At a time when TV networks are working increasingly hard to
monetize viewers watching on alternative platforms, there are signs that
marketers are paying for eyeballs belonging to viewers age 55 and older.
With five months to go before the upfront, networks are
already lobbying to change the currency used for media buying from C3
commercial ratings to C7 commercial ratings, which would increase the number of
viewers counted by including delayed viewing on DVRs for seven days after
airing, up from the current three days.
It remains to be seen how successful the networks will be in
convincing their clients to embrace C7 ratings. But marketers increasingly
appear to be paying for viewers outside the demographics long favored by buyers.
In a presentation at an investors' conference earlier this
month, David Poltrack, chief research officer at CBS, the network with the
largest number of older viewers, said those viewers are being reflected in the
prices paid for advertising.
CBS has long railed against the advertising industry's
fascination with targeting younger viewers. At the B&C/Multichannel News
OnScreen Summit on Dec. 6, CBS CEO Les Moonves said the 18-49 demo was
"bulls--t," and quipped that the only affluent 18-34 year-olds are
his children. NBC has also been highlighting the consumption pattern of the
aging baby boomers, which it labels "Alpha Boomers."
Now, instead of relying on the traditional age-based 18-49
and 25-54 demographics for targeting consumers, "new research initiatives
have introduced advanced metrics that provide far more precise segmentation of
television audiences to marketers," Poltrack said. In addition, new
single-source measurement services now allow advertisers to measure the actual
purchase activity of television audiences in their product categories.
"The challenge now is to reconcile these new,
sophisticated media planning measures with the less precise age-based currency
measures used in the media buying process," Poltrack added.
Those new measurements can make older-skewing shows appear
more attractive to marketers. For example, the CBS series Blue Bloods
has a relatively low concentration of the 18-49 year-olds soft drink marketers
usually target. But using advanced metrics, Poltrack said, it turns out that Blue
Bloods has a higher concentration of heavy soft drink consumers. And given
a relatively low CPM, suddenly the show appears to be an efficient buy if
you're a soft drink maker.
More and more marketers are looking at these advanced
metrics, and that's starting to affect the programs they choose to buy. The
added demand for shows with older viewers is raising advertising unit prices.
Poltrack said proof that the typical media planning and
buying practice in television advertising "is moving away from age and
gender alone to these more sophisticated and more accountable metrics" is
shown by a decreasing correlation between ad prices and 18- 49 delivery and an
increasing correlation between prices and 35-64 delivery.
"The correlation, though still very strong, is
beginning to come down," Poltrack said. Using price data from Nielsen,
Poltrack said the correlation with 18-49 delivery has fallen from 91% in the
2009-10 season to 85% in 2011-12."
"More telling is a longer-term relationship between
unit prices and adults 35-64," Poltrack said. "This is where the key
baby boomer segment of the population has moved, and it is clear that marketers
are continuing to keep this key purchase group in their target." That
correlation was 52% in 2005-06 and rose to 59% in 2011-12.
Buyers aren't basing their transactions on adults 35-64, but
the figures confirm "they are making changes in their media selection
process that place a higher value on programs that deliver this key
segment," Poltrack said.
"One of the factors causing this rise in the
correlation of adults 35-64 ratings with price is the fact that in the most
recent years, CBS, the dominant network with viewers in this older age group,
has become the leading network in adults 18-49 as well," he added.
Media buyers have been reluctant to change the way they do
business, and it is unclear whether they would ever target an older demographic
At the B&C/MCN OnScreen Summit, Irwin Gotlieb,
the media buying oracle who runs GroupM, which is among the larger media
investment fi rms, said targeting 18-49 year-olds still has merit because while
other consumers aspire to be older or younger, 18- 49 year-olds are the most
comfortable in their own skins. But the game will change when TV becomes a more
"Addressable ads will be far more effective because of
targeting, more relevant, more engaging," Gotlieb said. He sees
addressable ads starting small, then scaling up over the next two to three
"There are really astounding possibilities for TV ad
growth," he added.