Are Advertisers Wrong About Target Audiences?

One hopes to be surprised by people’s TV consumption -- especially in this growing multiscreen, multi-TV content environment. And then there this:

Warming down from a running track workout at California Institute of Technology -- one of the preeminent U.S. engineering/technology universities -- I peered into the window of an office with a professor (or student) watching TV.

Shockingly, I saw “Star Trek: The Next Generation” -- one of the most identifiable tech-related/sci-fi TV shows ever -- was on.  I think nothing of it. Until the following week’s workout -- when it happens again. Someone sitting in an office at an engineering college is watching the same “Star Trek” series.

Because three data points are important in coming up with some good “trend” analysis, I wait for one more week. Same result.

The fourth week? Can’t tell this time -- the blinds are down. For all I know, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” could be on.



Some full disclosure: My 90-year-old father watches everything “Star Trek” -- TV shows, movies, whatever. Actually, he began viewing the original TV series in the late 1960s.

His profession? A retired accountant, with little in the way of an engineering background. Still, he was a keen tax-return math whiz.

Is he in your target audience? Certainly not your typical “Star Trek” target.

TV marketers have long made associations as to who watches what kind of show, getting much stuff right. But there is spillage -- and in this diverse and changing media world -- many other questions about current TV audiences and buying practices from media executives.

They include: 1) Why do advertisers continue to pay more for younger audiences? 2) Why are older adults and baby boomers seemingly marginalized in some campaigns? 3) Are Nielsen ratings really worthless to some because there is no link between the age or sex of an TV audience and retail sales?

You may know a number of 55-year-old high-powered women attorneys viewing “The Big Bang Theory,” but maybe they are not buying anything from show sponsors, such as AT&T Wireless, Subaru or Target.

I’m going back to track tomorrow. If my eyes are not bleary by the intensity of the workout from my running coach, I’ll take a peek at the office again.

Here’s hoping any post-media buying research will bear out a deeper, more complex picture of the current 2016 TV audience -- maybe an audience association based on a slightly different TV show title -- say “Dancing with the Stars,” “Food Network Star” or reruns of “Star Search.”

5 comments about "Are Advertisers Wrong About Target Audiences?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 15, 2016 at 9:31 a.m.

    Wayne, we are already asking too much of Nielsen and other media audience researchers. Responding to agency -client pressure, Nielsen went to "commercial minute viewers" as the buying "currency" for national TV and such "data" is used, with various demographic breaks and, sometimes with add-on "metrics" like product purchase indices melded with "big data" set usage ratings which are then indexed against Nielsen viewer ratings as if all of this gets you to better targeting. It doesn't. Now, we are jumping into "cross media" or "cross platform" ratings---presumably boiling them down to the individual commercial level, as if this is a big deal. It isn't. The truth is that we don't have a proper measurement of commercial viewing---not tuning----for any platform, nor are we likely to get one in the near future. The best we can do is take cognizance of the realities of audience research and combine what data we have with---gasp---common sense or judgement in fashioning media plans and making the buys. I know that using human judgement runs counter to the "data" rules everything mantra so loudly and frequently proclaimed but, like it or not, the real decisions will always be made by people not computers so we might as well get used to that  and try to deal with it.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, December 15, 2016 at 3:51 p.m.

    Ed, I sense a new form of programatic on the horizon.   I'm calling it Programatic Common Sense.   I know, I know ... it's a radical idea but I think it might just have some merit.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 15, 2016 at 4:33 p.m.

    Judging by all of the "buzz", John, I fear that we are in the minority on this.

  4. Stuart Meyler from Beeby Clark + Meyler, December 15, 2016 at 5:14 p.m.

    Content is really just one more variable in terms of targeting. Most research shows that it can be a weak linkage at best and there are (now) better data sources available to pinpoint audiences based on actual behaviors and not content associations.  To some degree, I don't care what you are watching but much more who is watching. Content can actually be misleading in that regard. Not everyone watching a travel show is going to be traveling soon.

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 15, 2016 at 8:38 p.m.

    Yo ! Watch that Target dig. One of my gym friends wears jeans and very brand conscious. She drives a new Lexus and Annie Sez, farmers markets, goes out for dinner and drinks coffee as regular as anyone. She is 101.75 years old and spends money. Another woman in her 60's, just bought a million dollar condo and buying new furnishings. There's money in them hills.

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