Respect The Audience. Remove The Target.

Edelman account exec, Jeffrey Treem, left a thought-provoking comment on Amy Gahran’s Right Conversation.

While I agree with your analysis about the value of strategic commenting, I wish you would have used a different phrase other than “target audiences.”
Audiences, are a passive, static group subject to the traditional linear sender-receiver model.
I think we need to think more in terms of communities of interest. After all, we don’t want these people just to read the comments, we want them to become engaged.
Senatics? maybe. But I think we as communicators need to move away from the restrictive view of targeting audiences that was coined by advertisers.

Personally, I think the word “target” is the problem. Audience seems benign. I understand Treem does not see it that way, but not all audiences are passive, not by any stretch. Sports fans, for one, are far from passive, static bodies that exist only to be pitched by the corporate team in their city.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. The whole terminology needs to go – taget, campaign, capture market share, penetrate segements. I wrote about it a while back:

  2. I don’t have a problem with the word “audience,” but you’re right about “target.” Its main drawback is that it feeds into a smug feeling of power for advertisers, who assume that everything is in their control. If we can only create that perfect campaign or that perfect tagline or that perfect logo — then people will flock to us! We’re long past the point of that being true, if it ever was.
    I prefer to talk about “core” audiences. Or “passionate” audiences. What we have to do is to identify the people who already need a product the most, and are willing to do the most to get it. We have to feed that passion consistently and skillfully. Marketing is now, in many ways, customer service.

  3. Good points all, guys! Thanks for expanding this conversation.
    I’ve thought over what you said, and responded in this posting: Are “target audiences” a problem?
    Whadya think?
    – Amy Gahran
    Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits editor