As the average age of the population rises, the nation's advertisers insist on appealing to the younger buyer. TV shows are judged successful in the Nielsens not by the numbers but by the age of the audience. The people flogging products want the viewers to be in the lower age bracket, on the assumption that the younger you are, the more money you will spend.

On Madison Avenue there is nothing but adoration for teenagers--the grungy people we don't know what to do without. The belief in business is that this segment of the population is what makes the economy go 'round.

There is only one thing wrong with this thinking. While it's true that the youth market is priority one, what the advertisers don't acknowledge is where the money comes from. It comes from the parents and older citizens the market researchers insist must be ignored. The people who fund the youth market, as far as the advertisers are concerned, don't exist.

What hurts more than anything is that the big spenders (a k a youth market) have no idea what it costs to raise a family.

"Hey, Pop, can I have $30 to go to the movies? That's $10 for the tickets and $20 for the popcorn."

"Money doesn't grow on trees."

"Do you want your children to be good consumers or a drag on the market?"

"Mommy, since your generation doesn't spend any money, could I have some of it to buy a bathing suit and a gallon of suntan oil?"

The word is out on Madison Avenue that everyone over 40 is a deadbeat. I have nothing against business making all of its TV shows for the young. Thank heavens those of us who can't handle the junk on television still know how to read a book. Besides, TV commercials aren't as great as they're cracked up to be.

All I'm asking from business is that it acknowledge where the money is coming from.

Perhaps at the end of the commercial, a slug might be inserted with these words: "All funding for this beer has been provided by the parents for their children out of parental pension funds."

{C} 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate