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Nearly one-quarter of US baby-boomers are insulted by the advertising messages that companies are sending them, according to a new study.

As a result, most said they were less likely to buy certain products, and nearly half believed that there was little truth in advertising.

The findings emerged from a study of 30,000 people, aged 42 and over, conducted by Focalyst, a joint venture between the WPP advertising group and the American Association of Retired People.

The survey suggested that many companies were taking a misguided approach as they attempted to reach out to the largest and wealthiest group of US consumers.

“There’s a perception among advertisers that if you’re over 50, your biggest concern is incontinence – that’s not true,” said Mike Irwin, president of Focalyst.

Mr Irwin said he believed that advertisers often erred in approaching baby-
boomers by putting out overly general messages often based on stereotypes rather than focusing on different segments of a vibrant population, whose ranks include Donald Trump and Sylvester Stallone, among others.

Advertisers typically salivate over 18- to 49-year-old consumers, in part because they are considered more willing to change the brands they use and embrace new products.

However, the sheer size and wealth of the baby-boom generation, whose oldest members turn 60 this year, has made greying consumers a potential growth market for companies such as Anheuser Busch and Audi.

There are more than 77m US baby-boomers, according to the AARP, and by 2010, nearly one in three Americans is expected to be more than 50.

The baby-boomers’ annual spending power is estimated to be $2,100bn, and they control roughly three-quarters of the country’s financial assets.

In addition to their financial clout, the Focalyst study suggested that older consumers might be less tied to particular brands than commonly believed.

Two-thirds of the study’s respondents said that their purchasing decisions were driven not by brand, but rather by value.

“Advertisers have a perception that brand loyalty is pretty much set in people over 50, and that’s not true,” Mr Irwin said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

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