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Demo Do-Over

September 21, 2023

Recently, Dan Mason posted an open letter to Nielsen on his LinkedIn page suggesting it is ”long overdue” that we re-think how demographics are broken out. In case you missed it, here are his suggestions:

  • Change 12-17 to 12-19
  • Change 18-49 to 20-40
  • Change 25-54 to 41-64

All three suggestions have merit. Of course, the chances of any advertising agency adopting these are slim to none; it would change their paradigm and cause them to work harder to deliver a more appropriate audience for their clients. We’ll choose to avoid that rabbit hole. Instead, let’s take this demo do over a step further.

We’ll start by eliminating the 6-11 segment in PPM markets. Yes, this was originally included for television (and Disney). In reality, all it does is flood the sample with useless participants. Has anyone ever gotten an avail from 6-11-year-olds? Does anyone get bonused on their 6+ ratings? This demo is not surveyed in diary markets and that seems to have worked out nicely. Let’s take that sample and plow it back into demos that actually matter to broadcasters.

Look, we know this would end up being an additional expense for Nielsen. They would have to find additional households in the panel. However, that could help solve the proportionality issues we see in market after market. Let’s look at it another way: if your market population has, say, 8% 6-11-year-olds and your 6+ in-tab target is 1000, that means there are 80 meters that could be better deployed elsewhere.

At the risk of being accused of being ageist, we would also eliminate any panelists who are above the age of 80. This is partially because life expectancy in the US is about 80 years old. More importantly, this is not a demographic advertisers covet. We see too many clients with meter keepers in their 80s and 90s. Sure, they are often heavy radio users, but they also skew a station’s median age.

(Side note: If you’re a country station with a median age in the low 50s, check your CPR report. The issue may not be with your appeal or music mix — it could be because you have a heavy listening octogenarian household.)

Standard demographic breakouts have been static seemingly forever. We ignore anyone over the age of 54 even though the buying power of the 55+ segment is stronger than, say, 18-34. Eliminating useless demo cells can make the overall sample stronger and more consistent.

Any takers on this?

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant