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Hardly Good Old Days

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A top executive at J. Walter Thompson's specialized unit targeting adults over 45 will tell Congress this week that U.S. marketers have failed to address the needs of older Americans.

"It's time to raise awareness of ageism in advertising and work toward its demise," Robert Snyder, a senior partner with JWT's Dallas-based mature market group, will tell lawmakers in his testimony before the Senate's Special Committee on Aging.

Snyder, who heads a 23-person unit, part of JWT's specialized communications, also will show examples of both positive and negative portrayals of seniors in ads.

While there are consultancies and boutique shops that specialize in marketing to older consumers, the 18-34-year-old demographic remains the primary target of most advertisers and agencies.

"For a lot of brands, it's sexier to advertise to younger consumers who are more fashion-forward, very social and very in the public eye," said Melissa Pordy, senior vice president of print at Zenith Media in New York. "With marketing dollars so limited, you want to bet on the future."

Sen. John Breaux, D-La., who chairs the committee, wants to address what he sees as bias against older Americans in advertising and the media, which affects how lawmakers deal with healthcare and social security issues. "When seniors are portrayed so negatively, it makes the work we do that much more difficult," said Scott Mulhauser, a Breaux representative.

Ageism has gained heightened attention following a new survey released by the AARP, which shows that people 45 and older are no more brand loyal than those 18-34.