Defining Target Groups
in Media Planning

Skyline of Santafe de Bogota, Colombia
Skyline of Santafe de Bogotá, Colombia (photo credit: R. Soong)

The planning for an advertising campaign begins with the selection of one (or possibly several) target group(s).  This is by no means an obvious step, as there are various considerations.  We will use some data from TGI Colombia study to illustrate how and why targets are defined in one scenario.


The TGI Colombia study is a consumer survey of 7,035 persons in Colombia conducted by IBOPE Columbia during 1999. The study covers demographics, media and product usage from a population of 12,493,000 persons between the ages of 12 to 64 years old.  For this exercise, we will assume that the hypothetical advertising campaign is to promote a new movie.


(photo credit: Roland Soong)

A very traditional approach would be to define a target group in terms of demographics.  The most common demographic variables are those that are related to age, sex and socio-economic class.  If we want to target people who go to movies, then a typical definition would be persons between the ages of 16 to 34 years old from high/middle socio-economic class.  

The age qualification is motivated by observing that the typical audience in a cinema tends to fall into that age range.  The socio-economic qualification is motivated by the consideration of the price of movie tickets relative to earnings.


According to the TGI Colombia study, 3,929,000 (or 31.4%) of the survey universe are persons 16 to 34 years old from the upper/middle socio-economic classes.  However, there is a suspicion of imperfection about this definition.  On one hand, one does not believe that all movie-goers are between the ages of 16 and 34 years old.  On the other hand, one does not believe that all persons between the ages of 16 and 34 years old are movie-goers. 


By virtue of the fact that movie-attendance behavior is measured in the TGI Colombia study, we can analyze the efficacy of the age/sex/socio-economic definition. 

The choice of using a definition based only upon age/sex/socio-economic class is dictated by a historical lack of movie-attendance information in media planning/buying databases. Given that we have the TGI Colombia study, the more natural target definition should be based upon movie attendance itself.  Furthermore, with this rich database, we can introduce some refinements as well.


One of the axioms in marketing is that a small proportion of the population may account for a large share of the consumption.  Sometimes, this is referred to as the 20-80 rule --- 20% of the people account for 80% of the consumption.  Now this rule is unlikely to work in an exact quantitative sense across all product categories.  Thus, while one can increase daily coffee consumption dramatically, one cannot be expected to use hair coloring products several times a day.  Thus, the exact numerical value for this rule should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.


For the movie attendance situation, the TGI Colombia study provides frequency information.  Those people who attended movies within the past six months were also asked if they went to the movies “once or more per week,” “2 or 3 times per week,” “once a month,” “once every two or three months” or “less often.”  We can then construct the following worksheet:


Frequency of

Number of times
per month

Number of persons Number of person-times  
per month (=tickets)
Once or more per week 4.5 156,000    702,000
Two or three times per month 2.5 479,000 1,197,000
Once a month 1.0 681,000    681,000
Once every 2 to 3 months 0.4 980,000    392,000
Less frequently 0.0 486,000               0


  2,782,000 2,972,000

(source: TGI Colombia, IBOPE Colombia)


Thus, if we count up just the number of persons who attend movies once or more per month, we have (156,000 + 479,000 + 681,000) = 1,316,000 persons (or 47% of all movie goers) who account for (702,000 + 1,197,000 + 681,000) = 2,580,000 person-times (or 87% of all person-times).  Thus, about half of the people account for almost 90% of all movie tickets sold.

Thus, one logical target that can be derived from the TGI Colombia study is “persons who attend movies at least once a month.”  From here, we can build a media plan around these people.  Here are some facts about them:

  All persons
between the ages
of 12-64
Persons 16-34 
in upper/middle 
socio-economic classes
who attend movies
at least once a month
% listen to radio in private transport 19% 21% 39%

(source: TGI Colombia, IBOPE Colombia)

We do not wish to imply that a study like the TGI Colombia study makes media planning a completely automated process.  Far from it, for such a study simply provides the data to make informed decisions and permits greater space for creative applications.  Thus, in the example, we may also wish to factor in the nature of the new movie in view that people will watch some types of movies but not others.  This will be possible because of the TGI Colombia study also contains information about the preference for various movie genres (drama, action/adventure, suspense, terror, comedy, etc), so that we can customize the target to fit the particular movie.


(posted by  Ivan Galvis & Roland Soong 12/3/99)

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