For a while now we have on the Austrian television the new VISA commercial. You can see it HERE (with the note that in Austria some passages have been cut off). The description on VISA’s youtube channel is as follows: “Visa Europe features the speed of payment innovations. The new ad follows a Grandad getting faster and feeling more agile, using new ways to pay on his journey. Music: Don’t stop me now, Queen.”
I generally applaud when elders are featured correctly in a commercial, but in my humble opinion this particular comercial is ageist. Why I feel so? Quite simple: I believe it uses some of the most unfair stereotypes about elders. Here are some of them, from my point of view:
- elders are alone, have no one to talk to but their pets.
- elders are nothing else but grandparents. While it is true that some of the elders are grandparents, some are not. Being a grandparent is not a sine qua non quality of an aged person.
- elders don’t live in the city (?!?), the urban environement is for young and dynamic people (see the part of the commercial with the sheep herd, so absurd, I believe).
- elders are slow & stiff. Therefore it’s so “funny”, among others, to see the arthritic gentleman in the commercial purchasing a pair of new, glitzy-glittery running shoes and speeding up to the hospital.
- elders have nothing in common with latest technological developments, and this is why it’s so “funny” to see the grandad paying with the latest type of VISA.
- elders are shaking.
- on top of everything: the image of the rejuvenated man against that of the elderly woman in an electric cart is something that perpetuates yet another ageist and sexist stereotype, that of men, but not women, being exempt from aging.
… and I could continue, but this is just a blog post, not a conference paper.
To sum up, I can’t get rid of the feeling that this commercial is less about VISA, but more about the biased image the society has about the elders. I am bothered by how this commercial chose to present an aged person, by portraing the elders as little, shaky, stiff, ridiculous creatures with wild hair. I gather that juxtaposing the use of the latest type of VISA services on the overall image of the protagonist is aimed at creating a humorous effect, as well as at emphasizing how much faster the new system is compared with the old one. Nevertheless, what this commercial actually succeeds to do in my opinion, is ridiculing one more time the elders, especially when they deal with the latest technology, or fashion for that matter of fact. Because, right, none of the aged persons around us would ever touch a smartphone or wear funky sports shoes (!!!). I am also bothered by the silent dialogue at the end of the commercial: the somewhat apologetic look on the face of the grandad, and the mocking/scolding look on the face of the young mother.
Before I conclude my post, there is one more thing this commercial made me think about: how wide is the perceived generation gap. Do we really see our parents to be this old and helpless? But I guess this would be a discussion for another time…