From AAAA to AAA.

As seen in ADV Magzine November 1999

LOGO_AAALast spring I left the STAR Group and went on a summer-long cross country trip with my family encompassing: 31 cities, 58 days, 10,489 miles, 8 boat trips, 7 IMAX movies and , thankfully: 0 flat tires, 0 hotel reservations lost and 0 illnesses. My kids, ages 5 and 10, were patient – okay, a VCR in the van and a few Game Boys helped.
We drove every mile in our new mini-van, through 24 states. Stopping at virtually every city, national park, or point of interest along the way, it was a trip our family will remember forever.

“That’s nice, but what’s it have to do with advertising,” you say? Our trip helped me to appreciate the United States as the vast and diverse place that it is. It made me realize first hand how myopic people in the Northeast US are (myself included). And also how lame a broad target audience of ‘Adults 25 – 54, 30K+ HH income is – a target audience I’ve seen surface in too many plans over the years.

Our nation is made up of 270 million people. Messages and media designed to reach ‘homogeneous masses’ have become largely irrelevant because there are no homogenous masses. When I began my advertising career in the ’70’s, a semi-intelligent, straightforward message on a prime network TV program with a strong rating (in the 20’s back then) worked well when aired with some frequency.

It certainly worked for the package-goods marketers of that era. It was how I grew up in business and why marketers would target the masses.

It worked then – not now.

The people my family and I saw last summer were not watching prime time on TV on the “three networks” (I know Homes using TV always fall in the summer).

These people were sitting in front of Yellowstone waiting for Old Faithful – which, by the way, has some creeping nasty irregularity problems.

They were at the beaches in California or at the Mall of America in Minnesota.

More than anything, my trip gave me renewed respect for the intelligence of consumers throughout the US, not just those in Philadelphia or the Northeast. It also reinforced the importance of tightly defined target audiences, with well-crafted messages to reach these audiences.

Now if I could only figure out what media bears at Yellowstone ‘consume…’

Note: This article originally appeared in AD NEWS in November 1999. The trip we took was in the summer of 1999, now 10+ years ago. I took no laptop, sent and received no emails, and made a handful cell calls over 2 months. It was an experience of a lifetime. I was blessed to have the opportunity to take this trip, and as a result have a lifetime of memories with my family. I’m sure you all have 1000 reasons why you can’t take a similar trip, but if there is ANY conceivable way you can do so, do it.

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