WASHINGTON, DC: A study of thirty thousand Americans aged 42 and over reports that some 25% of those interviewed feel "insulted" by the advertising messages directed at them.

The research, conducted by Focalyst - a joint venture between WPP's The Kantar Group and the American Association of Retired People - suggests that many advertisers are misguided in their approach as they reach out to the largest and wealthiest group of US consumers.

Says Focalyst president Mike Irwin: "There's a perception among advertisers that if you're over fifty, your biggest concern is incontinence - that's not true."

In Irwin's view, advertisers frequently err in approaching the so-called 'baby- boomers' by communicating overly general messages based on stereotypes rather than focusing on different segments of a vibrant population.

And should one doubt his use of the term 'vibrant', Irwin points out that baby-boomers and their seniors include such testosterone-charged personalities as Donald Trump and Sylvester Stallone. To say nothing of feisty female equivalents such as Jane Fonda and Joan Collins.

If Irwin and the AARP are right in their claims, advertisers and agencies would do well to mend their errant ways. There are over 77m US baby-boomers - and by 2010, nearly one in three Americans is expected to have passed their half-century.

The annual spending power of these creaking Croesuses is estimated at an awesome $1 trillion (€781.5bn; £525.9bn) and they control roughly three-quarters of the country's financial assets and over 50% of its annual consumer spending.

Moreover, the Focalyst study suggests that older consumers are less likely to be loyal to familiar brands than many advertisers and agencies believe. Two-thirds of respondents to the study claimed their purchasing decisions are driven not by brand, but rather by value.

"Advertisers have a perception that brand loyalty is pretty much set in people over fifty, and that's not true," comments Irwin.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff