32 and Trying
BY JANA PINKOSKY
Women spend years trying to avoid getting “knocked up.” Thanks to shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, my generation was scared shitless of becoming a teen-mom statistic. But due to (formerly) open access to birth control and family planning, prevention wasn’t difficult. In fact, in the 2000s it was so accessible that 99% of sexually active women used a contraceptive at some point in that decade.
Now fast forward 10–15 years. You’re in your mid 20s to early 30s — the prime target for anyone trying to market to moms, as the average age of a first-time mother is around 26. Every statistic ladders up to the fact that it’s the right time for you to be thinking about starting a family. You live a healthy lifestyle, you’ve established a good career, and you’re in a healthy relationship. You have the perfect starter home and an adorable dog running around in the backyard. Every weekend is filled with another wedding or baby shower celebrating another amazing person starting a new chapter in their life. You’re watching your friends have their first kid. Then their second. Sometimes even their third. Sounds amazing, right? Why not join in on the fun? You and your partner have thought about having a family, so pull the trigger and do it (literally)!
So what happens now that you actually want to get pregnant? When you’ve made the conscious decision to bring a human being into the world? Shouldn’t be hard, right?
It was hard for me. And I’m not alone. According to the CDC, 10% of women in the U.S. struggle with infertility. At first pass, that 10% doesn’t seem significant, but when you do the math, that’s almost 6.1 million women affected.
And just because I wasn’t pregnant didn’t mean I wasn’t bombarded on a daily basis with reminders from advertisers that I should be. Early on I welcomed ads reminding me how much I wanted a baby, but they soon became painful reminders of my struggle to conceive.
Don’t get me wrong, the marketer side of me wasn’t upset these brands were targeting me, because on paper, I fit their perfect-mom profile. But it left me wondering. If one misinterpreted detail of my life can completely skew the type of advertising that would be relevant to me, what other ways are marketers getting it wrong with women and probably wasting a lot of their media budget?
Spoiler alert! It turns out that women are more complex than marketers give them credit for — with or without children.
From a targeting standpoint, women of “childrearing” age have a high propensity to be moms, but as the trend for women choosing to be childless rises, almost half of the women in this age group aren’t your target. As societal norms continue to change, so should ad targeting. Being efficient can save you a lot of money, so it’s imperative — and not just for all the women who roll their eyes when they see your diaper ad — that you look more closely at the quality of the impressions your ads are getting, not just the quantity.
You should be asking the following questions to ensure your ad spend is more than just well-intentioned: How much do you know about the impressions your ads are getting? How are behavioral considerations applied to your targeting? Where can your ad spend get smarter?
Just 10 years ago many of the targeting tactics that brands employ today weren’t available, but now the tools and the people are so much smarter. Now we can connect behavioral searches and retargeting and we can layer on behaviors to get so incredibly specific that if I had googled “why am I having trouble getting pregnant”, many brands would quickly remove me from the retargeting list because they’d know I wasn’t with child. Searching online for an adorable onesie shouldn’t make me a bullseye for your baby formula display ads — I bought it for my nephew!
Luckily for me and my husband, I did eventually get pregnant, but what about the rest of the women who were in the same shoes? In a world where brands pride themselves on connecting emotionally with their consumers, we should put just as much effort into where that message shows up and who’s receiving it. Brands can do better, and should. It’s good for business.