Monday, April 28, 2014

The Whole Notion Of 'Target Market' Is Basically Just A Sham

Bob Hoffman, AKA The Ad Contrarian, is aghast that agencies never target older people. He points out that Americans over the age of 50 buy 62% of all new cars and 55% of consumer package goods. And yet, they are the target for only 5% of US advertising.

On the other hand, you could argue we should actually be targeting younger than we do. A recent report (can't find link) showed that boys already know which brand of car they will go on to buy... at age twelve.

John Hegarty's view on the same debate is that we shouldn't give a stuff about who we target. In his book Hegarty On Advertising he argues (and I'm paraphrasing a little) that people buy brands that are famous, therefore we should target as widely as possible.

I don't know who is right, but I do know that the current orthodoxy is dreadful. If a brand is targeting housewives, you 'have' to show housewives in the ad. If a brand is targeting businessmen, you show businessmen.

The new HBO campaign (above) proves this is bollocks. HBO Go is for anyone who wants to watch HBO on a laptop, tablet, or mobile. Which is basically anyone. And yet the campaign superficially looks like it's solely targeting teenagers. Why? Because teenagers who don't want to watch Game Of Thrones with their parents is a strong demonstration of the product benefit.

And this surely has to be the answer. The goal here is to sell the product, and if the best way to do that doesn't involve showing the target market in the ad, then that's the way to go. 

Smart clients know this. I presented an FMCG script a couple of years ago which featured two housewives, and the client suggested that this particular concept would work better with two men rather than two women. They were right.

So if anyone ever tells you that you 'have' to feature the target market in your ad, remind them that the target market for John West is not bears or fishermen, the target market for 3 is not ponies or singing cats, and the target market for PG Tips was not chimps.  


Anonymous said...

The HBO ad isn't doing anything special. It's matching a benefit to an audience need or fear. That's what any decent advertising does. But it's easy to forget when you get caught up in who you need to show in the ad. Sometimes it helps to show your target market in an ad, sometimes it's pointless. But the product and audience should determine this, not some advertiser's preference.

Paramita Mohamad said...

If you buy into Ehrenberg school of thought (e.g. in the eye-opening "How Brands Grow" by Byron Sharp or as often written by Martin Weigel), you will have to accept that the notion of target market is untenable. See also

Anonymous said...

Target the priority consumer via the media placement. Feature who the priority consumer aspires to be in the creative.(if you're not using a chimp etc)

Anonymous said...

If men make their minds up about what car they buy when they're 12 how do you explain why there are so many Skodas?

Scamp said...

Ha! Nice point.

Well, I did paraphrase the article. And now can't find it.

The truth for cars is that it's a little more complicated than a single preference. We all have a shortlist of brands that we deem appropriate. And while a high percentage of that shortlist is formed early, it's not 100% immutable.

But please send me your email address and I'll run future blogs past you in advance for fact-checking.

Anonymous said...

I would if I could find your email address on here anywhere.

Scamp said...

Oh well, looks like it's not going to happen then.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately somebody forgot to tell Simplot that before they made the follow up spot to JW - for those that missed it, it featured the target market running through the woods before encountering the JW fisherman and the bear. In short, agree. Your ad doesn't necessarily need to feature the TM, leave that to media placement. [comment edited a little bit for niceness - Scamp]