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The Absurdity Of The 18-49 Demo

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The Absurdity Of The 18-49 Demo

Post by tvbobn » Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:54 am

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The Absurdity Of The 18-49 Demo
Radio Ink - December 12, 2017
(By Paul Curran)
My son turned 18 earlier this year. Putting aside my anxiety on how quickly he is growing up, it occurred to me that for the first and only time in our respective lifetimes, we are now joined together in one of the most coveted demographic groups for advertisers…Adults 18-49.

I pointed out this dynamic to him at his birthday dinner and his reaction fell somewhere between embarrassment and complete disgust. I don’t blame him. What 18-year-old wants to be told they share anything in common musically, politically, or socially with a 49-year-old? And their Dad, no less? To an 18-year-old, anyone over 30 is social security eligible and most definitely “not cool.”

Why, he asked, do companies use such an expansive 18-49 target group to sell their products? My son admittedly has no significant income, has never voted, cannot rent a car in most states, has no credit, has never purchased anything more expensive than a large pizza, doesn’t own a car, and has never met an employee payroll. In his defense, he did just graduate from high school.

Conversely, in my lifetime, since turning 18, I have voted for President eight times, owned multiple cars, purchased a home and the commensurate mortgage, filed taxes, and (sometimes) have disposable income. Remind me again why he and I are grouped together and evaluated in the same manner by advertisers?

Of course, the same dynamic exists with the other target demographic group…Adults 25-54. A 25-year-old rarely has the same lifestyle habits as a 54-year-old. It defies logic that they are considered the same consumer by advertisers. To add insult to injury, the advertising community treats adults 55+, the prime drivers of our economy, as an afterthought, not worthy of any attention whatsoever with their messaging. I understand the idea is to make an impression on future generations but completely ignoring the people with the largest discretionary incomes makes no sense. Throw in the fact that adult lifespans are increasing every year and this failure to recruit to 55+ defies marketing logic.

It’s not just on the buying and selling side where these demographic absurdities reside. For decades, newsrooms across the country have targeted their content offerings based on reaching A18-49 and A25-54 audiences. The success or failure of our news content (and people’s careers) has been based on how these groups engaged with our product via daily overnights and key sweeps periods (side note: Patrick Paolini of WTTG wrote an outstanding piece in May 2017 on the outdated nature of sweep periods).

Ironically, the company issuing the TV and radio ratings data for these overly expansive demographic groups, Nielsen, bases their methodology on the even broader sample of total household universe estimates. While Nielsen aims to empathize with buyers and sellers regarding the erosion of ratings for the key target demos of 18-49 and 25-54, especially in local newscasts, they appear to see nothing askew with their demo formulas so long as the household universe is aligned properly.

Of course, no client has used households to make an advertising buy since the Nixon administration. This dichotomy has left TV and radio stations scrambling to explain to agencies and clients why our mediums are still the most powerful platform on which to place their valuable advertising dollars. It’s becoming an increasingly difficult conversation and is costing the broadcasting industry billions in the process.

As dysfunctional as TV and radio measurement has become, at least we can still confirm to our clients where and when their spots aired each month, certified with a notarized invoice.

Conversely, digital companies today are being pressed by their clients to explain how 1-3 seconds of viewing constitutes a “viewed ad” as well as how their digital creative is showing up alongside, shall we say, some “questionable” environments. Earlier this year, Google and Facebook were forced to issue refunds to their clients for pervasive fraud in their ad campaigns. By the end of 2017, over $6.5 billion will be attributed to digital ad fraud.

What can broadcasters do to reverse the narrative that radio and TV are somehow “old media”?

First, we must continue to hold Nielsen accountable for better measurement across all the platforms that carry our signals, including out-of-home viewing. Nielsen has been too slow to keep up with changing media consumption habits and in the process, nullified our brands as the highest reach linear and digital mediums. Sadly, Nielsen currently impacts our future more than any other entity. That future may look bleak to an outsider despite the evidence to the contrary in the form of historic total viewing/listening of our TV and radio products.

Second, broadcasters should continue to hammer home to our client base and ad agencies the message that our linear and digital platforms have never reached more people and are verifiable to boot. The TVB and RAB will play a critical role in this effort.

Finally, the buying community, especially major ad agencies, should expand the data pools from which they purchase media. Relying solely on linear ratings makes no sense given that people continue to consume our platforms radically differently than they did just two years ago. As an example here in Orlando, ad agencies are shortchanging their clients by limiting their reach and frequency to the sample sizes of just 800 households of linear TV viewers.

While I will enjoy the sentimental bond I share with my 18-year-old son for the next few months, we agree it’s not reality. The sooner he and I are evaluated in a completely different light by Nielsen and the advertising agencies throughout the U.S., the better it will be for our valued clients. For now however, I’m off to take him to dinner. He probably wants Taco Bell takeout while I prefer dining in at a nice steakhouse. Aren’t we supposed to have the same tastes?

Paul Curran is the Market Vice President for Cox Media Group Orlando consisting of WFTV TV (ABC), WRDQ TV (Ind), News 96.5 WDBO, K92.3, Star 94.5, Power 95.3, WMMO 98.9, ESPN 580, 107.3 Solo Exitos and Cox Events. He can be reached at paul.curran@wftv.com

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Re: The Absurdity Of The 18-49 Demo

Post by Plate Cap » Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:36 pm

Excellent posting with good thoughts, position, and support. I could not agree more with the writer and his son.

It is not anything new, though, that the far ends of those demos are so far apart in the financial, political, and lifestyle differences. It was the same when I was a teen in the early 70s.

That all said, though, what is new now is that there are strong alternatives to conventional terrestrial radio and television, and those alternatives are growing stronger every day. I was born and raised on radio and television, and have made my living throughout my life almost exclusively through it. Even I spend way less than half of my time listening to or viewing conventional Nielsen-measured sources. There are just too many better alternatives. Younger people are an order or magnitude less interested in listening and viewing.

We had an early Christmas due to our geographically-challenged family, and it was hosted at my 26 year old niece's home. The Amazon Alexa was playing Amazon or Spotify Christmas music, not a radio tuned to WNIC. Why not? Why listen to Connie Holzer trying to sell cars when there is a free source for better music with no breaks? My nephew-in-law (??) listens to or watches ONLY the Tigers and "The Ohio State University" on broadcast sources....the rest is Netflix, Amazon, or other streaming sources.

As such, don't look for any changes in the Nielsen age brackets......they HAVE to put the old people in there to return any significant numbers.

We are at the "spring thaw" of terrestrial broadcasting. The once two-foot thick ice is getting thinner and thinner every day, and eventually it will break into little floating islands of stations smart enough to serve a local audience with something they want that is different and can't get elsewhere, without killing that audience with inane spots. Outrageous cable bills have given TV a short stay of execution with 'cord cutters', but something will step in that competes with that.

These are harsh words here, and a lot of people here simply don't want to hear it. It is an interestingly taboo topic here, although I realize in some regards it's like questioning the existing of God at the Church Fair.

Radio is not 'dead', although it does have an unhealthy pallor and a persistent cough. TV has certainly been having a fever, chills, and heart palpitations for a while. Things will NOT get better, will never be the same as they were in the peak years of the late 60s through the late 80s, and will be changing constantly in order to address the constantly decreasing listener/viewer base. Nielsen is not going to do anything that calls attention to that.

The box that many broadcasters won’t look outside of was made in 1969 and hasn’t changed significantly since.

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Re: The Absurdity Of The 18-49 Demo

Post by phillyb » Wed Dec 20, 2017 2:07 pm

I see some poetic justice in the dissing of the 55+ age group.

I spent the greater part of the 1980s at an easy listening station targeted at older listeners. I had to listen to boomers ( who believed that they were eternally hip and relevant) sneer at easy listening, calling it old fart radio, nursing home music, etc. Selling spots for this station was probably twice as hard as selling spots for an adult contemporary. Defenders of the older audience back then used the same arguments used above, back in the 1980s. THe older audience of Swing Generation adults back then also had much more spending power and loyalty than did the hipsters bopping along to Madonna back in 1985, and the hip (boomers) just sneezed that off as irrelevant. Hey, the Swing group were just old and boring and irrelevant, said the boomers. Who also killed off Easy Listening by the end of the 1980s (I still remember our "new" Kalamusic tapes with vocals by, yes, Madonna among others, superseding the likes of Patty Page and the Ray Charles Singers. This was supposed to make easy listening more hip. It just blew off the core audience (who gravitated to AM Nostalgia formats) without attracting anyone younger. And all the easy listening stations were gone by 1995. Boomer consultants subsequently worked the same magic with the AM Nostalgia formats, making them "younger" by replacing Perry Como and Frank Sinatra with adult contemporary artists which simply alienated the core audience without attracting younger listeners.

Well,now the boomers are the old farts. Instead of Perry Como or Bing Crosby, it's Bob Seeger and the Stones who are doing "old fart's music." Stations are running fast from the music from the 1960s and even the 70s. It's becoming harder and harder to sell the old fart formats like pre-1977 oldies and even some classic rock.

So, next time you tune in a classic rock or a pre-1977 oldies station, say hello to the new nursing home music. And remember, what goes around comes around. Boomers are getting everything they deserve. You are no longer the cutting edge of hipness, Grandpa.

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Re: The Absurdity Of The 18-49 Demo

Post by Plate Cap » Thu Dec 21, 2017 5:32 pm

phillyb wrote:
Wed Dec 20, 2017 2:07 pm
You are no longer the cutting edge of hipness, Grandpa.
Yup, you are right.

I'm a rocker, and when I attend ZZ Top, .38 Special, and Skynyrd concerts, some of my slightly-older (I was a younger teen for some of that) contemporaries are using canes and oxygen tanks.

What you don't seem to realize, though, is that nothing is new under the sun.

The 'flappers' of the 20's were dissed by the big band and swing fans of the 40s, who were dissed by the early rockers of the 60s, who are dissed by Madonna fans of the early 90s. It's now your turn to diss us.

Each group 'ruled' when they were the sought-after demo, and each group 'behind' them, like you behind us, chagrined at what was said to them and rejoiced when their demo 'took over'.

Your place in the process won't be that long....and trust a guy with a grey hair and a broken down body but with the heart and attitude of an 18 year old: it won't be all that long 'till the next group calls you 'gramps'. Mark my words.

Back to the point of the thread, though, and away from the personal-bit that seems to pervade this board:

Unlike any other era since radio, and later TV, were measured and reported upon, young people simply are not listening and tuning in, and less so every day. Their demo as such is small and getting smaller, and needs external membership, because they simply are not there and listening.

It's not about the people....it's not about the music.....it's not about "young whippershappers" or "granpas". It's about the technology available. It started with 'my' people with cassettes and CDs in cars.....we took a tiny bite out of the 'Arbs' by making our own music. But now, it is simply rocketing when you don't have to buy or record the music...you just stream it.

I know many on this board continue to consider the enthusiasm for radio to be as universally exciting as they view it, but it simply isn't, and the 'numbers' show that. Nielson HAS to fudge the demo limits in order to return SOMETHING.

The box that many broadcasters won’t look outside of was made in 1969 and hasn’t changed significantly since.

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Re: The Absurdity Of The 18-49 Demo

Post by Radio Chili » Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:36 pm

Wow! Spot on!! You three guys are doing some mighty impressive writing in this thread!

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