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Age is a number not a characteristic

Earlier this year I celebrated my 44th birthday - a fairly unremarkable milestone for anyone. It’s still in the right ballpark that you can cling on to the belief that you are in your early forties and the age-we-do-not-speak-of is still YEARS away. In all honesty I don’t know what I expected from reaching my forties, but so far it has been a roller-coaster!

At 40, my husband and I were living in America – David was earning excellent money as a doctor at the University of Michigan and we were looking to buy one of those archetypal wooden clad houses, complete with wrap-around veranda and porch swing. Cut to a year later and, due to a simple issue with a visa transfer, we found ourselves living in his father’s house in Aberdeen – both unemployed, unsure of what would happen next or how we would get there. Flash forward another twelve months and we were renting a flat in Edinburgh with David back working for the NHS. By 43 I was working for MediaCom and were about to buy our (hopefully) forever home and now… well, I’m not sure anyone could have predicted the changes we have all seen in the last few months.

As a Media Planner/Buyer it didn’t take me long to spot something else – no matter how youthful I might feel about my age, I have less than a year before Facebook automatically ages me a decade and slaps a 45 to 54 sticker on my profile. Overnight I will go from being comparable to someone in their mid-thirties to leapfrogging right into my early fifties. And to add insult to injury, it has even started early! Last week I was served an ad for a small plastic Tupperware to hold a single, live pigeon. Aside from my obvious confusion as to what the hell this thing was (not actually being someone who races pigeons) I was baffled as to what criteria had been used to target me so wrongly. A quick look at the rest of the ads in the carousel and I can only assume I was in a broad reach campaign for males of a certain age – I obviously don’t want to be seen to be using an unconscious gender bias, but there are only so many conclusions you can come to based on ads for pigeon racing, snooker cues and dart flights.

There is definitely a time and a place for a broad reach campaign, but defining an audience simply using age and gender feels like a missed opportunity given the volume of data points and audience targeting now available. Having recently completed Facebook’s Blueprint qualifications for Buyers and Planners, I have never been more aware of the nuance involved in translating a business objective into a campaign that hits the right audience, in the right way to ensure we deliver the best results for our clients.

Needless to say, I still don’t own a plastic carrier for a racing pigeon. But based on the amount of rubbish I seem to have acquired since lockdown started – it is very easy to get me to buy from Facebook if you target me correctly.

Read more think articles here.

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