Why Age Matters In TV Targeting

May is my favorite month of the year. The days are longer, sunnier, and the beginning of baseball season leads to the anticipation of summer enjoyment. Professionally, it was a time when the hard work from the first quarter led to decisions related to the final strategy and plans that would impact the success of my brands.

My work on packaged-goods brands led me to an understanding that targets were much deeper than adults 18-49 or women 25-54. I was nearly convinced that the only ads I'd see when I turned 50 were those for denture paste and Arizona condominiums.

Fortunately for my career (and my growing family), I learned that age descriptors alone are really used as a standard for negotiations, and that marketers have more elaborate ways of defining who they hope to attract and convert.

Despite holistic and qualitative targeting methods, age still plays an important role in determining the opportunity for a brand. Given buying patterns, the focus on younger demos is understandable.



It is easy to appreciate that the opening weekend attendance for most movies is driven by young adults. For mobile marketers, nearly two-thirds of SMS usage is driven by young adults, and for quick-service restaurants, young adults have high incidence and consume higher margin products, such as fast-food and soft drinks.

For other brands, marketers recognize that changes in "life stage" trigger entry into new product categories. The median age of the "first marriage" in the United States is 28 for men and 26 for women, and this couple is now making purchases to establish their household.

With the addition of their first child, this couple is now concerned with purchasing brands they never even thought about before. They are making decisions that will shape their consumption patterns for the next 20 years.

As these consumers gain more experience, they go through patterns of trial, brand switching and eventually, brand loyalty. One of my favorite targets was "non-brand loyal consumers of ground coffee." This target was created by the recognition that half of coffee volume was brand-loyal exclusive users who would not be swayed by advertising. The other half of the volume came from these brand switchers who had a much younger profile than the loyalists. Naturally, communications to this group required a different solution.

The enhanced need to target younger consumers can be driven by the age skews of the TV networks themselves. The median age of ABC, CBS and NBC is in the mid-50s, and this median age has increased one year each calendar year for the last five. New programs that attract higher household ratings cannot be considered "hits" if their median age remains in the "over 50s."

Sitcoms are the youngest programming genre that the networks run, and their median age increased from 43 to 46 over the past five years. We regularly meet with clients that have both the need and the objective to impact younger consumers, yet 60% of their current network impressions are being delivered to adults 50+.

Prime network delivers over 60% of its entertainment impressions to women, causing marketers to turn to sports to balance their adult delivery. March Madness is just a memory, and it's finally baseball season. Unfortunately for marketers, sports programming also skews older with a median age of 50.

Ratings fragmentation has led many marketers to look at additional factors in assessing the impact of their TV options. Studies have shown that extended pod length negatively impacts message recall, while placement in the first minute of the break yields higher recall and higher program audience retention.

In our current recessionary environment, programming that yields higher "trust" and "influence" has greater value, evidenced by E-Score data available on the Web site.

The increased penetration of DVRs will also impact a marketer's ability to reach younger viewers. Currently, DVR penetration is over 40% for young adults, 15% higher than the national average. In DVR homes, half of network prime programs are recorded and half of the commercials are skipped in playback. In fact, we're seeing that commercials placed in the first minute of the break represent more than 70% of total "playback."

Marketers and their agencies are in midst of finalizing and executing their 2010/2011 upfront plans. Decisions related to brand needs, usage dynamics and the age skew of recommended media all require attention.

While many recent studies show that television is the most effective medium in driving brand sales, adjustments in execution and careful selection of national TV elements can yield better options that provide real ratings, high reach, cost efficiency and increased recall, while mitigating the impact of DVRs. Your decisions will impact your brands' success today, while positioning the brand for the near future.

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