But now that millions of baby-boomers are nearing senior-citizen status, CBS News Correspondent Anthony Mason reports ad-makers have figured out where the real holiday buying-power lies.
Baby boomers have shown they are born shoppers, and suddenly this holiday season, a new wave of commercials is going after them.
"It's a huge departure. It's enormous," said Barbara Lippert of AdWeek magazine. "Nothing was aimed at people over 50 before. Nothing. You fell off the demographic chart before. You were dead."
Sony's new $25 million ad campaign features a 50-something couple going on a shark hunt with a Sony video camera. The tag line: "When your kids ask where the money went, show them the tape."
Has Sony every targeted this market like this before?
"No, never," replied Sony Electronics marketing director Ken Dice.
"There's an age old belief about this group that they're brand loyal, that it's hard to switch people when they've become older because they've lived their whole life with certain brands," he added. "But we're finding just the opposite."
So Microsoft is now aiming its television-based web-surfing device, MSN-TV, at older Americans.
"Well, to be honest with you, it's not the most chic thing to do, to go after the senior market in a high tech company like Microsoft," admits MSN's Sam Klepper. "But the truth is, it makes the most business sense for our business."
The TRUTH IS, the mature audience is where the money is. Older Americans make up less than a third of the population but control three-quarters of all personal assets:
That's $1.6 trillion, according to the research group Age Wave, and older Americans account for 80 percent of all luxury travel and more than 40 percent of new car sales.
"The demographic have changed so much that 50-year-olds are living like 35-year-olds," said Lippert. "They're not putting themselves away. They're not dying. And they're going to have a lot of years with a lot money."
The audience advertisers once ignored is suddenly irresistible.