Bob Hoffman, AKA The Ad Contrarian, is aghast that agencies never target older people. He points out that Americans over the age of 50 buy 62% of all new cars and 55% of consumer package goods. And yet, they are the target for only 5% of US advertising.
On the other hand, you could argue we should actually be targeting younger than we do. A recent report (can't find link) showed that boys already know which brand of car they will go on to buy... at age twelve.
John Hegarty's view on the same debate is that we shouldn't give a stuff about who we target. In his book Hegarty On Advertising he argues (and I'm paraphrasing a little) that people buy brands that are famous, therefore we should target as widely as possible.
I don't know who is right, but I do know that the current orthodoxy is dreadful. If a brand is targeting housewives, you 'have' to show housewives in the ad. If a brand is targeting businessmen, you show businessmen.
The new HBO campaign (above) proves this is bollocks. HBO Go is for anyone who wants to watch HBO on a laptop, tablet, or mobile. Which is basically anyone. And yet the campaign superficially looks like it's solely targeting teenagers. Why? Because teenagers who don't want to watch Game Of Thrones with their parents is a strong demonstration of the product benefit.
And this surely has to be the answer. The goal here is to sell the product, and if the best way to do that doesn't involve showing the target market in the ad, then that's the way to go.
Smart clients know this. I presented an FMCG script a couple of years ago which featured two housewives, and the client suggested that this particular concept would work better with two men rather than two women. They were right.
So if anyone ever tells you that you 'have' to feature the target market in your ad, remind them that the target market for John West is not bears or fishermen, the target market for 3 is not ponies or singing cats, and the target market for PG Tips was not chimps.