Target audiences are as much a part of media planning as a good steak is of a TV buyers lunch plans and they have their uses. Notably target audiences help define media choices through relevant composition and also act us a trading and audience measurement currency.
Their is also an alternative purpose. Target audiences tell us what not to buy as we know the composition of many media properties implies either a poor environment or a low conversion to the stated marketing goal which in turn implies cost inefficiency.
However, we also know that a significant proportion of prospects (near or long term) use the media we exclude and, therefore, we live with the certainty that we are missing contact and, in the end, sales opportunities. In an extreme example we know that men have their perceptions of automobiles shaped from a early age but none of us buys media that show a high composition of 14 year old boys for our automotive clients. We also know that fine fragrances and cosmetics are purchased by audiences that rarely see the glossiest of magazines.
Softly and slowly things are beginning to change. Behavioral targeting, discussed here in recent weeks, is the antithesis of the conventional view of target audience driven decision making. One simple view is damn who or where they are; if they exhibit a given behavior they will do for us. Behavior trumps context.
But there’s more. In an age where we know that information discovered (word of math or social graphics) as important as information delivered (advertising) there is a substantial case to be built for allowing that information to be discovered by much less defined groups.
Imagine we have a film of a new Corvette or a clip of Nicole Kidman being made up by a Chanel artist should we restrict the former to cars.com or ESPN or the latter to Style.com? I think not. I do believe they should be available on Youtube and as Facebook applications in the certain knowledge that people may express an interest in us even if we have little interest in them. A prospect is a prospect, a customer is a customer.
This implies in the broadest terms a mind shift away from marketing to prediction and towards marketing to intention.