Admittedly, most advertisers and media sellers use generational targeting (or even generational stereotyping) when determining programming placement. Many companies are always eager to hit that ideal age group of 25- to 54-year-olds. That made sense decades ago when those years represented major spending coinciding with adulthood milestones.

In modern times, the attributes of buyers with high purchase intent don’t fit perfectly in that box. However, this generational stereotyping persists in radio and TV research and in programming strategies.

The reality of spending in the U.S. by generation looks different now: 

With these truths, you may find it more accurate to talk to advertisers about looking beyond typical generational targeting. In fact, generational subgroups are much more diverse.

After Baby Boomers, Generational Populations Aren’t Holistically Homogenous

On generational labels, an expert in the field suggested that baby boomers are the only generation defined by an “actual demographic event.” Others after are extremely fluid, not able to fit in such defined boxes. Additionally, most people (outside of baby boomers) don’t associate themselves with their allotted generation. Gen X has a 53% agreement, while millennials are at 45% and Gen Z at only 39%.

So, why put stock in generational labeling for advertising targeting? It’s an easy system that the media industry sticks with because it’s demographic segmenting based on what we’ve always done. However, when sticking to stereotypes, your advertisers may not reach the consumers most likely to buy or need their products or services. In this approach, the assumptions around generational targeting could be wrong, and that’s not good for your clients.

Let’s look at the better targeting options regarding programming placement.

More Accurate Targeting Opportunities

Age groups will always be a factor in targeting, even when stereotyping is present. The idea is to layer that with some other options for TV and radio advertising spots.


Focus on “Trusted” Programming

Trust in programming types goes beyond age groups. Local TV news is an excellent example. It is increasing its viewership and is the most trusted across all generations. No matter your advertiser’s category, selling spots during local news is a good investment.

On the radio side, programming also has a “trust halo.” Listeners across demographics connect with radio personalities. They find them authentic and rate them higher than TV hosts or social media influencers. Like TV news, news talk is the leader in radio listenership.

These news options provide opportunity for advertisers to be associated with trustworthy content.


Align Interests, Programming and Audiences

Another strategy is to look at programming based on interest level, which doesn’t limit targeting to generations. You can make assumptions, and confirm them based on ratings and data, that those who watch this type of programming will have an interest in a product or service. It can be as easy as sports betting apps spending local ad dollars on TV an

O&O (owned and operated) inventory presents another option. Local programming around various topics (e.g., shopping local, supporting community causes) allows advertisers to align their business with a topic and layer it with location-specific attributes.


Take a New Look at “Aging” Content and Its Appeal

The industry also tends to look at specific programming as age bound. For example, classic rock stations play music released during the baby boomer and Gen X formidable years. It was the music of their generation, but they aren’t the only listeners. Younger generations are tuning in to these stations too.

You could say the same about classic TV shows in rerun programming. They can appeal to people across generations instead of being pigeonholed.

Generational Targeting May Be False Segmenting

Many factors impact who listens and watches. People’s age and generation have less and less to do with this, so it’s a topic to discuss with advertisers. They likely have misconceptions that you can elaborate on to give them the best chance to reach people who have a need for what they do. Smarter targeting drives better results for you and your advertisers.

The next horizon for targeting on the TV side is NextGen TV, which will be a game changer, allowing media companies to build ideal audiences. Learn more about it in our post on NextGen TV targeting.

NextGen TV Targeting
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