Alcohol and the gendered suburbs: suburban bros with beer versus suburban moms with wine

One writer argues alcohol makers and distributors have very gendered visions of the suburban life:

For decades, our televisions told us that men drank beer, women drank wine, and that’s just the way the world was. Beer commercials, even when they’re not overtly objectifying women, often still truck in mundane male fantasy: dudes sharing brews with their bros on game day, hanging out over the grill or golfing.

Wine, meanwhile, is often sold as Mommy Juice to stressed-out ladies who escape the suburban carpool grind with slugs from labels such as Little Black Dress and Skinnygirl.

And White Claw has a different approach:

There’s football — not on a bar TV but rather a co-ed game being played outdoors. Women might be shown in tightfitting clothes, but it’s athletic gear or just regular beachwear, and the models look strong and fit instead of seductive.

That’s entirely intentional, says Sanjiv Gajiwala, vice president of marketing for White Claw. When the brand launched in 2016, the idea behind it was that the traditional worlds depicted in beverage marketing had pretty much gone extinct. White Claw would be the drink of the new gender norms, of the kinds of “group hangs” that define young people’s social lives. “It wasn’t a world where guys got together in a basement and drank beer and women were off doing something else, drinking with their girlfriends,” Gajiwala said. “Whatever we put out creatively and how we positioned the brand really reflects that everyone hangs out together all the time.”

This gets at two issues:

  1. How products market themselves. On one hand, they can target particular segments of the consuming public. This can help drive sales. On the other hand, that specific approach could alienate other consumers who would not consider the product. This reminds me of a possibly apocryphal quote from Michael Jordan that “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” Pitch one product to men and a similar product to women for decades and there may not be much overlap in consumers.
  2. The gendered nature of suburban life. The stereotypes suggested above date back decades where men would participate in leisure activities, like grilling and golfing, with other men and women would stay inside, care for the children and home, and drink. The female dissatisfaction with suburbia helped kick off the women’s movement and even Marge Simpson ran into similar trouble.

If White Claw is appealing to a new generation and new norms, does this mean gendered life in the suburbs has changed? More men are drinking wine and women are grilling more? Or, are suburban gatherings all together different as suggested above: “group hangs” where friends and family mingle? (Or, are these “group hangs” more for single folk or kidless folk in urban or surban environments?)

Suburb gets $12 million in media exposure for sponsoring college bowl game

According to Elk Grove Village officials, sponsoring the Bahamas Bowl paid off handsomely:

The village’s $300,000 fee to sponsor the Bahamas Bowl resulted in $12 million in media exposure, according to an independent audit, Mayor Craig Johnson told the village board Feb. 12. The village has an option to sponsor this year’s contest, which would entitle it to again tie its slogan — “Makers Wanted” — to the bowl game. A decision on whether to exercise that option is expected later this month.

Johnson said the audit, supplied to the village by ESPN, which owns the Bahamas Bowl and broadcasts it, indicates Elk Grove Village’s sponsorship generated a 40-times return in media coverage. The $12 million figure was derived from a formula that assigns a dollar amount to mentions, commercials and airtime showing the Makers Wanted logo, said Johnson, who was the driving force behind the sponsorship…

The unusual story of a Chicago suburb becoming a bowl sponsor is also being credited for a spike in traffic on the village’s website that lasted long after the Dec. 21 telecast of the game from Nassau, Johnson said.

Of course, media exposure might not be the best metric by which to measure this:

Whether those talks lead to anything tangible will be the long-term gauge of success for the village’s sponsorship, said Dennis Coates, an economics professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the editor of the Journal of Sports Economics.

This reminds me of metrics used for online articles and social media content: how many impressions did it have? Unique visitors? Clicks? All of this can be fairly complicated.

But, the real payoff is knowing that advertising or sponsorship or particular information changed people’s behavior. It will take some time to know whether the impressions translate into new businesses in Elk Grove Village. Even then, new business activity may or may not be related to the game sponsorship. In ten years, can this suburb conclusively show that a one-time investment (or ongoing sponsorship over the years) like this led to positive change? And then, it might be worth doing a cost-benefit analysis to see if the sponsorship money was effectively spent.

The price to get your business on those blue highway amenities signs

It is a surprisingly complicated – and possibly costly – process to promote your business on a blue sign along the highway:

Roadside advertising programs are administered by individual states, though specific service signs like the one in the picture above tend to be farmed out to contractors. One of the biggest of these contractors is a company called Interstate Logos, which works with transportation agencies in 23 states to not only install the huge blue panels, but also to work with businesses to run the programs…

But even if your business meets all the requirements, and you’ve submitted your online application, there may be competition from other nearby businesses. As for which of those businesses get to be on the signs, that depends on the state’s policy. Colorado rotates the businesses at the end of each contract year, but other states like Michigan give preference to businesses nearer the highway, while still others like Washington use a first come-first serve (with waiting list) approach…

Typical mainline logo signs are about 48 inches by 36 inches, so based on WSDOT’s ballpark figures, it’s probably safe to figure about $300 to $500 per sign (this agrees with the Lexington Herald Leader’s claim of $1,253 for four logos)…

The sites says that in 2010, Kentucky Logos—contracted by the Kentucky DOT—paid the state $618,904.91. That’s great for the state, but according to the report, of the businesses on the 1,568 signs in the state, only 1 to 2 percent leave annually. So it seems the businesses are happy, too.

America: combining public services (highways) with business opportunities (advertising a select number of places for travelers to spend their money).

More thoughts on these signs:

  1. Why not include signs for big box stores? Places like Walmart or Target or Costco could provide most or all of these amenities in one stop.
  2. I don’t think the signs are as effective in denser areas where there a lot more options as you approach the exit. They can highlight a few options but you can already see a lot more signs in the distance.
  3. The lodging and camping signs seem outdated. How many people now drive down the highway and pick out a hotel at the side of the road? That sign space could be better used for other amenities.
  4. How effective are these advertisements compared to other forms? Does McDonald’s get a bigger return on the blue sign or a forty foot tall arch or a combination of both?

Why American highways aren’t lined with even more billboards

Americans like highways, solidified in the Interstate Act of 1956. Benjamin Ross in Dead End hints at why there aren’t more billboards along these roads:

The most visible of suburbs’ problems was ugliness, assaulting the eyes on highways lined with billboards and strip malls. This was something the reformist spirit of the sixties would not ignore. President Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird, chose highway beautification as her signature issue. After a fierce legislative battle – the billboard industry did not lack for clout in congress – the Highway Beautification Act was passed, removing billboards from rural stretches of interstate highways. (p. 81)

And here is more from the Federal Highway Administration:

The President signed the Highway Beautification Act on October 22, 1965. The signing ceremony took place 2 weeks after the President had surgery to remove his gall bladder and a kidney stone at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Although he had returned to the White House only the day before, President Johnson seemed to be in an expansive mood as he recalled the drive from the hospital to the White House along the George Washington Memorial Parkway:

I saw Nature at its purest. The dogwoods had turned red. The maple leaves were scarlet and gold . . . . And not one foot of it was marred by a single unsightly man-made obstruction–no advertising signs, no junkyards. Well, doctors could prescribe no better medicine for me.

He added:

We have placed a wall of civilization between us and the beauty of our countryside. In our eagerness to expand and improve, we have relegated nature to a weekend role, banishing it from our daily lives. I think we are a poorer nation as a result. I do not choose to preside over the destiny of this country and to hide from view what God has gladly given.

After saying, “Beauty belongs to all the people,” he signed the bill and gave the first pen to Lady Bird, along with a kiss on the cheek.

Given the pervasiveness of advertising in the United States and a highly consumeristic society, this was a forward-thinking bill. Granted, seeing nature from the windows of a car doing 70 mph down a major interstate isn’t exactly a positive interaction with nature. But, things could be worse: the jumble of signs and logos that tend to mar many suburban strip mall areas aren’t present along highways.

Now, how about dealing with those digital billboards…

New gadgets, apps want more location data from users

Location data is valuable and more new gadgets make use of the information:

Location-tracking lets developers build fast, useful, personalized apps. They’re enticing, but they come with tradeoffs: your gadgets and apps maintain a log of where you’ve been and what you’re doing, and more of them than you think are sharing that data with others.

It’s going to advertisers, mostly, so they can lure you into the Starbucks a block away or the merch tent at Coachella. It’s as creepy as any other targeted marketing, but most of us have come to accept that it comes with the territory. Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says it goes deeper. Your data might get sold to your credit reporting agency, which wants to know more about you as it determines your credit score. It might go to your insurance company, which is very interested in your whereabouts. It might be subpoenaed by the government, for just about any reason. Maybe none of that is happening. Maybe all of it is. There’s really no way for us to know…

Your phone’s ability to pinpoint your exact location and use that info to deliver services—a meal, a ride, a tip, a coupon—is reason for excitement. But this world of always-on GPS raises questions about what happens to our data. How much privacy are we willing to surrender? What can these services learn about our activities? What keeps detailed maps of our lives from being sold to the highest bidder? These have been issues as long as we’ve had cellphones, but they are more pressing than ever.

Another major trade-off that I suspect most users will make without much fuss in the coming years. The cynical take on the advantages for the user is that this is primarily about customizable marketing that can account for both your individual traits and where exactly you are. In other words, sharing location data will give consumers new opportunities. More consumerism! On the flip side, it is less clear how or when location data might be used against you. But, when it is, it probably won’t be good.

The broader issue here is whether people should have geographical freedom that is not known to others. This is increasingly difficult in today’s world even as we would celebrate the mobility Americans have within their own communities, country, and to travel throughout the world.

TV execs, advertisers, going after graying TV audience

After years of chasing the 18-to-49 demographic, TV may be shifting its target audience as the American population ages.

The median age of a broadcast television viewer is now the highest ever at 54. Twenty years ago, it was 41. The most-watched scripted series in the 1993-94 season was “Home Improvement,” with a median viewer age of 34. Today, it’s “NCIS,” with a median viewer who is 61.

Confronted with these realities, the networks are aggressively making the case to advertisers that older viewers are valuable — especially the affluent and influential 55-to-64-year-olds they’re calling “alpha boomers.” The 50-and-up crowd of today, they contend, is far different than the frugal and brand-loyal group that came of age during the Great Depression and World War II…

Younger adults, busy with school, careers, socializing and child-rearing, have always watched less TV. Now they’re even harder to find, thanks to technology that allows them to watch TV whenever and wherever they want, and to skip over commercials…

A decade ago, networks primarily sold ad inventory for prime-time shows based on how many 18-to-49-year-olds were watching at home. Now, network sales teams are emphasizing other metrics, such as income and education level of viewers.

The population bulge known as the baby boomers continue to influence American society. There was a really nice infographic in the Chicago Tribune version of this story (I can’t seem to find it online) that clearly shows some of the patterns across networks: CBS has the highest median age where even their “younger shows,” like How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls, have a median viewer around 50. The youngest network, by far, is Fox with six shows with a median age under 40 whereas no other network has 1 show under 40 and each only have a few under 50.

It would be interesting to then compare these shifts on television to other areas of advertising and marketing. Can advertisers move away from targeting young people on television because it is so much more effective to target them on social media and websites? Or is television still such a big deal even with declining numbers that Internet advertising still can’t compare?

The different demographics of viewers of America’s major sports

Derek Thompson highlights the varied demographics of viewers of the major sports in the United States:

  • The NBA has the youngest audience, with 45 percent of its viewers under 35. It also has the highest share of black viewers, at 45 percent—three times higher than the NFL or NCAA basketball.
  • Major League Baseball shares the most male-heavy audience, at 70 percent, with the NBA.
  • The NHL audience is the richest of all professional sports. One-third of its viewers make more than $100k, compared to about 19 percent of the general population.
  • Nascar’s audience has the highest share of women (37 percent) and highest share of white people (94 percent).
  • The Professional Golfers Association has the oldest audience by multiple measures: smallest share of teenagers; smallest share of 20- and early 30-somethings; and highest share of 55+ (twice as high, in the oldest demo, as the NBA or Major League Soccer).
  • Major League Soccer has the highest share of Hispanics by far (34 percent; second is the NBA at 12 percent) and the lowest income of any major sports audience. Nearly 40 percent of its fans make less than $40k.
  • The NCAA demographics for football and basketball are practically identical but they are surprising old (about 40% over 55+) and surprisingly white (about 80%), which clearly has as much to do with who owns a TV rather than who follows the sports.

There are much smaller demographic differences – say across gender as all of these sports have primarily male viewers – and larger ones, particularly across race and ethnicity, income, and race.

I wonder if this could all be easily deduced by watching the commercials that play during the games. While the average fan may not be aware of these demographic splits, advertisers most certainly are and target the audience accordingly. Yet, I can’t say I quickly can name notable advertisement differences between the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL off the top of my head in the same way I quickly notice a difference in advertisements when turning on the network news at night (a very rare occurrence).