Digitisation has far-reaching implications for our society. The complexity of products, processes and technologies is increasing rapidly, people are networking worldwide, there is a new spirit of optimism. At the same time, we are in permanent beta status. Just as we have mastered a software or interface, an update comes along and we have to relearn. It is rare for conditions to remain constant for more than a few years. The only constant is change. This has far-reaching consequences for our society, but also for media planning. Until recently, society was more structured, and socio-demographic target group descriptions were the simplest and most satisfactory way to describe clients.

Socio-demographics cannot even begin to reflect today’s reality. The traditional roles of men and women have also largely become obsolete. Increased education levels have led to greater gender equality, and the old stereotypes are being broken down in both the workplace and the home. In 1980, 46 percent of all men married a woman who had a lower level of education; in 2016 this figure was only 32 percent. In the same time period, the number of men marrying upwards, that is, marrying a woman with a higher level of education, increased from three to ten percent. These changes represent the collapse of the middle class of society. To put it clearly, there are now only well-educated couples and poorly-educated couples. Couples with mixed education levels are increasingly uncommon. On average, 30 percent of men are well-educated, compared with 55 percent of women. As women are less likely to marry “downwards”, 25 percent of well-educated women remain single – a fact that can be observed in many cities. On the one hand, there are educated couples with double incomes and thus greater consumption capacity, on the other hand, singles or less-educated couples with only one income. Of course, all these individuals have a gender and an age. However, this does not say much about their living conditions and consumption capacity.

Values or motivators offer much better insights into buying behaviour

This change of social norms and structures causes a massive problem for advertisers, in particular for manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs): The hitherto common target group of “households between 24 and 54 years” is no longer effective. An example: In the past, the promotion of an organic, ecologically sustainable dish soap would have focused predominately on wives and mothers. Today, however, this approach would ignore a large number of potential customers. Conscious, value-led purchasing is independent of age and sex. And only about 30 percent of all buyers are repeat customers. The remaining 70 percent are new customers or switching customers who think little of brand loyalty. For brands, it is particularly important to appeal to and retain repeat customers – and today that can often be ecologically conscious, male singles.

Purchase decisions no longer depend on age and gender, but are much more influenced by the values that are important to a person and their motivation for taking action. New approaches to media planning can target these values and motives. This can prevent the exclusion of potential customers from advertising, simply because they do not belong to a specific age group or gender.

Psychographic targeting: What drives action today

A good alternative to socio-demographics is psychographic targeting. Psychographics is a tried-and-tested approach that has been researched for decades in personality psychology, which primarily identifies the human motives for taking action. Buying behaviour is influenced by particular motives for taking action and can be predicted, if the motives for it are known. If a person is more performance-oriented, they are better able to react to advertising motifs that emphasise the performance of a product or the results that can be achieved with it. For a car, this would be attributes like speed or special technical features. For a person whose main motive is social recognition and the company of others, communal experiences and achievements within a group are more influential. Psychographic targeting defines appropriate personas for each brand or product that work independently of age, gender, or other socio-demographic characteristics, and that are primarily defined by their values and motives.

This motivational and situational approach means that different advertising motifs have to be created, which are designed according to the theme of the action. As socio-demographics is losing relevance, both the planning and also the creation of media must drastically change and develop tailor-made spots and motifs for individual personas.

ValueSphere: What is important to me

“Actually I’m quite different. But I so rarely have time to show it.” The quote from the Austro-Hungarian writer Ödön von Horváth makes it clear that we all have specific ideas of how we want to be and what values should guide our actions. Health, joie de vivre, closeness, modernity, quality and many more values determine our buying behaviour, because the products we purchase always reflect our own set of values. For their part, brands and products represent certain values that consumers consciously or unconsciously perceive. So each of us would probably associate Miele with quality and reliability, Lego, on the other hand, with creativity and fun.

With our in-house ValueSphere model, these brand values and the target audience are identified. At the same time, advertising environments such as newspapers, magazines and TV stations and broadcasts are divided into the same value system in order to find the media environment that perfectly matches the brand or product. In this way, coherent results can be achieved, in which advertising not only fits in better with the environment, but also achieves a higher impact.


It’s high time for media planning to change its views. The stereotypes of the past (men are interested in cars, women in cosmetics; young people are modern and open-minded, older people traditional and old-fashioned) are no longer useful. Today’s world is much more complex, people are increasingly individual and social groups more connected by common values and goals. The entire advertising industry – especially creation – must abandon socio-demographics as the sole criterion if advertising is to continue to reach the right people in the future.

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