Advertisers missing boat on baby boomers' bucks

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By focusing their marketing muscle on teens and young adults, entertainment firms and advertisers are missing out on key opportunities to sell their wares to well-heeled baby boomers, an industry consultant said Monday.

Speaking at a breakfast sponsored by oldies cable channel TV Land, Ken Dychtwald said Americans aged 40 to 59 are the fastest-growing segment of the population. They also spend more than any other demographic on cars, vacations, airline fares, movie and theater tickets, computer hardware and software, and even DVD players and cell phone service.

The networks generally focus on adults aged 18 to 49, or even those aged 18 to 34, charging advertisers a premium to reach such viewers.

"If we're going to create communications that tell everybody over the age of 35 they're failing, that they're not it, that they don't measure up, that's a strange way to go with the market," Dychtwald said.

"Do we know how to communicate and talk to people who are in this stage of their lives without insulting and demeaning them by telling them they ought to be measured by the metric of somebody else?"

Dychtwald's San Francisco-based consulting firm Age Wave was hired by TV Land last fall to research the behaviors and attitudes of baby boomers--the cable network's target audience.

He said that while there are many coming-of-age stories produced in Hollywood, there haven't been many stories about what goes on when a person is in his or her 40s and 50s. "It's fertile ground for innovation," he said.

He noted that unlike their parents, baby boomers have a history of change, remaking themselves and trying new things. "Can we try to understand or market to or provide media for a generation that's not who it was 10 years ago and that's not who its parents were when they were that age?"

With baby boomers open to new brand choices, Dychtwald said the notion of lifelong brand loyalty--"one of the linchpins that holds media and entertainment together"--is disappearing and has become "one of the great myths of our time." The baby boomer generation is more open to new cell phone technology and participates in more online shopping activity than any other age group, he said.

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