Why Older Adults Show Preference for Rational Over Emotional Advertising Appeals: A U.K. Brand Study Challenges the Applicability of Socioemotional Selectivity Theory to Advertising

Lynn Sudbury-Riley

University of Liverpool

Lisa Edgar

The Big Window Consulting Limited


  • Older adults are becoming an increasingly important target market.
  • Socioemotional selectivity theory suggests that, contrary to conventional wisdom, emotional execution is better for advertising to older adults.
  • Challenging the applicability of socioemotional selectivity theory in all advertising contexts, the current study finds older adults demonstrate clear preferences for rational over emotional appeals.
  • These preferences are different for younger consumers, so what works when advertising to younger people will not necessarily work for older consumers.