Image Trends: From Clumsy Clown to “Senior Kink”

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Seniors/Matures will change advertising, not just in the kinds of faces we are likely to see, or the stories that will be told – tone of voice will be markedly different. Welcome to the world of “Senior Kink”

There’s a line between the mocking and the eccentric that sensitive creatives carefully navigate. Let’s call this emotional and psychological line the “Kink”, were the line twists and bends into a shape that doesn’t fit with the linear. It’s a bit unexpected. It’s what happens when you get to a certain age, you’ve seen stuff before, the line of time starts repeating itself, there’s a certain unself-conscious freedom which comes from being less socially visible, less conventionally ‘beautiful’ or ‘handsome’ in advertising terms. Let’s call this twist in ageing “Senior Kink”.

Wieden + Kennedy’s Southern Comfort are advertising pioneers of “Senior Kink” – a man walks across the beach, oblivious to everything, not least his own lack of style – shoes and socks – which by virtue of that becomes a style.

Or in the second iteration, the 50-something man in the snakeskin boots getting a hair massage and putting on his glasses to sneak a look at the attractive middle-aged woman sitting opposite.

Or the third ad where the same man performs his ‘shadow’ Karate in the hairdresser, hair in colouring-foils, before retiring to his seat with a glass of Southern Comfort.

It’s no surprise that Beach picked up Gold at the Clios, at Cannes Lions and was the most successful ad at the recent British Arrows Craft Awards.

Why? What’s interesting about this ad is the use of this age group to pitch to a wider constituency – people ‘comfortable in their own skin’. One long shot, a bit of bravado in itself, selling middle-age and older as an attitude of mind, might not seem like much to shout about. But “Senior Kink”, a reflection of the reality of the zig-zag life of 50-somethings that didn’t turn out like the shaving ads promised. Which is also not so good news for advertisers wedded old kinds of storytelling.

It’s an evolution of the idea of the middle-aged clown played by Leonard Rossiter in CDP’s classic Cinzano campaigns, a man who is unself-conscious to the extent he has no awareness of the chaos his physical and social clumsiness is generating.

What’s more, “Senior Kink” is connected to the emergence of a theme we’ve rarely seen in advertising before. But more on that later…

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