The TV networks have it wrong. Older eyeballs matter most

After seeing a recent news story on Mumbrella about Masterchef's ratings success in the key advertising demographics, Kaye Fallick decided our measurement system was out of touch. In this guest post, she argues the networks, OzTAM and agencies need to better understand their audience - after all, why wouldn’t an advertiser want someone with money, time and the propensity to spend to see their product?

A recent ratings report in Mumbrella told us that news programs dominated Thursday night, but Masterchef had won across the key advertising demographics. So I foolishly assumed that a lot of older viewers had watched Masterchef, causing it to spike against other shows. Foolish indeed.

As I read on, I learned that the key demographics were 16-39, 18-49 and 25-54.


So the over 55s – of whom there are 6.5 million people – are not ‘key’ when it comes to spending money?

Strange when this 25% of the population, which holds 56% of the household assets* actually possesses the greatest spending power.

And given the shift to on-demand viewing, the over 55s may be the last bastion of support for free-to-air TV.

So why don’t they matter in adland where it seems that older eyeballs are only good for organ donations?

Or to put it another way, why wouldn’t an advertiser want someone with money, time and the propensity to spend to see their product?

Just what is it with the OzTAM ratings that the demographics below age 55 are more important? (Although I am told that networks are also keen on ‘Grocery buyers with kids’).

Three reasons spring to mind.

It’s not very politically correct to admit that the very idea of getting old is abhorrent, but it’s possibly true. Years ago a rather brave movie starring Bud Tingwell and Julia Blake, Innocence, explored the notion of mature age sexuality. At the preview, one 20-something reviewer was heard to remark “the sex scenes made me feel sick”. Well at least she was honest. Older people may not make younger people in adland actually feel ill, but they are easily overlooked and patronised.

Assumptions of brand loyalty
‘They’re brand loyal, so they’ll stick with us anyway’. This is an old furphy that gets trotted out each time the need to create strong campaigns specific for over-55 consumers is raised. They are not brand loyal and assuming they are is a big mistake. Measuring the TV viewing engagement of older consumers makes an awful lot of sense, particularly for those brands selling financial services, cars and travel. And lumping all over 55s into one group is a serious error – pre-retirement, transitioning to retirement and post retirement are very different life stages with different product and service needs.

Agencies lack understanding
There’s a disconnect between advertisers, advertising agencies and ratings organisations. Too often it is assumed that what an advertiser wants is understood and enacted by its agency. And that the method of measurement of success is congruent with the original aim. The OzTAM TV ratings self-describe as “the accepted metric by which Australian television is evaluated … the media industry uses OzTAM data to help understand viewer behaviours and advertising planning”.

These ratings, with an emphasis on under 55s and grocery buyers with kids, are not relevant at all to the majority of the marketers I meet. They, instead, are keen to better understand baby boomers and seniors in order to sell them cruises, rail journeys and financial services. And food and vitamin supplements and cars. And a whole host of other things. Recent YourLifeChoices research found that 67% of baby boomers think advertisers don’t understand them, which further reinforces this disconnect.

So what’s the answer?

First up the industry needs to stop being so sloppy with the metrics. If you want to discuss TV viewing preferences, review what ‘key advertising demographics’ should be in order to reflect what’s happening in the real world.

Next, check out Roy Morgan’s State of the Nation report on the spending power of over 55s. Then sub-segment this vital consumer target to get even closer to the statistics that matter for marketers.

It’s hardly a novel idea, but if we follow the money, we’ll always find the demographic that matters the most.

*Roy Morgan research 2011

Kaye Fallick is publisher of YourLifeChoices website, Australia’s longest-established and largest baby boomer site



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