You Are What You Watch, Market Data Suggest

Research Links Personality Traits to Consumers' Viewing Habits, Helps Marketers Match Brands With Audiences

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YORK, Pa. ( -- Whether you choose to watch "Brothers & Sisters" or "Mad Men" at 10 p.m. on Sunday says a lot about you.

According to psychographic ad targeter Mindset Media, the TV shows you watch can offer marketers key insights into your personality. For instance, very modest people are more likely to watch the blue-collar hero show "Deadliest Catch" while altruistic people tend to prefer cooking shows like "Rachael Ray" and reality shows with happy endings like "The Bachelor."

"Your personality determines what you consume, what TV shows you watch, what products you buy, and all the other decisions you make -- political choices, for example," said Mindset Media CEO Jim Meyer. "We didn't invent psychographics or personality traits -- they are really the things that separate buyer groups where demographics fail."

BMW, Audi and Mercedes buyers, for instance, are a fairly homogeneous demographic group; however, each car appeals to a different type of personality, he said. That's where psychographics come in.

To find out which personalities are attracted to which TV shows, Mindset Media recently analyzed self-reported data from about 25,000 TV viewers across more than 70 TV shows. What they found were common personality traits among many of the shows' audiences of people who answered that they regularly tune in. Only a few mainstream shows like "House" and "Bones" didn't have any single personality that stood out statistically either because the audiences are so broad, or the fact that personality isn't a driver of viewership.

Mindset began the research at the request of marketers who already use their data online to target customers by psychographics or personality mindset online. However, the marketers wanted to know if they could apply the principles of online psychographic media buying to offline media like TV.

Mindset will make the current data available to its clients, but also plans to take an ongoing look at consumers' TV personalities, updating the TV data quarterly and expanding it to include a wider range of shows.

They shared data with Ad Age from seven shows that are on many media buyers' short lists already. Mindset detailed not only what common personality traits they claim each show is more likely to attract, but offered a sample of advertisers that it believes are more likely, or less likely, to appeal to people with those personalities.

(A caveat: Yes, we know and agree that many humble people adore "The Office" and plenty of agenda-following realists love "Mad Men." The study, and story, are about statistical group tendencies; that is, the increased likelihood that a group of people who watch a particular show will tend to have one or more similar personality traits. It is not saying that every individual watcher of "Glee" is open-minded and longs to buy a Volkswagen.)

'Mad Men'
Creative people are 41% more likely to watch "Mad Men" than less creative people. While that certainly could apply in the marketing world to the typical "agency guy," creative people are also emotionally sensitive and intellectually curious types who tend to more often be dreamers rather than realists. Advertisers with strong appeal for them include Apple and Audi A6, while Microsoft and GMC Sierra would be less likely to grab their interest. "Mad Men" watchers are also more likely to be liberal. Liberals, in fact, are a whopping 124% more likely to watch the ad drama than other people. Social liberals, as defined by Mindset, disdain moral authorities and believe children should be exposed to moral dilemmas and allowed to draw their own conclusions. These people prefer brands such as Blue Moon and American Express, while they would likely not be as interested in Campbell's soup or a Cadillac Escalade.

'Family Guy'
Off-color cartoon comedy "Family Guy" draws an audience of rule breakers or rebels who are 61% more likely to watch the show. Rebels don't like authority, rules or structure they deem unfair, and usually won't hesitate to make their feeling known with anger or sarcasm. Brands that would appeal to rule breakers are DiGiornio and Ford F150. Risk takers (not to be confused with rebels in the survey -- risk takers have more bravado) are 50% more likely to watch "Family Guy." They are open to new challenges but they also tend to be accepting of others and easy to get along with. Advertisers that would appeal to risk takers are Totino's and Harley-Davidson. Those that would make less of an impression are Dannon Light & Fit and Volvo C70.

Credit: Michael Yarish/Fox
Gleeks tend to be very open. So-called experientialists are 24% more likely to watch the teen singing drama, and in fact, some of their characteristics track with the "Glee" personas themselves. They are open people who believe that imagination and intellectual pursuits contribute to a good life, and go out in search of unique and varied experiences. They are in touch with their own feelings and may even feel happiness or sadness more intensely than others. Brands that connect with them include Evian and Volkswagen Jetta, while Quaker cereals and Chevy Silverado hold little appeal. "Glee," like "Mad Men," also attracts a creative audience, although not as strong. Creative people are 17% more likely to watch "Glee" than less creative people.

'Dancing with the Stars'
For all the glitter and celeb-gawking on the reality dance show, it is traditional personalities who tune in. Traditionalists are 21% more likely to watch "DWTS." Traditionalists are the opposite of the experiential Gleeks, and instead prefer stability and the tried and true. They respect authority and generally have their feet firmly grounded. Advertisers who would appeal to these solid citizens include Kraft and Chrysler Town & Country, while Kashi and Toyota Prius have a much harder sell. "Dancing" fans also tend to be compliant. The get-alongs, as Mindset refers to them, are 16% more likely to watch the show. These personalities tend to defer to others in an effort to get along and are quick to smooth ruffled feathers in an argument. They don't like aggressive behavior and are usually quick to forgive and forget. Brands that connect with them include Fiber One and Buick Regal, while those that wouldn't be as interesting include Mountain Dew and Chevy Silverado.

'The Office'
Like Michael on the show, watchers of "The Office" think they are superior to others. In fact, folks who consider themselves superior to others are 47% more likely to watch this show. These alpha dogs believe they are extraordinary and happily brag about their accomplishments. They also prefer to be in charge, directing others rather than being directed. Brands that would be a good buy on the show include Starbucks and BMW Series 3, while McDonald's and Lincoln Town Car would not be so good. Experientialists (like Gleeks) are also more likely to watch "The Office" by 44% over the average. They are the types that seek out new experiences as a way of living life more fully. Brands that appeal to them include V8 and VW Beetle, while Doritos and Dodge Caravan hold less of an attraction.

'The Biggest Loser'
People with personalities that fall low on the creativity scale tend to watch this dramatic weight-loss show. Realists are 20% more likely to watch. They are pragmatic people who live in the present and work with what they have been given. They are emotionally stable and less prone to highs-and-lows drama. Advertisers that would be a good buy include Bud Light and Cadillac CTS. Newman's Own and Nissan Leaf are brands that would likely be a less successful buy. Less open people, the traditionalists that also gravitate to "DWTS," are 24% more likely to watch "The Biggest Loser." These tried-and-true types prefer brands Velveeta and Honda Odyssey, while Cascadian Farm organics and Honda Civic aren't their cup of tea.

'Real Housewives of Orange County'
Mr. Meyer described this as a "very advertiser friendly" show, and while one could see the potential for certain glam brands, the kind of personality the viewers of the show is pugnacious. Pugnacious people are 33% more likely to watch the show. These "antagonists" are unafraid to tell others what they think and value honesty over keeping the peace. Brands that resonate with them are Botox and Apple, while those that don't include Buick Lucerne and Honda Odyssey. Leaders are another type of personality that gravitate to this show. Leaders are 25% more likely to watch. They are willing to take charge, of course, with a plethora of ideas and strong vision, and they deal with others inclusively, but decisively. Leaders prefer brands such as Nike and Crest Whitestrips, Maxwell House and Hyndai Accent not so much.

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