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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Kata No. 4


Kata No 4 Will the real target audience please stand up?

It’s amazing what you find written in the section of the creative brief entitled Who are we talking to?  And because creative briefs have so many users there is a real danger that we talk in generalities and at cross purposes. The point of this kata is to understand who we are actually talking to. I’ll add another kata soon to provoke some thought on the real target audience but this is to get rid of some bogus ones.

1. The Typical target audience – Man on the Clapham Omnibus

This punter turns up as a kind of Everyman representative of humanity. He is constructed on the basis that creatives can’t and won’t get their heads around a whole group of people. So we pick one and throw in a whole lot of fluffy facts about him. That’s right fluffy. This individual doesn’t and can’t represent the entire target group but at least as a cypher here is an individual a creative can look in the eye and write ads about. OK it may help to get the creatives off the starting block. But the typical target audiences isn’t real. It’s a 35 year old car buyer – (hardly any 35 year olds buy new cars). It’s a family with a boy and a girl (the vast majority of households in the UK have no children at all, and those with children don’t necessarily have two). Businessmen aren’t necessarily male. Subjective impressions of people we think might buy the product turn into myths that agencies will treat as gospel for YEARS. Ditch ’em and dig up some facts. Better the consumer you know…

2. The aspirational audience – Wannabes.

Advertising can be aspirational. We put up ads in public places and people can look over the shoulders of the people it seems to be aimed at and want a piece of it too. Absolutely valid. But to be rigorous you need to define the people you want to target with this work as well as those who are the aspirational audience so you can demonstrate that group A rather admire group B and want to be like them. Your aspirational audience may be rich, have a nice house in Surbiton and holiday in Tuscany. But is this what your target audience aspires to own, or do they believe this aspirational group is more discriminating and do they trust their judgement. Or is it simply that we can pick any group of rich people and say it is all about success. In which case you probably don’t need an aspirational target at all.  Where you have a very hierarchical society badges are important and have universal currency. When consumers have a wealth of identities to choose from and they can are chosen and constantly changed what the rich do may be interesting but not necessarily motivating.

3. The wish fulfilment audience

This is a variation on the aspirational audience. Only in this case this is a case of the wishful thinking of the client or a senior agency person. These are the people the client wants to buy the product.  So we have sponsored events to show  Newquay surfers and Davos snowboarders draping themselves over 4x4s. If these were aspirational target audiences (see above) they might be a little more effective. All too often it becomes a jolly so the agency can surround the client with  a bunch of glamorous liggers, hangers on and former trendies and give them a marvellous time in the unshakeable confidence that the brand is on the move, downageing  and accruing armloads of cred, and lots of cheap TV exposure at obscure times on Euro satellite channels.  Good enough for the suits but not I believe good enough for planners.

4. The media target audience – ABC1 man.

Media buying is a science. It is all about the most cost effective mass audience you can buy. This has NOTHING to do with the target audience you are aiming your communications at. They are not necessarily the same and to assume that they are leads to bland generalised work. ABC1 represent more than half the population. Even a planner targeting a nuclear strike would work with a tighter target than that such as Everyone in Birmingham.  These days there are so many ways to reach a target audience there is no excuse for using purely media guidelines to reach them. You can target people who buy their beer mid evening, hypochondriacs, mothers in the pregnancy of their second or third child. And while these may lean towards direct marketing, you can use these criteria without resorting to mailing lists

5. The delivered audience

This is another mutation care of the media department. Because we have some fantastic deal which gives us access to loads of people we can beef up the numbers.  But it doesn’t help to produced single minded work. If you sponsor a games how at 5pm on a Saturday afternoon you can talk to an awful lot of people. But it doesn’t make them any more predisposed to buy your product. Rumour has it that a Kelloggs brief went out with the target audience as Anyone with a mouth! Pity the creative team who have to unpack that one!

6. The mediated audience

This is where you need to talk to one group of people to reach another one. You talk to parents to get to kids, you talk to kids to get to parents.  Sometimes it’s about getting to users to get to buyers but more often than not it’s because one group takes the opinions of the other group much more seriously than your communications.  I once worked on a TV commercial for an automotive product which worked a treat (but not as expected) when all the former users went into the pub and convinced everybody else to start using it.  If you suss this one then identify both groups and the relationship between them. An awful lot of consumer marketing and virtually all B2B marketing depends on exploiting relationships between different groups of people. Only megalomaniacs and people in advertising agencies believe that it’s their job to to tell people stuff and that people believe what they are told. By all means introduce the mediated audience. But then define the real one too.

7. The real target audience.

Ahh at last. These people are the people who could conceivably buy your product.  You should know who they are, how they use the products. what they think of your brand, and what motivates them to buy it and use it. You should know what they dream of, and who they look up to and what impresses them. You should know how many of them there are (or how few). And how much they spend on the product, its real and perceived value to them. And how to spot them in a crowd. You should know their rituals of usage and consumption not just the inner attitudinal stuff. And you should have an idea of how best to reach them.



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