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Stop trying to target “everyone” because it ultimately risks being relevant to no-one argues Adam Mack
thinking
4th March 2024

Stop trying to target “everyone” because it ultimately risks being relevant to no-one argues Adam Mack

There’s rarely a week goes by when I don’t see a brief from a client that confidently asks us to ‘reach everyone’.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re a PR agency and it’s our job to earn attention with as many people as possible. I’ve certainly never stood up in a pitch and sold an idea on it reaching not that many people. That would be ridiculous.

But those two words, ‘reach everyone’, are also a bit ridiculous.

Partly because it’s at least 40 years since 30 million-plus people would tune in to watch things like the 1966 World Cup Final (about two-thirds of the UK population back then) or Dirty Den serve Angie with divorce papers in EastEnders. Back then, we could make a decent fist of reaching everyone.

Nowadays (I’m ignoring the Super Bowl as those numbers were mostly in the US), just 12.8 million tuned in to watch the King’s Coronation last year, Happy Valley only managed 11.9 million and Bake Off only managed 9.7 million. That’s out of 67.3 million. Barely 15-20 per cent of Britain.

The rise of the streamers and of social media platforms means that the attention of ‘everyone’ we’re often asked to ‘reach’ is spread so thinly across so many platforms that reaching them all would be a miracle akin to taking a moonshot and actually hitting the moon. From the sun.

That’s not to say there aren’t campaigns that get national (even international) attention – there are plenty of them (rightly lauded at awards). They just never start with the words ‘we need to reach everyone’.

Because, generally speaking, a brief aimed at everyone will end up appealing to no one. It will get you lowest-common-denominator, slab-a-celeb-on-it ideas that die on the vine even before the day is out. In a nutshell: in trying to reach everyone, we end up appealing to no one.

The best ideas and campaigns generally come from a deep understanding of the behaviour of (and insight into) a specific group of people.

And by specific I most certainly don’t mean ‘Gen Z’, ‘Y’, ‘Alpha’, 25-34s or whoever the next herd of cattle through marketers’ gate is. I mean Swifties. Or Wrexham fans. Or skateboarding grannies. Or True Crime fans. Or dog-lovers. Or people who don’t like coriander.

The best ideas come from sharp insights and it’s impossible to come up with one of those for 67 million people. Dodgy stereotypes aside, the only thing they have in common is: they’re British.

But if you whittle that 67 million people down to, say, the 500,000 16-24s who love board games or the seven million who say they love handicrafts, you might have something more to play with.

It’s our job as agencies to find the ‘creative bullseye’ at the heart of every brief and to root out insights into the few which have the potential to engage the many. And it’s our responsibility to turn these insights into campaigns that reach far and wide.

If we do that, we might not reach everyone but we’ll certainly move quite a few hearts and minds.

Adam Mack, Strategy Director at Hope&Glory. This piece originally appeared on PR Week

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