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Youth powers TV, but is that smart business?

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"CBS got smart," says Marc Berman, senior writer at of the Eye network. "A few years ago they tried to change their image, and it didn't work. Now they have mixed it up a little with [reality shows] 'Big Brother' and 'Survivor,' but they have not abandoned '48 Hours,' '60 Minutes,' 'Touched by an Angel,' or 'The District.' " All are shows with an older audience. Advertisers buy ad time based on specific strategies, explains Nelson.

"But the way those strategies play out can lead to misperceptions" about who people really are and how they act, he says. He and others agree that viewers over 50 – who make up 27 percent of the population – should be more valuable to marketers.

"Someone turns 55 every 7.5 seconds, and they are not bringing brand loyalty with them," Nelson says. "What they are bringing is the greatest purchasing power in the history of mankind."

Razors and aftershave are his main loyalties

When Andy Sisinger turned 18 last year, he got a Mach3 replaceable razor in the mail.

"That was a cool thing for them to do," he says. The young guitar player says he's been using it ever since. But not because he's particularly loyal to Gillette.

"I'm not a brand person." The truth is more mundane, he says, "I'm just lazy. If somebody gave me another razor and it worked just as well, I'd use that one."

He watches about an hour of TV a day, mostly local news, but some network, he says, adding that there is no satellite or cable in his apartment.

Mr. Sisinger rarely buys products on the basis of what he sees, in either the shows or the ads. He shops mostly to buy stuff that he needs, he says.

When Friday rolls around, and he gets his paycheck, he'll shop by category, not by brand. "I just identify the stuff I need in my head by the type of thing it is, and I look for the best price."

He's a pretty simple guy, he says, which is just as well. Living in the small town of Chillicothe in southern Ohio, pretty much limits his choices. There are not many malls to choose from, he says.

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