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Multigenerational Marketing: New Audiences for Old Programs

May 7th, 2018   ||    by Susan Kuchinskas

For a lot of TV shows, you can tell the expected demographics of the viewers by the commercials: mobile phones and cars for millennials, hearing aids and insurance for the older folks. It’s the traditional way of doing TV advertising.

But advertisers may be missing out if they’re not using a multigenerational marketing approach that appeals to the increasingly diverse audiences watching even the old standards.

Consider the shows Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Though long considered standbys for elderly viewers, their appeal actually extends across generations, with whole families sitting down together to test their trivia and word skills.

Family-Wide Appeal

Advertisers may not be aware that the producers of these shows are constantly working to engage audiences across generations. This means tailoring questions and quizzes, as well as inviting a broad range of age groups to participate.

When it comes to contestants, a recent Jeopardy lineup included three people in their twenties and thirties—a nanny and two grad students—while Wheel of Fortune featured three thirty-something couples. Harry Friedman, executive producer of Wheel of Fortune (which itself is 35 years old), told Broadcasting & Cable, “Our audience is so broad that in terms of demographics we’re tasked with creating content that will appeal to the greatest number of people regardless of age.”

Case in point: A recent Jeopardy category was “Recent R&B & Hip-Hop Hits,” according to Decider—a nod to younger viewers. (Contestants were stumped.)

Advertisers seem to be stumped, too, when it comes to multigenerational marketing. They’ve been slow to latch on to the idea that older programs attract younger viewers.

The top TV shows, according to Nielsen, mostly appeal to a wide demographic: NCIS was recently the number-one show. That means these shows aren’t just for the grandparents. American Idol and The Voice were also in that top 10—and they’re the kind of shows entire families will gather to watch.

Multigenerational Marketing Done Right

A wide variety of advertisers could take advantage of the broad appeal these shows command. The key to commercials that bridge the generation gap is storytelling. Stories spark emotion and intrigue people of all ages.

To advertise its annual Toyotathon holiday sales event in 2017, Toyota created a special 100-second commercial featuring a real family: grandparents, parents, and kids. Director Lance Acord of Park Pictures told Adweek, “The story comes to life because it represents real families.”

The spot, running between family-favorite shows This Is Us and The Voice, shows the family salvaging an ancient, beloved tree that has fallen. While the tree itself will die, they create a beautiful table with its wood, preserving initials that were carved into the bark long ago.

At the forefront of the ad are the ideas of family heritage and gathering together for the holidays. Toyota’s brand attributes of reliability and durability are subtly reinforced by the commercial—and Toyota likely hopes to instill brand awareness in even the youngest viewers.

Cutting Through the Mass

When considering shows with broad generational appeal, there are two strategies. Advertisers can create commercials like Toyota’s that make sense to a wide range of viewers, even if they’re not all in the target demographic. Or they can advertise specific products and services targeted toward a smaller age group, knowing they’ll achieve the necessary reach within that demographic because of the sheer size of the show’s overall audience.

Programmatic buying of TV spots is also on track to help advertisers resolve potential mismatches between audience and programming. With a programmatic platform, advertisers will be able to use a variety of data sources to understand exactly who’s watching—and reach them with the right commercials. In the meantime, advertisers should remember that while a program itself might predate some of its viewers, that doesn’t mean its advertisements should as well.

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