Less Media Planning, More Audience Planning

Posted on October 22nd, 2019 by Mary Caitlyn Polovich

Marketers have a tendency to really zoom in on specific generations and demographics, and their media tactics are a reflection of that. Some reports will argue that other generations, namely Baby Boomers, shouldn’t be left out of a marketer’s target audience just yet based on the simple fact that Boomers still have a lot of money. The argument is proven true by Bureau of Labor Statistics data that shows the Boomer’s yearly household income is above average for total households ($80,086 vs $78, 635) and much higher than that of millennials ($67,076). While those numbers are significant and you may want to jump into adding Boomers back to your target audience, we’re here to tell you it just isn’t that simple.

Simply put: Targeting based on demographics alone won’t produce the best results. Marketers should be planning for their specific audience with each and every campaign.

“Most digital advertising is highly targetable, and we can target any audience from a demographic perspective quite easily,” says Catherine Westhoff, True Media Senior Digital Media Strategist. “However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is effective — there are a lot of other factors at play. The definition of success is different not just from client to client, but from campaign to campaign.”

Your audience could be different from campaign to campaign, and targeting based on demographics alone should be done as little as possible, especially for digital. There are other factors that can narrow down your audience even further, such as income, education, whether or not your audience would have a family or children, and specific interests or hobbies. All of these details are determining factors in calculating what media is going to be effective. For example, radio and TV might have the highest index when just looking at Baby Boomers, but digital channels might be highest when you add in the other factors.

So what is the difference between media planning and audience planning? In Audience planning… 

  • Populations are defined by distinct commercial activities, not by demographic proxies.
  • Media consumption is just one “signal” that lives alongside other signals such as geolocation, observable behaviors, search queries, mood, etc. All of this gets rolled up, look-alike modeled and matched against the ability to purchase ad impressions against those audiences exclusively.
  • There is no untargeted spill. You are either in the addressable audience pool or not exposed.
  • Content is optimized for stages in the user journey, not the contextual environment.
  • Creative wear out is replaced with custom sequencing.

The media industry as a whole is really just starting to shift to the mindset of audience planning. But in order to have the best outcomes from one campaign to another, it is imperative to begin planning media through the lens of an audience planner.