It seems like there’s a movement like this every few years, but when it comes from a guy like David Poltrack, you'd better pay attention.
Poltrack is the head research guy at CBS (like a dentist named Dr. Molar), and at a recent Advertising Foundation’s Think 2011 conference, he indicated that the days of age and sex demographics for the advertising buying process should be numbered.
Working with Nielsen and Nielsen Catalina, Poltrack says his goal is to prove the point that the way media has traditionally been bought is specious. Their research points to behavior as the key determinant of advertising success.
For years, we’ve heard about the value of “psychographic research” - looking at behavior and activity patterns as more important than simply being a 29 year-old male or a 40something female. Sadly, these factors rarely come into play during the buying process.
We recently conducted a study among 40 male-oriented radio stations to demonstrate the value of guys who listen to the radio. Called “Marketing To Men,” this initiative was designed to show that men are in fact valuable shoppers and that all men are not the same – despite the advertising industry’s penchant for simply dividing them up by age demo.
This slide, for example, illustrates a large number of single men and men who live on their own – just the types of radio listeners whose shopping patterns are greatly amplified as a result of their lifestyle situations. You’re not going to grasp a sense of lifestyle differences when you’re simply looking at broad age/sex demographics. Who you are and what you do say much more about what you and how you buy.
Poltrack has seen many of the same things in CBS research over the years. Working with Cambridge Group, they’ve identified six types of TV viewers, which Poltrack claims are better than simply going after 18-49 year-old adults:
TV companions: For this group, TV is almost always on and is like a member of the family.
Media trendsetters: Early adopters of technology and new content, and also 39% multicultural.
Sports enthusiasts: Made up mostly of men, but most guys aren’t classified here. This group also likes action-adventure programming.
Program passionates: Highly involved with favorite shows, and the biggest DVR time-shifters.
Surfers and streamers: Most open to watching alternative content on TV and most often using laptops or tablets to multitask while watching TV. They skew young, but include a large component of 50-plus people.
TV moderators: Those who enjoy being experts and leading others’ choices.
So what would radio segments be like? Obviously, you’d need an industry-wide research study, perhaps something that NAB could collaborate on, with assistance from say the rocket scientists at Katz and Arbitron.
So in lieu of any data, here’s a stab at how radio types might develop if we took a different approach to research and buying parameters:
True Blue P1s – For this group, the radio is always on – it complements their lifestyles, whether at home, in the car, at work, and even on the nightstand when they go to bed. This group often defines itself by the station(s) they listen to. If stations still gave out bumper stickers, these people would proudly display them.
Button punchers & commercial avoiders – These are the listeners who make it an art form to never listen to ads – or even DJs. They avoid formats where there’s talk and engagement. Instead, they use the radio like a jock-less Internet station.
Activists – They show up at station events, click “like” on social networking pages, and are engaged with what they hear on the radio. They recommend stations and products, have large networks of friends and followers, and may be the MVLs (Most Valuable Listeners) of radio.
Talk junkies – Most of their listening is confined to spoken word, radio talk, and personalities. They listen in long chunks, participate in shows, and often share news and stories with friends, families, and co-workers.
Explorers – For these listeners, the radio is still a primary source of entertainment and music discovery, and they use the full array of tools – streaming, podcasts, video, and perhaps even satellite and HD radio. They are less loyal but still very engaged.
Backgrounders – These folks view radio as part of the scenery, accompanying their lives, but rarely is it forefront (with the exception of time spent in the car). These may be heavy radio listeners, but their attention span is often elsewhere.
Newsies – Perhaps divided into two segments – those who enjoy being informed via commercial news-type stations, and those who desire the deeper dive that public radio provides. (WTOP's Jim Farley recently blogged about these differences in this space.)
Hey, I’m just playing, but you can see that if you developed different questions to learn about the audience – not what they listened to and when, or whether they're female or over 25 – you could create a new model for radio sales that might do a more efficient and effective job of delivering the right audience and better results for advertisers.
After all these years of age and sex being the "cutting edge" method of media buys, the sophisticated metrics of today demand better, more laser-focused decision-making. I'm sure that the RAB would be all about that.
Isn’t it time for something beyond demographic rankers that proves the true value of radio?