Generation 50plus

Project Report, 2008

46 Pages, Grade: B (= very good)



1. Introduction

2. Methods
2.1. Discourse Analysis
2.2. Content Analysis

3. Applications of Methods and Analysis
3.1. Discourse Analysis
3.1.2. Results Discourse Analysis
3.2. Content Analysis
3.2.1. Results Content Analysis

4. General results in consideration of both methods and research question

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

7. Appendix
7.1. Discourse Analysis of articles
7.1.1. Article DER SPIEGEL
7.1.2. Article stern
7.1.3. Article FOCUS
7.2. Code book
7.3. Coding scheme
7.4. Links to articles

1. Introduction

The field I have chosen for my method project is related to the present demographical change in Germany. The German society becomes increasingly older due to an increasing childlessness among the younger generation, i.e. the proportion of older citizens exceeds that one of the younger. Furthermore, a bigger part of the older generation is in higher funds as its younger segments of population. This situation is primarily caused by a widespread unemployment among young people and on the other side by a higher interest in career, especially among young well-educated women.

The generation 50plus – as my point of interest – takes an economical turn now, since it is of a current importance in the discussion of media target groups beyond the border of the standardized definition of the – alleged – relevant target group for advertisers in the age of 14–49 years. Especially the 50- to 64-year age group is more brand than price orientated. That means they have no problem to pay more for higher quality, to expand more for fashion, cosmetics and luxury articles, to wine and dine and to go out to theatres, cinemas or concerts quite often. It is estimated that the generation 50plus (also called »Best Ager«) has a spending power about the half of the purchasing power potential in Germany – circa 90 billion Euros1 (*billion = million) and an above- averaged propensity to consume. Therefore their spending power is four times higher than that of average households.

Furthermore nowadays the target group of the generation 50plus spans already 30 billion citizens in Germany. The share of the Best Ager of all Germans will increase from currently 37 percent to 50 percent by 20502.

These data exemplify why »the aged« became to a central economic factor in Germany (but for example also in USA and UK, where their relevance and potential has been recognized already some years earlier) and claims for a rethinking in marketing strategies.

The idea for my method project is to check with help of social magazines whether marketing departments / agencies have perceived the current meaning of the generation 50plus as a future market. Therefore, the research question I am interested in is as follows:

How is the generation 50plus perceived in German social magazines and to what extend are their needs served by the published ads in those magazines, i.e. how is the generation 50plus addressed by the (advertising) industry?

2. Methods

To investigate the research question, I combined both a qualitative and quantitative method that is in this case discourse analysis and content analysis. But before illustrating the detailed application of both methods – that follows in the next chapter – I am presenting a short overview of their theoretical application in my project in combination with some facts of their theoretical frame of reference. Basis for discourse analysis and content analysis were Germany’s three largest social magazines DER SPIEGEL, stern and FOCUS.

2.1. Discourse Analysis

Here, discourse analysis is used to analyse how the generation 50plus is described in articles published in (older issues of) the above mentioned magazines and is aimed to find out with what meanings, needs and values this generation is connoted.

The applied methodological tools are taken from the discourse analysis types of critical linguistics referring to FOWLER (in Schrøder 2002) and the socio-cognitive Model referring to VAN DIJK. These methodological tools are commonly aimed to reveal (social) power relations and ideological perspectives respectively opinions. According to VAN DIJK ideologies are complex social phenomena which involve beliefs or mental as well as social representations (like values, norms, opinions, knowledge and as a main cognitive function attitudes) within a group and its members; they can monitor social practices in a certain way, constitute social identity and define interests of a group (1998: 21-6). Also the model of critical linguistics is focused on the relationship between the production of ideologies and linguistic details of media texts, but predominantly to substantiate “that media ideology contributes to the reproduction of a social order founded on inequality and oppression” (Schrøder 2002: 104).

2.2. Content Analysis

The content analysis is used to study, to what extend the before analysed needs and values of the generation 50plus are served by ads in the above mentioned magazines. Here for I used one current issue per magazine and analysed all published ads.

NEUENDORF defines content analysis as a summarizing, quantitative analysis of messages that relies on the scientific method (including attention to objectivity-intersubjectivity, a priori design, reliability, validity, generalizability, replicability, and hypothesis testing) and is not limited as to the types of variables that may be measured or the context in which the messages are created or presented (2002: 10).

Before starting with the analysis a conceptualization is necessary that clarifies which variables will be used and how they are defined as well as an operationalization (measures) to define the unit of data collection (ibid: 50). At this point it is important that an “internal validity” (ibid: 107) is given, that is that both conceptual definition and operationalization need to match. Both steps are presented in the coding scheme (see next chapter) which consists of a codebook and coding form. A Codebook explains completely all variable measures; a coding form can be defined as a “set of dictionaries (for text analysis) or a set of measures in a codebook (for nontext analysis)” (ibid: 118). The construction of codebook and coding form must follow the »a priori«-principle: “all decisions on variables, their measurement, and coding rules must be made before the observation begins” (ibid: 11). Although text content analysis often uses computer coding analysis (ibid: 125-6), the coding scheme in my case is made by human coding, since the analysis is not solely made by word-based indicators (set of words, phrases, parts of speech, word length etc.) that would request the application of a dictionary (here: computer programme). Before starting to design a codebook, it is important to note that the categories or levels used for a measure should be exhaustive, mutually exclusive and meet an appropriate level of measurement (ibid: 118-25).

The idea of using articles from older issues and ads from current magazines is to prove whether marketing departments / agencies have perceived and internalised these former findings – above all, since these magazines published already special editions regarding the topic »generation 50plus« at an earlier date. In so doing a certain generalisation as one goal of content analysis (ibid: 83) shall be derived.

3. Application of Methods and Analysis

3.1. Discourse Analysis

The methodological tools, I have already introduced in the forgoing chapter, are applied per single or groups of paragraphs. I used groups of paragraphs, when some consecutive paragraphs were content wise very similar to each other and an itemized

analysis would only produce an unnecessary repeat. This stepwise proceeding of analysis is aimed to guarantee an as thorough as possible analysis.

3.1.1. Results Discourse Analysis

Due to the enormous length of the analysis I am presenting a kind of summary of the achieved findings in the following. You can find the complete discourse analysis in the appendix in the end of this report.


The article tries to grasp what makes the generation 50plus. In the end it cannot give a complete answer, rather it circumscribes what are the characteristics of it. Furthermore the author criticises the lack of a sufficient consideration on the market, i.e. the needs and desires of the generation 50plus seem to be widely unknown, the inability of empathizing from young engineers in old people with a modern attitude poses the biggest challenge and last, but not least companies in general and marketer in particular need more courage to appeal older target groups in their commercials and ads. These personal opinions are mostly not represented directly, but indirectly by using quotations of other agents that fit to the personal ideologies of the author (van Dijk; 27).

Beside these critiques the author does not present or develop any new approaches of possible solutions leading to appropriate dealings. Also the actual needs and desires are not really revealed, they are merely »touched« by rough descriptions like “feeling younger”.


The generation 50plus perceives their period of life from 50 years as a kind of chance to satisfy their wishes und personal interests. The largest part of this generation (the author is relatively one-sided in his presentation, i.e., he does not consider how the generation 50plus looks like in villages or small towns) is relatively moneyed and feels fit, flexible and self-confident enough to change their hitherto existing concept of life. They have still a great potential due to a consolidated knowledge of many years and this potential should be used on the job market and in research or for education. – So far the claims by the author, whose attitude is extremely opportunistic in his »fight« for a »new social acceptance«. With this very positive drawn picture of agility of the aged, he simultaneously excludes the younger generation and strengthens the boarder between “we” and “them” (van Dijk) in a converse sense. Instead to develop a picture, in which the generation 50plus is part of the younger generation – I allege that this was actually the author’s intention – , he turns the previous ideological imbalance into opposite: Now he criticises the spontaneity of the younger generation, which is commonly regarded as their strength.


The author’s main proposition in this article is the heterogeneity of the target group ‘generation 50plus’: They are very individual in their claims, experience and intellectual interest. Therefore he appeals to be conscious of the subjective needs and their individual convenience as well as to serve it accordingly. To grasp this as an economic challenge the author comes to a further conclusion: Even though certain know-how is existent to appeal directly to older people, a general cluelessness of actual individual needs persists that makes it impossible to act economic profitable. But obviously there is some hope, since the problem of older people with new technologies is partly aware in the business community in particular and in research in general.

A new life style requires new needs: Some economic branches realized the social change among the generation 50plus and developed special offers, for example special insurance offers or special dating agencies for older people. Hence, also the previous taboo subject “love in age” underwent public modifications. These findings lead to the conclusion that people from 50 are prepared and have the heart to roll up their complete life.

3.2. Content Analysis

Following the »a priori«-principle I constructed a list of variables (code book) at first. You can find the code book with subordinated criterions of each variable in the appendix. The variables are developed on basis of the findings of the foregoing discourse analyses. The most outstanding features, from which a deduction of variables seemed to be possible, were items like:

- size of ads: The size of an ad can lead to a product’s market value (due to very high advertising rates the bigger an ad is) and serves as an indicator of image and quality of the represented brand or product. The number of 1/1-page-ads in turn is linked to the financial situation of the readership: The more a readership is in high funds the more is it profitable to place an one-sided ad.
- product category: Some findings provide an indication of an attitude of a demonstrative lust for life among the Best Ager. Referring the analysis this attitude is often followed by an intensified buying interest in shopping goods like high-quality brand products (cars, watches, cosmetics, perfume, hotels / travel). In contrast the analysis delivered outcomes of stereotyped assumptions by economy and / or marketing agents of an increased interest in products of personal provision like insurances or products of financial hedge. This category is aimed to reveal to what extend respective product groups are represented.
- product attitude: The analysis has shown that the generation 50plus commands a great fortune and sets a high value on an accordant high product quality. Therefore these variables are used to examine how often ads with high and middle class products are published.
- sex of represented persons: To analyse the sex of the depicted person in an ad can give a hint to a magazine’s readership and therewith to its income, since the income of men is different in nature to that of women.
- age of represented persons: The age of a depicted persons can be connected to a product’s target group and therewith to the readership of a magazine; and this in turn to the reader’s financial situation (see above).
- target group: With this variable I try to estimate the age of the alleged target group to check to what extend the generation 50plus is considered, i.e. are they directly appealed as an individual segment of population or are they just »followers« beside the typical relevant target group for advertisers in the range of 14-49 years.
- intention of ads: The last variable is aimed to examine the communicated attitude towards life. Especially the modern part of the generation 50plus perceives themselves as downright in love with life / pleasure-loving and likes to be active – as one result regarding their needs, values and desires.

After constructing the variables I analysed 183 ads in total on basis of the code book, which are allocated in the magazines as follows:

DER SPIEGEL: 61 ads │ stern: 74 ads │ FOCUS: 53 ads

In the next step I transferred the achieved results in form of codes (see code book; appendix) in a coding scheme table (see appendix) with help of an excel sheet: for each magazine I designed a single sheet. The registered data of each table were converted in a second table that counts the frequency of the single registered codes (frequency table; see appendix). From this frequency table I was able to create circle charts of each variable (and it’s included subordinated criterions) of each magazine. The charts are aimed to compare the results of the content analysis as clear as possible.

3.2.1. Results Content Analysis

A comparison between the single circle charts has shown that all three magazines published mainly 1/1-page ads. As described above this can be seen as an indicator of a high-price brand / successful company and let deduce a connection to well-off target group. This assumption is confirmed by checking the media data of the respective magazine. All data represent an average household net income over € 2.500,003.

Also, the three magazines are rather similar to each other in the variable of represented product categories: Means of transport (cars), financial service / business and diverse shopping goods (details see coding scheme) are the predominant categories. Among shopping goods especially high-quality brand watches, perfumes and fashion are represented. In contrast, insurance products appear comparatively seldom. The meaning of these results is connected to the ones of the above mentioned: A high income is connoted with an upper economic status and the willingness to spend more money in goods with a higher material value as well as the need to manage / invest the existent funds.

At first glance the results of the variable “product attitude” seem to be in contrast to that of the previous variable. But on closer inspection it reveals a logical connection: Although some of the represented products are relative high-priced, they do not belong to a high class category, this becomes especially clear in the case of cars; the most of it are high-priced and have a high qualitative standard, but in terms of car classification they belong to middle class (for example Audi and VW) and as we can see a big part of ads is made with cars. Another reason is the official definition4 of the here proceeded characterization of consumer goods (= attitude): Goods like fashion or perfume belong to the category of shopping goods and also technical literature is just a good of convenience, i.e. even goods with an exclusive connotation belong to a, at first glance, a seeming lower level.

The variables of sex and age differ among the magazines only in the age of the depicted persons. While a bigger part of the persons in DER SPIEGEL and FOCUS can be assigned to the age group 31-49 years, the size of this age group is in connection with the age group 50-65 years proportionally balanced in the magazine stern. In that point one can come to the conclusion, that DER SPIEGEL and FOCUS are more orientated in the typical relevant target group for advertisers in the range of 14-49 years; a view to the respective media data confirms this thesis. However, also stern sees its target group in this range, even though my results show a second focus in the following generation. A further commonness among all three magazines is an overly high representation of an ad layout without any persons, just the goods or the brand is represented. This could mean that these products / brands already have a clear affiliation of target groups.

The ascertained results regarding the intended age of target groups reveal an address mainly a broad range of age groups, in this case the group 30-65 years. The second largest addressed age group is that over 30 years (next category is >50 years). These outcomes show that a selective address of people in the age of 50-65 years is barely, if at all, observably. However, this is one request of the generation 50plus – a directly address of their age group and their individual needs, but one should have in mind, that the preferential target group of all magazines is in the age of 20-49 years (see media data links above).

The intention of the published ads in all magazines is mainly concerned to the criterion of vitality / lust for life that can be communicated by products in the range of cosmetics, food, events, health, cars etc. Knowledge, activity and security are mostly represented in equal shares (per magazine).

4. General results in consideration of both methods and research question

The research question I was interested in is:

How is the generation 50plus perceived in German social magazines and to what extend are their needs served by the published ads in those magazines, i.e. how is the generation 50plus addressed by the (advertising) industry?

The aim was to prove with help of social magazines whether marketing departments / agencies from today have perceived and internalised the findings about the generation 50plus, that previous articles have already presented in these magazines at an earlier date.

The application of discourse and content analysis has shown that cognitions and translation are far apart from each other. The most relevant outcome – concerning advertising industry in particular and economy in general – is the claim by the generation 50plus for a direct address of their age group. Or in other words: The do not feel to be sufficiently considered in marketing strategies and product advertising / development. Here, the key word is individuality. It seems as would an uncertainty dominate among the advertising industry of how to address the generation 50plus in a direct way. The analysed ads admit this assumption anyway. Indeed, lust for life / vitality and activity were quite often communicated in the published ads, but not with an individual targeting; rather in a long-rage address as a kind of a random side effect. However, in this analysis the generation 50plus could not find any (or just marginal) specific individual consideration in the published ads. Furthermore, stereotypical prejudices (old = weak, frail, penny-pinching and boring) are sustained and reality seems to be ignored; that was my impression when I checked ads with a direct address of people from 50 years, since this were almost all ads for drugs against »elderly afflictions«.




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Excerpt out of 46 pages


Generation 50plus
The Royal Institute of Technology  (JMK - Department of Journalism, Media and Communication)
Method Project Course
B (= very good)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
865 KB
Generation 50plus, Method Project, Discourse Analysis, Content Analysis, future market
Quote paper
B.A. Jasmin Teuteberg (Author), 2008, Generation 50plus, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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