The New Demographics: Hit the target

It used to be as easy as ABC. With a D and E, and a smattering of digits thrown in. But now, traditional socio-demographic groupings are increasingly irrelevant, and advertisers are struggling to keep pace with the change.

Growing cultural diversity, burgeoning internet communities, the rise of single households, new family configurations, an ageing population and the changing nature of what it means to be young or old in this country are forcing new ways of identifying and clustering consumer groups.

And, with the ability today to niche-cast advertising messages, and the budgetary pressures of the credit crunch, there's a growing need to pin down the most effective group for a brand to target.

In this supplement, we shine a light on the importance and challenges of getting your audience right - uncovering some of the newest classifications and identifying some of the key media to help you achieve that objective.

Our writers pick their way through the maze of morphing segments that make up youth (predominately junior-school age), mothers (whether working, single, reluctant, or too-posh-for-Pampers), minority ethnic groups (from Brasians to Poles), gay communities (embracing gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender), seniors (no longer waiting for their eventual demise, but funkier and richer than ever) and high-spending business people (the holy grail for many brands). These groups represent a broad cross-section of the UK population, and a myriad of sub-sections within each one now demand to be marketed to in bespoke fashion.

It was always true that there existed beyond the traditional ABCDE socio-demographic bands further clusters of real people, living real lives. What has now changed is advertisers' ability to target them more specifically. Consumers know this, and nowadays they expect ads to resonate fundamentally, to plug right into their personal micro-spheres, before they will give them head space.

Allied with this change is the massive increase in quantity and quality of consumer data and insight that allows advertisers to get closer to their audiences.

Finally, I'm sure you'll indulge us the licence to portray some stereotypes as wittily observed through the keen eyes of our character sketch writer Alex Benady and illustrator Paul Daviz.