women, like Travel (women over 50s are responsible for 80% of spent in luxury travel), DIY (globally, 32% of women aged 45-65 are interested in DIY / home improvements, compared to only 29% of men from the same age range) and automotive (33% of women over 50 are willing to upgrade their car to the latest car model.)
  3. Speak the same language: where do middle-aged women consume content? What’s the first thing they do in the AM? Where to they get their news? Brands should tailor marketing efforts to the platforms this audience use, to the time of day that suits them best, to the partners that are best fitted for their vibrant lives.

It’s a win-win situation

Building trust and connections with middle-aged women isn’t just good business; it’s about dismantling ageism and celebrating the power of women in their prime, about rewriting the narrative and recognizing the economic and cultural force that middle-aged women truly are.

As marketers we are storytellers, and stories can change the world.