TV advertisers have long sought what they consider the key demographics -- adults ages 18 - 49. To meet that demand, the networks have long aimed their programming at that most-desired age group in order to lure the dollars from big mass-market advertisers.
John Crupi has an interesting backgrounder on those golden demos in the new issue of Advertising Age.
He reminds us that the focus on the 18-49 group goes back more than 50 years when ABC was a young and struggling network, getting clobbered in the ratings by the larger and more established NBC and CBS, which had many more affiliates and, therefore, more eyeballs.
To combat the difference in viewership, ABC put on programming that appealed to a younger audience and then, in a brilliant move, began touting the 18-49 demographics as the ones with money to spend on products being advertised.
In reality, the younger end of that age group likely did not have lots of money to spend. Just out of school, they were either in college or getting started on the careers, with lower-paying jobs at the bottom of the ladder.
As people passed the 50-year-old mark, they suddenly became less desirable to advertisers, if you bought what the networks told advertisers.
But wait… think about it. As we get into our 50s, we tend to have fewer big expenses like college tuition and other child-related costs. If we bought a house, our mortgage may be almost paid off. And as we are older, we are often more advanced in our careers and getting a bigger paycheck.
And as we move past that magic 50+ mark, many of us have more disposable income that we can use on travel, recreation and hobbies. With kids out of the house, we might downsize, which often means buying new furnishings. We also may go out to eat more often, since we’re paying only for two rather than three or four or more.
So you can see, the whole idea of 18 – 49 being the key money-spending demographic seems to be off-base. But the networks’ sales machines, supported by Nielsen ratings, have done a masterful job of selling 18 – 49.
Smart marketers and smart agencies have seen through the sizzle and have been more targeted in their ad spending.