| |

Shocking ignorance over class definitions is holding our sector back

Shocking ignorance over class definitions is holding our sector back

We must bridge the SEG knowledge gap to ensure our strategies are built on a solid understanding of audiences and create robust and trusted trading systems to support this.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a panel session titled “Mirror on Class and Social Grade”, which shed light on crucial insights in our industry around class and the way we use and define it.

The discussion centred on a recent piece of research conducted by Republic of Media and Channel 4. This study delved into our understanding of class and how it intersects with creative processes, as well as its implications for data-driven strategies in planning, buying and evaluation.

One of the striking findings was the industry’s lack of comprehensive understanding of socioeconomic grading (SEG) systems. It became evident that there’s a significant gap in understanding the nuances of social economic grades among professionals in our field.

Shockingly, the accuracy rate in understanding that SEG is based on occupation was dismally low, hovering around 56%. Moreover, many conflate SEG with income, failing to recognise that it’s based on the occupation of the household’s primary earner, disregarding actual income levels entirely.

If our industry cannot accurately grasp the fundamentals of SEG, it becomes increasingly challenging to devise strategies that resonate with target audiences. It’s imperative for us to bridge this knowledge gap to ensure our strategies are built on a solid understanding of the audiences we aim to reach.

Precise target audiences

One of the questions put to the panel by Leigh Herbert, director of client services at Republic of Media, was whether Barb could do more to help the industry move past its fixation on SEG. My answer: we already are.

I emphasised the wealth of opportunities offered by tools like the IPA TouchPoints survey, which is integrated with Barb data. This integration builds on standard audience definitions to include household income, attitudinal and behavioural characteristics.

With this as a base, agencies and advertisers can plan campaigns that resonate with diverse audience segments much more accurately than if they rely solely on SEG. Maybe with an age band and gender attached.

Legacy systems

While these data tools are available for planning now, trading relies on legacy systems that operate on standard demographics like age, gender and social grade.

There’s a growing conversation about the need to move beyond these traditional metrics. However, the transition poses practical challenges — particularly concerning the compatibility of existing systems and the need for robust and reliable alternatives.

We must tread cautiously, ensuring that any new systems maintain the same level of trust and accuracy as their predecessors. I likened it to a grandfather clock; its capabilities are nothing compared with an Apple Watch, but it’s incredibly reliable. And that is a good thing.

We need systems that are robust, reliable and trusted, so that everyone on all sides of the equation is confident that the money changing hands is doing so based on accurate data. If they are to be replaced, these legacy trading systems must be replaced by something at least as good as what we have available already.

Better integration

In January 2023, we launched the Barb API to give our clients more flexibility in how they access Barb viewing data and enable them to integrate it into their own tools and systems. The API facilitates integration with existing agency tools and potentially paves the way for trading based on richer audience insights. This represents a significant step forward in leveraging viewing data to inform advertising strategies effectively.

We’re looking to launch access to TGR data soon too — offering agencies and advertisers an even greater depth of data on which to base planning decisions.

It’s important for industry professionals to sharpen their understanding of SEG and explore the diverse array of audience segmentation options available through the Barb integration with IPA TouchPoints.

By embracing these insights and adapting to evolving data-driven approaches, advertisers can enhance the effectiveness of their campaigns and better connect with target audiences.

Doug Whelpdale squareDoug Whelpdale is head of insight at Barb

Andrew Brown, Consultant, Andrew Brown Associates, on 10 May 2024
“Doug's analysis feels very familiar to me but sadly not new. The understanding of social grade is very low and media planners, buyers and sellers expect all AB's to be driving Porsches and flying first class every week. As we know in reality this is not reality. I have always been a fan of moving the conversation beyond demographics. When I was at Kantar, we launched Target Group Ratings (fusing TGI and Barb). It was way of defining an audience by user or brand. The service was used for planning, but not trading and that is the issue. As I have commented before in the context of attention, the UK's trading system for TV holds back scaled innovation in targeting. I wish you every success with the TGR launch, but until we get beyond agency share deals/SAP, I feel that such initiatives will remain as a "nice to have "planning dataset as opposed to replacing somewhat creaky demographics fro trading.”

Media Jobs