Bridging the Data Gap

November 2, 2011

Last week it emerged that within the EU, Ireland has the second highest rate of children being raised by single parents. The number is 23.2%. Arguments exist that our social welfare system leads to this high level for two reasons; firstly that the level of aid given to single parents creates a moral hazard that encourages single parenthood, and secondly that the figure is actually over- reported because parents who are not single are falsely claiming benefits. Regardless, it struck me as a large number and prompted me to think about the proportion of any of the audiences we are targeting that falls into this bracket.

Ultimately in this job, we’re trying to work out what earns people’s attention and how and why people spend their time and money. Conventional wisdom says that in order to do our work, it’s necessary that we take target audiences and make fairly general assumptions about them. Often, it’s only in looking at a group at this macro level that we can make any real sense of them.

It’s easy to forget though, that the assumptions we make about our targets can be completely overridden by their individual sets of circumstances. For example, I would think that for all the theories we might have about a given target audience, that the single parents within that audience are still much better defined by the fact that they are a single parent, than by any assumptions we have made about the wider group. Surely that one fact must inform almost all of the choices they make about how to spend their time and money. 

So what do you do about it? Do you dilute your comms to the point that they mean very little to lots of people, or target it to the extent that they mean a lot to very few? That’s the age- old question. The age-old answer is the ATL/BTL divide.

In fact, the world has moved past ATL/BTL thinking. Clearly measurement in digital media is good enough to serve the behavioural ‘long tail’ well.  The digital guys even have their own ‘Paid-Owned-Earned’ model which replaces ATL/BTL and which makes an awful lot of sense.

That’s all well and good in an online world, but we’re not in a fully online world, at least yet. So, where do traditional media fit in the meantime?

Now that I’ve starting thinking about the behaviour of single parents, I want to know how I should consider them in my targeting. I want to know if, when they’ve just finished a day’s work and they’ve collected their toddler from the crèche and they’re rushing home to make dinner and fit in bath time, if they’re going to listen to news content on the radio, because it’s the only time they’ll get the chance in the day, or if instead they’re listening to music because they have zero attention span left for anything serious, or if in fact they have the radio turned off altogether, because they want to have a chat with the baby.  

I fully understand that the nature of digital media makes it more easily measurable, and maybe i’m being greedy asking for similar from other media, but hey, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  

When I compare the purity of the data we can get from search marketing, with some of the data and tools available to me in other media it leaves me wondering whether we’re all trying hard enough to bridge the gap.



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