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Of Demographics
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The biggest complaint advertising receives is that consumers see messages from products and services that are not relevant to their needs and wants. People sit down to watch or stream TV and are treated to ads that are obviously not meant for them. AdLand's quickest response is that these same consumers are either in the brand's target audience or display traits similar to their target audience.

Ah, yes; the situation boils down to demographics.

How is the industry doing these days when it comes to demographic targeting? A new study done by Catalina Marketing illustrates that we are not doing so well. In its sample of brands that have a target audience of female-headed households between the ages of 25–54, only 15% of the ads made it to their target audience.

That's not just missing the mark. That's playing on a totally different field.

Di Somma, a marketing pro who found and commented on the study, concluded that the art of demographic targeting may be fading away. And then he asked if it really matters.

We think it does.

Though by the end of his analysis of the study and the advertising industry we do agree with them, we do not agree with the premise that demographic targeting is dead. We think that the ghost variable in this situation is that the demographic research is poorly done. The statistics in the study showed that the brands were repeatedly reaching other markets more than their target, and that would seem to suggest that the brands kept on applying the same strategy and expected a different result.

Demographics, and the application of such data, are becoming ever more crucial as markets continue to burst into fragments. These days, one cannot trust that certain audiences will watch a block of shows or follow certain episodes. Being a media planner in today's market requires more research and background work than before if we want to get the right eyeballs to the right ads.

Also, we echo Di Somma's sentiment: who has a target market of 25–54? That's setting your brand up to fail.

Just because the art isn't working for you does not mean it's dead or antiquated. It may just mean that the art is being poorly applied. AdLand needs demographic research, and it would behoove those working with such data to improve their artwork.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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