For decades, TV executives and advertisers have based decisions about what you watch on the numbers of 18 to 49-year-olds who are looking at various shows. The importance of the 18 to 49 bracket has been unquestioned, unassailable. Until now.
The greying of America in general, and television viewership in particular, has already had a transforming effect on the TV landscape, with more shows fronted by stars in their fifties and up than ever before. Kelsey Grammer is the latest, with his “Boss” dramedy heading into production for Starz and Lionsgate TV. Gus Van Sant makes his TV directing debut on the project about a Chicago mayor with a dark secret.
There are obvious absurdities in the thinking that’s dominated demographic considerations for so long. David Poltrack, Chief Research Officer of CBS Corp. and President of its CBS Vision business unit, points out, “The idea that a 49-year-old woman and her 18-year-old daughter are of equal potential in buying a product, and then when the mother turns 50 she ceases to be of any value, doesn’t make any sense.”
In fact, “Traditional age-based targets are less and less relevant,” according to Poltrack, with whom we spoke for an AARP.org story about current trends in TV as the audience, and stars, age up.
“We now have very large databases and analytical tools that allow us to look at audiences in much more meaningful ways — by lifestyle, family situation, technology orientation.”
He explains, “What happens now, with cable television and satellite television connections with set-top boxes that are able to monitor what is being watched in a home, you’re able to get information from hundreds of thousands, even millions of households.” At the same time, each time consumers use shopper cards at markets and pharmacies, their purchasing data is recorded. Combining and comparing data on shows viewed and products purchased provides information on the effectiveness of commercials.
With such a wealth of pertinent data available to mine, making ad buying decisions based on age ranges seems clunky and outmoded. Poltrack informs that a new CBS study using these cutting-edge means debunked the notion that shows viewed by 18 to 49-year-olds generate more product sales.
Could a paradigm shift in how advertisers view audience demographics be at hand?
“That’s what we’re hoping,” he says.