University of Saskatchewan
  Targeted Audiences


A major theme in 20th century advertising was the movement away from generalized messages directed at a mass audience. Increasingly advertising has focused on those population segments with particular psychological needs and desires that might, with skillful marketing, make them potential consumers of  brand name or premium products.   

The tipping point of targeted advertising is generally regarded to be the American ads for Volkswagen cars first produced in 1959. The “Bug” ads broke the pattern of the automobile industry which had traditionally aimed their ads at a large and broad mass market. The new Volkswagen ads identified and cultivated a small segment of the market, a minority which took a certain pride in non--conformist.

Stanfield's Unshrinkable UnderwearMost early advertisers sought to get their product messages out to as many people as possible. The daily newspaper proved an ideal vehicle for the advertising of many products, including basic foodstuffs, common ‘necessities’ of life such as soaps and hair products, and popular entertainments.

Western Woman and Rural Home. vol 1, no. 9. 1924. In fact, the targeting of market segments was long established before the advent of Volkswagen ads. The PERSUASION agriculture gallery presents many ads crafted and placed to specifically attract and hook farmers. It has also long  been understood that the adult female in most homes  was the one most likely to determine what the family ate,  what it wore, and what household appliances and furnishings it might purchase. To reach this crucial commercial audience advertisers eagerly supported magazines devoted to the interests and desires of female consumers. One of the oldest and most successful Canadian magazines with a large prairie circulation is Chatelaine. Daily and weekly newspapers introduced women’s or family pages to integrate editorial content and advertising directed at homemakers.Now Trust Your Finest Sweaters to Arthur-Rose Sweater Service.

Targeted marketing was also evident in Canadian magazines, which emphasized the social standing, income and educational levels of their readers to attract advertising from those selling premium products. PERSUASION’s university sub galley demonstrates that university students have long been recognized as a distinct and valuable market, whose custom could be attracted by specially tailored ads in student publications.What Would Che Do? Turning the Tide Alternative Bookstore.

Although there are general cultural values that stretch across societies, research demonstrates that within any modern industrial culture there are subgroups defined by combinations of age, class, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexuality that claim the primary emotional allegiance of their members. Advertising campaigns using the verbal and visual language of the subgroup and identifying brands with the group’s beliefs and aspirations have proven very effective. Sometimes the dissonance in values between society and the subgroup results in advertising that may mystify or offend those not associated with the group.

From the 1990s targeted marketing has intensified in prairie Canada directed at such groups as youth, seniors, urban professionals and holistic health adherents. This marketing has helped support a whole range of free distribution magazines and newspapers. Particularly remarkable has been the recent emergence of Aboriginal peoples and the lesbian and gay community as targets for commercial advertising.The Healing Journey. Manage Your Residential School Settlement.

The rapid growth in the size of First Nations populations, increased migration off reserves, and higher levels of education and income,  have made them a much more attractive target for advertisers. Niche publications are now supported by ads from First Nations governments and organizations, from federal and provincial agencies and politicians, and from retailers and suppliers of financial services. Outwordsinc. Issue 145.

Advertisers once carefully avoided any connection with the gay community. The increased size and visibility of the gay and lesbian community, and research suggesting that some gays may have higher levels of disposable income, have energized a ‘pink’ market in some urban centres. Most prairie gay magazines are now completely ad-sponsored. Some activists lament that what began as a radical social movement is now just another niche market.



You know why Madison Avenue advertising has never done well in Harlem? We're the only ones who know what it means to be Brand X.
- Dick Gregory (1932-), African-American comedian and activist

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