Very quietly, in late March, CBS gave away the greatest secret in television. As AdWeek reported, CBS Corp. Chief Research Officer David Poltrack announced that “age and sex don’t matter when it comes to TV ad effectiveness.”
Alone, this doesn’t sound like anything groundbreaking. After all, most of us figure that ads generally appeal to all of us on an equal basis. But in truth, the admission is absolutely stunning. As I explain in my upcoming book, Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV
(Broadside Books, May 31), for over forty years, the television industry has operated from the assumption that young urban viewers are worth more than older rural viewers – and advertisers have bought into that assumption. Because young urban viewers tend to be more liberal than older rural viewers, the logic goes, television must program liberal in order to appeal to the most valuable consumers. Hence television executives’ knee-jerk reaction to all conservative critiques to television’s leftism – “hey, don’t blame us, we’re just reacting to the market.”
Except they’re full of it. Hollywood has known for a solid forty years that the “young viewers are valuable” assumption is absolute nonsense, and has bought into the system in order to ensure that liberal programming makes it on the air. They’ve used this assumption as a reason to bar conservatives from the television industry. As we’ll prove when the book comes out – and as television’s biggest names freely admitted to me on tape – this was a scam from the very beginning, pushed by motivated liberals in order to grab control of your living room.
And they succeeded.
Now, faced with hard evidence, the television industry is starting to backtrack. As Professor Marty Kaplan, HuffingtonPost blogger and Director of the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School, explained last week:
How lousy are age and sex for targeting ad buys? "Essentially invalid," said Poltrack. "There is no link, none, between the age of the specified demographic delivery of the campaign and the sales generated by that campaign." According to Ad Age, Nielsen executives at the convention reported that "ratings demographics by age and sex had a... 0.12 correlation with actual sales produced by exposure to TV ads, where 1.0 is complete correlation and 0 signals no relationship whatsoever." Zero-point-one-two! You'd do better using a Ouija board than Nielsen demos.
It’s time for advertisers to wake up and smell the Nielsens (or the horse manure – they’re synonymous). Older viewers are now worth more than younger viewers – younger viewers are by and large still living with mommy and daddy, still paying enormous taxes if they are working, and fast-forwarding through commercials with TiVo. Older viewers have disposable incomes, pensions, and don’t mind sitting through the commercials. If advertisers truly want to make money – and if executives want to keep their jobs as their networks die – they’ll start focusing on older, conservative audiences. There’s a reason that the most successful shows are all popular among conservatives, while the niche shows are all popular among liberals
– there are more conservatives than liberals, and they are more predictive of popular success in terms of overall ratings (and if advertisers pulled their heads out of their rears, revenue).
Television’s head honchos worry about the death of the industry. Instead, they should target new audiences and generate new revenues instead of sticking their heads in the sand and claiming that the MTV generation likes their stuff. If they don’t, it’s just more evidence that they’re not businesspeople but motivated liberals who take their politics too seriously to make cash for their respective companies. It’s time for a mindshift in TV. In fact, it’s 40 years overdue.