Note to TV Advertisers – Love the One You’re With Or Be Nice to your MAW

Jan 7, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Books & Tales, Deborah Harter Williams, TV

by Deborah Harter Williams

Guess who’s watching TV?

Women, Middle Aged Women. “Women are the last vestige of the broadcast-dominant viewer,” according to John Spiropoulos, VP at MediaVest and director of video investment and activation. “Especially women over 50. The broadcast networks gear their programming to the female audience because they’re the ones most likely to watch entertainment programming. On average, it’s 65% to 70% female on network prime time, and with CW and others that focus on women, it skews 70% to 75% female for female-targeted shows.”

Guess who is spending money?

Coincidentally, women control a huge percentage of the buying decisions in households. Some estimates range as high as 82% of all purchases predominantly influenced by women. And, of those women, more than 55% are over 50.

Guess whom advertisers are targeting?

Men 18-49 has been and continues to be the preferred demographic. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Viewers over 55 haven’t factored into ad rates, which made them without value to the networks.” The numbers tell the story: A 30-second spot on Glee costs $47 per thousand viewers. On The Good Wife, with an audience 60% of which is 55-plus, the same ad would be half that.

The Tyranny of 18-49

It was Leonard Goldenson, head of ABC who was known as the game changer. For years, ABC finished well behind CBS and NBC in ratings. Unable to compete in overall numbers, Goldenson created a smaller competition that he could win. He told advertisers that ABC was getting more younger viewers than CBS and NBC, so that if they wanted to sell products to that segment the should buy time on ABC. As media critic, Neil Gabler says, “The network had managed to make itself seem successful despite its consistent third-place finishes. It was all smoke and mirrors.” Ironically, in the 1960s he was programming to “baby boomers,” the group that is now so neglected.

New Rules-New Market Segments

David Poltrack, head of research for CBS, wants to change the game again. He told Ad Age that “Reliance on the 18 to 49 demographic is hazardous to all media and marketers.” He advises that all that demographic stuff really isn’t the way to go. (Note: CBS now runs about equal with Fox in overall prime-time viewership, and is losing in 18 to 49).

Working with Nielsen, CBS proposes a “psychographic” view of audiences and defines these new market segments based on TV habits rather than age and gender:

TV companions: Folks whose TV is usually on and like a member of the family. Media trendsetters: Early adopters of technology and new content. Also 39% multicultural.

Sports enthusiasts: Made up mostly of men, but most guys aren’t classified here. Also likes action-adventure programming.

Program passionates: Highly involved with favorite shows; the biggest DVR time-shifters.

Surfers and streamers: Most open to alternative content on TV and most often using laptops or tablets to multitask while watching. They skew young but include a large component of the 50-plus.

TV moderators: Those who enjoy being experts and leading others’ choices.

Meanwhile, TV Advertisers, as you look around the consumer living room, you might just notice your MAW (middle-aged women). Yes, we watch, we buy, we have DVRs and we know how to use them. We may be your mothers or someone your mother’s age, so give us a little love and a little respect. Love the ones you’re with. (And you could ease up on those frat boy beer commercials as well.)

Deborah Harter Williams works as a mystery scout, seeking novels that could be made into television. She blogs at Clue Sisters and was formerly a mystery bookstore owner.


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