Catch Up with Target Consumers as They Age Up

Adaptation is the key to marketing survival.

Successful marketers constantly check the pulse of changes in the marketplace and adjust accordingly. This should be no different for monitoring and responding to demographic shifts, the evolving media ecosystem and the systems and yardsticks used to measure media audiences.

Demographic shifts

For years, marketers and media professionals equated millennials with the demo of adults 18-34. However, according to MRI-Simmons, this year the oldest millennials approach their mid-40’s, older gen Xers approach 60 years old, and some boomers edge toward 80 years old. What does this generational shift mean for marketers? As these generations age, the size and importance of traditional targeting demos also evolve.

In 2012, MRI-Simmons reported that adults 18 to 49 were 58 percent of the adult population, but a decade later this demo was just shy of 54 percent. Similarly, 25 to 54-year-olds dropped from 55 percent of adults to only 50 percent of adults. In contrast, the 55+ age group has grown from 32 percent in 2012 to 38 percent in 2022. As marketers monitor this trend, it would benefit them to reconsider primarily targeting the 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 demos.

Reaching Consumers in Key Ad Categories

Older adults outside of the 18 to 49- and 25 to 54-year-old demos are valuable consumers and important to many key categories. According to MRI-Simmons, 9 out of 10 individuals with incomes of $250,000 and above are between the ages of 25 and 64. Several car brands such as Dodge, Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, and Subaru skew 35-64 years-old or older. Additionally, consumers spending $2,000 or more on home improvement skew 35 to 64, with the highest concentration in the 55-64 age group.

An Evolving Media Ecosystem Warrants Changes in Targeting Guidelines

While linear TV is far less fragmented than digital video and still the primary engine driving reach and time spent across all age demos, it’s impossible to ignore changes in the media ecosystem. And yet, the industry still uses many of the same measurement yardsticks of 20 years ago, such as day/date and time on a program-by-program basis for TV post-buy analyses. That might have worked well two decades ago, before the advent of streaming and the proliferation of media platforms, but it’s too granular for today’s audience environment.

According to measurement systems that exclusively use meters on televisions, some programs don’t even register an audience in traditional demos. For example, on one day in February (2/15/23) there were 411 national TV programs targeting women 25 to 54 that did not register any audience (this is referred to as “zero cells”). That is not to say the audience wasn’t there, it was just too granular to capture.

Incorporating Valuable Older Adults Improves Measurement Accuracy

Older adults beyond the traditional 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 demos are increasingly vital consumers in key categories. Shifting the audience age for target demos, even slightly from 25-54 to 25-64, increases the accuracy of measuring these audience significantly. For example, changing the demo from women 25-54 to women 25-64 results in over a third less “zero cells” and another 154 national TV programs that can be bought in one day. With this expanded demo, think of the national program inventory that would be available in one week, or for a full campaign. The opportunity in individual spot markets, which include national and local programming, is even greater. In the New York DMA alone, shifting from 25 to 54 to 25 to 64 resulted in 400 more programs that could be bought in one day.

The Agile Marketer Adapts to Change

Savvy marketers recognize the need for marketing adjustments and improvements. They’re constantly making changes to reflect market conditions, supply chain needs, competition and more. We suggest that marketers apply this same agility to include valuable consumers in expanded target demos, and shift from decades old, outdated guidelines. The result: The inclusion of key consumers, improved capability to project and execute media strategies, and enhanced fulfillment of marketing goals.

Article adapted from Hadassa Gerber at The Association of National Advertisers

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