Prevent, Reverse, & Defy: Ageism in Magazine Advertisements
Prejudice based on one’s age, or “ageism,” is not a new phenomenon. Even though ageism has been known in scholarly literature since the 1960s, its influence on society is perhaps underestimated. The perpetual search for the “fountain of youth” continues today, and this contributes to making “getting older” an undesirable process in contemporary Euro-American culture. This study examines how print magazine advertisements portray age in two magazines specifically targeted toward males and females. Two magazines with a similar approach and style (i.e. similar themes, layout, target audience, demographics, content, etc.) were analyzed: female-targeted Cosmopolitan and male-targeted Men’s Journal. I randomly sampled and analyzed 50% of Cosmopolitan and Men’s Journal issues from 2010 and 2011– a total of 24 issues in all. The study employed an inductive analysis combined with textual and content analysis, to examine positive and negative implications of age with regard to the text of the advertisements, images accompanying the advertisements, and the products that are advertised. Results from analysis indicated that there were in fact more ageist advertisements within the female-oriented Cosmopolitan magazines than there were in the male-oriented Men’s Journal magazines. Approximately 30% of the ads within both years of Men’s Journal were considered ageist. Contrastingly, approximately 68% of the ads within both years of Cosmopolitan were considered ageist. This indicates that the media is cultivating an anti-aging ideology, particularly through magazine advertisements and particularly towards females.