Claire Beale on Advertising: The over-50s are a £200bn market we are not reaching

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The Independent Online

Go back a couple of generations and reaching your half century was a time to slip into something beige and elasticated and wait for the thud of your first Saga catalogue on your doormat.

But when the government abolished the Default Retirement Age last week it was an acknowledgment that old age is being redefined.

Today's 50-year-olds came of age in 1979, the year the first Sony Walkman went on sale, Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose and the first commercial mobile phone network was unveiled. Little wonder they refuse to accept they are suddenly facing a downhill path to the grave. Yet the advertising industry is struggling to keep pace.

The over-50s have more than £200 billion of disposable income and account for 80 per cent of private wealth. They make up a third of people online and are the fastest growing demographic using social networking sites. Yet a survey of a million 50-year-olds found they believe 86 per cent of advertising is of little or no relevance to them.

So it's timely that an online magazine and social network has launched with a "sexy, cool, interesting and relevant" alternative. High50, supported by the ad agency Beta, will offer its audience an online blend of quality content and active community, curated by editor-in-chief Tim Willis, a former editor of the Sunday Times supplement Style. What makes High50 interesting for advertisers is its desire to offer big brands an affluent audience to whom they can market more discreetly than they do in traditional media.

The driving force behind High50, Beta's Robert Campbell, is the embodiment of what it now means to be over 50. "So many people in their 50s have a mindset more in common with teenagers," he says.

Claire Beale is editor of Campaign