Inside Move: Dicey demo

Would ads add up in ABC's swap plans?

CBS joker David Letterman is 54. ABC news vet Ted Koppel is 61. But in the name of youthful demographics, relevance and better business, ABC parent company Disney wants to dump Koppel and grab the gap-toothed gabber for $31 million.

With a 12% rise in viewership in the 18-49 age range last year, Letterman’s show may be worth it for the Alphabet. But some in the ad world think the move may be ill-advised.

Ellis Verdi of DeVito/Verdi says as far as he’s concerned, ABC — and its advertisers — need “Nightline” in that 11:35 p.m. slot. If there were three funnymen, they’d all vie for the same dollar. “It’ll force a more competitive environment and not necessarily help the overall picture,” Verdi says.

Verdi, whose firm is perhaps best known for an ad campaign that mocked former NYC Mayor Giuliani for taking credit for everything, believes the bleak economic climate is leading to quick-fix “solutions.”

Companies want results. Quickly. That’s where the 18-49 men/women demo becomes easy shorthand for desperate salesguys. “Smarter advertisers are to some extent disregarding these numbers. The numbers are a tool — albeit a simplistic one — for comparison.”

And, by the way, isn’t this whole 18-49 guys-and-dolls thing tired? “The whole damn thing is outdated,” Verdi says. “Brands are not representative of men or women. It’s not, ‘Men are sitting in front of the TV, sell them beer. Women are in front of their set, sell them Crisco.’ ”

The numbers also don’t add up for “Advertising Today” author Warren Berger. “Why are networks so fixated on viewers in their 20s? That notion that people form their allegiances at that age is an old saw,” he says. “A lot of ad people I speak to don’t believe in it, but the companies still believe it.”

Berger also disputes the idea that twentysomethings are still what people in the industry call “influencers.” “I don’t see a lot of boomers walking around in hip-hop clothing,” he says.

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