Are demographics dead? Will marketers eventually buy most if not all media inventory, including television inventory, on performance-based models instead?

Executives from agency Initiative think so.

In a conversation with GigaOM, Kris Magel, Initiative’s EVP of National Broadcast, and Michael Hayes, the President of Initiative Digital, explained:

Hayes said that on the digital side, the agency thinks of audiences a
little differently. For instance, “auto demographics are dead,” he
said. Media buyers shouldn’t really care about whether someone is in
the 18-49 demographic, or male or single.

What really matters is
behavior and intent, and whether the viewer — regardless of age, sex or
marital status — is interested in buying a car. Furthermore, digital
ads provide advanced tracking and measurement.

While marketers shouldn’t use faith-based ROI to justify campaigns that don’t perform, the truth is that there is a place in the marketing mix for ‘branding‘. And when it comes to branding, demographics matter.

On paper, it would be nice if marketers had a way to reach only those individuals interested in buying a car. But if you’re a marketer for an automaker, part of your job is to create that intent.

Most of us will not wake up one morning unexpectedly desiring to purchase a new car, let alone a particular make and model. Realistically, an auto marketer has to look at demographics to figure out which consumers are most likely to be interested in a particular make and model.

Take, for instance, Toyota’s SCION brand. The entire brand was conceived to allow Toyota to reach a youth demographic, and the product lineup has been designed accordingly.

So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Toyota’s SCION marketing relies heavily on niches that reach younger adults. Toyota is not going to advertise SCION on a television program popular with seniors, for instance, simply because many of them are ready to purchase a new car.

At the end of the day, marketers must be able to see the forest from the trees. The purchasing process is often a long one, and product discovery usually doesn’t instantaneously lead to purchase intent.

Identifying target markets and seeking ways to develop campaigns that align a product with the needs, expectations and lifestyles of consumers in those target markets is absolutely crucial. In many product categories, without a strong, focused branding effort, the intent every marketer strives to tap into is far more likely to be weak if it exists at all.