The case of the near-sighted bombardier

Date of publication: October 20, 1998

Author: Erwin Ephron


Demographic targeting is a core strategy of modern media planning and buying. It is, presumably, a powerful technique for reducing cost by directing messages to consumers who are more likely to buy. But this simple idea of how demo-targeting works is naive. There is considerable evidence that its value in television has eroded, greatly. The corrosive agents are pricing, fragmentation and reach optimization, but I have the nagging suspicion that demo-targeting has been over-valued by media people for some time. Super-targeting techniques (psychographics and product usage), although widely advertised, appear to have quite serious practical limitations. Only receptivity and geographic targeting remain robust. Targeting becomes far more useful when we expand our definition of “the consumer most likely to buy” to include where and when - and not simply fixate on whom.

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