When Did Broadcasting Become A Dirty Word?


New technologies and alleged “big data” have made “reaching the masses,” via broadcasting or other mass media, dirty words in some circles.

Advertisers are being lured by the ability to narrowcast and to finely target their marketing.

The ability to target more finely beyond the masses is appealing, particularly to those who cringe at the old Wanamaker quote, “I know half my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.”

But fine-tuning your targeting, by geography, demographics, psychographics, or any other pre-conceived qualifiers, ignores a few realities: The market is not narrowly defined by geography, especially for big-ticket purchases. RV dealers know that customers will drive hundreds of miles to capture the motor home they want. And a consumer who lives on one side of a market often works and shops on the other side of the market.

Targeting end users, buyers, or decisionmakers ignores the role key influencers play in buying decisions. Millennials often ask the advice of their more experienced parents, and car dealers will tell you that husbands might sign the check, but they won’t do so without consulting their wives.

The market, and people, change rapidly. New jobs, increases or decreases in incomes, changes in marital situations, and many other factors can turn an unqualified prospect into a qualified prospect overnight. In fact, the average market population, with deaths, divorces, career moves, marriages, and births, turns over at the rate of 20 percent per annum.

Preaching to the converted will help advertisers maintain their customer base, but there will always be a certain amount of attrition that must be replaced. Reaching beyond their current “target” is where their growth will come from.

Roy Williams says overconfidence in qualitative targeting is one of the causes of advertising failure, and notes, “It’s amazing how many people become the right people when you are saying the right thing.”

Let’s not let advertisers be blinded by the light of shiny new things, and sell them on the merits of reaching beyond those who are allegedly unqualified today to reaching everyone who might be qualified tomorrow. There is an old story about the Jaguar salesperson who lost a sale to rocker “Rompin’ Ronnie” Hawkins because he “pre-qualified” him.

The successful rockabilly singer didn’t want for cash, but didn’t look like a typical Jaguar customer when he entered the dealership with his long hair, beard, and tattered jeans. The legend goes that when Ronnie seated himself in the Jaguar on the showroom floor, a jaded salesperson asked him to leave.

Ronnie did leave, only to return with a shopping bag full of cash. He promptly marched into the sales manager’s office, dumped the cash on his desk, and said, “I’m buying that Jaguar on one condition: That salesperson gets no commission!”

Every seasoned salesperson knows the pain of losing a sale in their rookie days because they disqualified or pre-unqualified a prospect who later bought from a competitor. Advertisers who restrict their reach to prequalified targets are also missing sales.


  1. Stellar material, Wayne.
    Indeed, saying the right things to the right people – or anybody within ear-shot – will be more productive than just about any other approach.
    Local radio has not picked up on this premise. But, you may agree, this is also a Huge Opportunity that is not being addressed or exploited.
    Meanwhile, the last time I was visiting with “The Hawk” at the station, his parting words were: “Let’s go get drunk and be somebody!” 🙂


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