Different demos, different strokes

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Men aren't simple, and that means marketers and cable networks need to get specific to reach them.

That holds true even for the male bastion of sports. Except for marquee events like the World Series, Super Bowl and NBA Finals, programmers are wise to target their sports content to specific male demos. "Men are far more complicated than anybody thinks," says Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN/ABC Sports Customer Marketing & Sales, a unit of Walt Disney Co.

The elusive 18-34 male demographic received most of the attention late last year, but media buyers and cable networks are eager to point out that other men count, too. In an era where marketing to women, young men and young adults is in vogue, cable networks like ESPN, Spike TV, Discovery Channel and the History Channel are very interested in reaching men over 34.

Ad categories that target the 34-plus crowd on cable mirror the concerns of these financially secure, but sometimes physically insecure, men. They include health (specifically erectile dysfunction and Pfizer's Viagra), financial services (Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab & Co.) and autos (General Motors Corp.'s Buick and Cadillac, and Toyota Motors Sales USA's Lexus).

Chances are a marketer will need a different message and different media venue to reach men 18-34 and men 34-plus. Younger men often warrant a different message because they're still developing brand loyalty and preferences

When Spike TV launched last summer, it quickly became thought of as a destination for young men, in part because it was successful in reaching the lost boys at a time when broadcasters were losing ground. But with 87 million subscribers, the self-proclaimed "First network for men" actually aims its reach at the 18-49 male demographic, says President Albie Hecht. He notes the average Spike viewer is 38.

The Viacom-owned network has named Keith Brown VP-news and documentaries, and plans to start running programs in that genre in the second half of 2004 as part of its effort to reach a broader, 34-plus male demo as well as younger men.

"We are expanding the things we do for older guys and at the same time continuing what we do for younger men," Mr. Hecht says.

"Advertisers want to break it down every way," Mr. Hecht says, so Spike targets various age groups with specific shows. "Faux reality" series "Joe Schmo" and "MXC," an irreverent comedy, pop into the younger demo. Others shows like "Tripped Out," a guy's travel adventure show starting this summer, and reality show "I Hate My Job," slated for September, try to attract a wider age group.

Ultimately, the way to connect with men is to speak to their passions, says Chris Boothe, senior VP-media director at Publicis Groupe's Starcom USA, Chicago. The programming and the message need to be authentic and relevant.

themes transcend age

Certain themes in content and advertising can transcend age. Poker and gambling are trendy now, and if those themes are woven into the message, the marketer is likely to speak to both the 24-year-old and a 44-year-old, Mr. Boothe says.

Sports, music and comedy are the broad programming categories that appeal to men, he adds.

But even within the genre of comedy, older men usually prefer more information-driven or topical humor, says Jason Kanefsky, VP-account director at Havas' Media Planning Group, New York.

Men's viewing tastes evolve as they get married, have kids and grow older. The guys who were watching VH1, MTV and some shows on E! Entertainment Television will begin to migrate to Discovery, History and cable news nets, media buyers say.

Certainly, "water cooler" events like the World Series will cut across ages, but most other programming breaks down against demos, Mr. Erhardt says. For instance, ESPN2 carries a Saturday afternoon block to attract "fisher people." Those shows skew toward the 35-54 demographic, while Friday night's "Block Party," covering outdoor games like basketball and boxing, attracts urban, multicultural men aged 18-34.

But there's one show that will hit the bull's-eye for men 18-plus every time. "If you close your eyes, you are going to win [with `SportsCenter']," Mr. Kanefsky says. "That's why ESPN sells out the way it does."

Discovery Communications' Discovery Channel has traditionally skewed male and has been particularly successful in reaching the 25-54 demo, says Clark Bunting, exec VP-general manager. Recent hits like "American Chopper" and "Monster Garage" are among the shows that do well in reaching men over 34, though women often watch, too, he says.

story line the key

"What we want to try to do is find high-quality shows that appeal to men and have a story line that is something women want to watch as well," he says.

The History Channel has made reaching men its stock in trade, with a particular affinity for the upscale, $75,000-plus 25-54 demo. "We try to reach people who are interested in seeking information," says Michael Mohamad, senior VP-marketing at the channel, part of A&E Television Networks.

Mr. Mohamad knows he can't reach all men with the same message. While the History Channel will often promote its shows in publications like The New York Times, it has also relied on tech-savvy tools to reach younger men. When the History Channel ran "The Barbarians" in January, it promoted the show in part through cell phone text messaging via mobile marketing vendor Enpocket. Mr. Mohamad says 88% of recipients read the message, 40% went on to watch the network and 18% watched "The Barbarians."

In addition to History, Discovery and ESPN, other cable networks that snare older men include Time Warner's TNT with reruns of "Law & Order" and Vivendi Universal Entertainment's USA Network with "Monk," says Annette Cerbone, senior VP-director of national broadcast at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, New York. Most advertisers will segment because they can and because their products also appeal to specific age groups, she says.

Even beer, which arguably has a universal appeal to men, is marketed to different male age ranges and life stages. Anheuser-Busch, for instance, markets several brands, such as Budweiser, to the younger side of the 21-plus age range and other brands, like Michelob, to men 34-plus, says Dave Cassaro, senior exec VP-sales and distribution at E! Networks. "You don't just want to go for total men. You want to qualify it with some age definition."

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