The subtle ways advertisers target audiences — and why they shouldn’t
Targeting based on ethnicity and social contructs is both outdated and ineffective. Contributor Mark Williams discusses how affinity and retargeting are the way forward for today's marketers.
In the early days of advertising, the goal was to appeal to most people. With the right frequency and messaging, advertisers believed a brand would stick in the consciousness of the audience, eventually driving them to take action, such as a purchase, and ideally become a lifetime customer or subscriber. As advertising capabilities evolved, marketing teams sought to segment audiences and reduce wasted impressions by targeting specific groups with specific messages.
Targeting started in simpler forms. For example, an automaker aired a family-friendly car commercial during soap operas and a sports car during late-night TV. By the 1960s, more brands asked ad agencies to target minority groups, a focus that was previously rare.
To do so, agencies tested new creative to learn what resonated with specific ethnic groups, basing strategies on the Burrell Method by ethnic micro-targeting. This ranged from the Lorillard campaign for Kool Menthol Cigarettes that targeted African-Americans and featured African-American models to the 1990s McDonald’s commercial that explicitly targeted inner-city African-Americans.
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