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A look at how CTV reach and viewership trends shift across generations

4 minute read | May 2024

Advanced audiences, also referred to as audience segments, is industry shorthand for groups of people that marketers put together for ad targeting purposes, using demographics, interests, media habits, shopping behavior and many other attributes curated from internal and external records.

Advanced audience targeting has been around for a long time for many digital channels. But in today’s complex multichannel world, targeting one channel at a time doesn’t cut it anymore. Modern marketers expect to define their custom audiences one time and activate them uniformly across media—from the open web to social, retail media, FAST, CTV and addressable linear. They also expect their measurement solutions to keep up and measure performance with enough granularity to capture those audiences. 

Building high-performing advanced audiences has never been more urgent, especially in the context of the on-again, off-again deprecation of cookie-based targeting systems. 

Thankfully, the industry is responding with exciting new data solutions. At Nielsen, we’ve developed a measurement-grade identity graph and a comprehensive digital ID system to help marketers like you quickly onboard their first-party data, cross-check the quality of their data records, and enrich those records with highly-relevant new attributes.

Let’s examine the benefits of advanced audiences with a few examples connected to CTV.

Cats, kids and touchdowns

Imagine you’re looking to reach Gen Z cat owners (perhaps you’re a pet food company interested in reaching consumers in U.S. college towns); Millennials with young kids (great for toys, food delivery or theme park vacations); or Baby Boomers who are NFL superfans (think beer, cars or banking). Is CTV a good investment for your media spend?

According to data analyzed through Nielsen Media Impact (NMI), advanced audiences don’t necessarily spend more time on CTV devices and platforms than the norm. On average, Gen Z, Millennials and Boomers spend about the same amount of time every day with CTV—a little more than two hours—and owning a cat (for Gen Zers) or being an NFL superfan (for Boomers) doesn’t really make a difference. 

But the story is very different for Millennials with young kids who spend over seven hours a day streaming CTV content, more than 3X as much as their peers without young kids at home.

That doesn’t mean, however, that all CTV platforms will perform equally well for brands looking to capitalize on that opportunity. And, conversely, that there’s not a single CTV platform that can move the needle for the other two groups, Gen Z cat owners and NFL superfan Boomers. 

Finding a home on CTV

None of the top CTV platforms in the U.S. show a big bias for one generation or another.  They don’t all have the same reach, of course, as the NMI data below clearly illustrate. But if a platform reaches 30% of the Gen Z population in a given month, it also reaches 30% of the Millennial population, with Gen Xers (not shown) and Boomers only slightly behind.

But the story changes when we examine reach for the three advanced audiences in our planning tool. HBO Max, for instance, reached 26.4% of Gen Z cat owners in October 2023, compared with 20.6% for all Gen Z. Disney+ reached 56.4% of all Millennials with young kids, compared to 32.6% among all Millennials. The chart below shows those gaps in index form (56.4/32.6 = 173 index, for example), clearly highlighting what platforms would be good candidates to reach each of those advanced audiences.

One word about NFL superfan Boomers. They’re harder to reach on CTV than other Boomers because they’re spending a lot of their TV time on linear TV. But we can already see a number of platforms faring well thanks to their relationship with rights-holding broadcast networks or other exclusive and non-exclusive NFL streaming agreements.

So many choices, so little time

To keep up with consumers and fast-changing market conditions, marketers today need media planning solutions that are rich, consistent, comprehensive and comparable across platforms, not point solutions with vastly different audience definitions and media buying systems.

There’s no time to waste. We’ve assembled custom and syndicated advanced audiences for you to kickstart your media planning, whether you’re working in auto, CPG, retail or dozens of other industries. And since you never want to buy media you can’t measure, we’ve embedded our advanced audiences into Nielsen ONE, our industry-leading cross-media measurement solution.

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