The first thing that you’re taught in any advertising, public relation, or marketing class is that you have to decide on your target market before you can create your campaign. I know that over my college career, I’ve certainly had this drilled into my head. However I’ve always questioned the necessity of the target market in every campaign.
As any student of any section of marketing can tell you, the target market is type of consumer which is targeted by your advertising or PR campaign. This usually includes a description of their demographic information, such as age, gender, race, location, and so on, as well as what’s known as psychographic information. This includes the hobbies, interests, and identity of the consumer. It’s clear to see how the decision of the target audience can affect the campaign and even the product itself. For example, Dr Pepper TEN is a nearly identical product to Diet Dr Pepper, however, it is deemed as the “manly” alternative to the dainty diet soda. The commercials promoting Dr Pepper TEN were made to look like scenes out of a Bruce Willis action movie and were usually played during televised sporting events with the tagline “It’s Not for Women”. This is clearly meant to hit the target audience of middle-aged macho manly men who love sports and action movies. While some criticize Dr Pepper TEN (and it’s competitor Coke Zero) for being patronizing and obvious, the target audience clearly makes sense and had an effect on the campaign.
Now consider the Oreo “Dunk in the Dark” social media spot. With the Super Bowl always ranking among the most-watched television events every year, a wide variety of target markets watch it. So when the lights went out in the middle of the game in 2013, Oreo saw its chance and posted an image on Twitter which showcased an Oreo on a mostly dark background with the tagline “you can still dunk in the dark”. The image went viral and is even showcased in multiple advertising textbooks. This ad, however, has no real target market. Not only is Oreo a product that can be purchased by (almost) anybody, the only prerequisite to being a target to the ad is having watched to Super Bowl or having at least heard about what happened. Since Oreo is such an agreeable product that has no relationship to demographics, it makes sense that Oreo didn’t need to define a age or gender, or try to relate the product with a specific hobby.
This to me is proof that great ads don’t necessarily need a specific target audience to be successful. The necessity of target audiences should be decided on a product-by-product basis.