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Old fogies over 50 are about to get more respect, now that the first of the country's baby boomers are crossing that age threshold.

All of a sudden, the over-50 crowd becomes a desirable and even sought-after target market because the first wave of the baby boomers now find themselves a part of that segment.

As the baby boomers have matured, they have always caused seismic spending pattern shifts, and they'll have the same effect now.

But marketers, most of whom are baby boomers themselves, have never really focused on consumers 50 and over as worthy of their consideration. Now that they are turning 50 themselves, they will experience first hand the shocking fact that people over 50 actually continue to buy things-and with a vengeance unknown in their younger years.

Not just vitamin supplements and hearing aids, as advertisers on the networks' evening news programs apparently think is about all that older people stock up on.

They're buying new furnishings, both for their remodeled primary homes and for their vacation homes, toys for their grandchildren and tuition for continuing education.

And yes, there will be new products for older people who might be a bit forgetful or might not see as sharply as they did in their younger days.

Philips Consumer Electronics, the marketer of Magnavox TV sets, had the right idea when it started selling you a remote control that beeps so you can find it. You just press a button on your television to set off the beep (unless, of course, you can't find your TV). Smart. Very smart.

I also predict there will be a resurgence of great old brands that have been lost but not forgotten.

Nobody seems to use hair tonic anymore, but I bet the baby boomers who want to return to the days of yesteryear could be convinced to give Wildroot cream oil, Vitalis or Brylcreem another try, especially if savvy marketers would revive those great old advertising jingles like "A little dab'll do ya."

Maybe that's why Stephan Co. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., bought several dormant Colgate-Palmolive brands, including the aforementioned Wildroot haircare, and has licensed the Cashmere Bouquet name for talc products.

One of our publishers, Ron Alridge of Electronic Media, turned 50 just 18 months ago, and he considers himself an early economic indicator.

As he wrote in his EM column then: "Being 50 isn't what it used to be. We're not only living longer, we're living more. What's more, we've got more to spend than previous crops of 50-year-olds."

Nevertheless, Ron isn't sure advertisers get it.

"My guess is that it'll be a while yet before advertisers start attaching real value to people over 49. Youth worship dies hard when it has been so good to so many for so long."

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