ABS throws light on reality for PR

The release of the latest Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census data puts into context why many PR and ad campaigns fail – they are simply not directed towards the real Australia.

Despite some efforts from government and an increasing number of advertisers who use more realistic images in ads, too many campaigns still focus on the traditional nuclear family and ignore the profound changes going on in Australia. You can read the Census data in detail at www.abs.gov.au but most people would have focussed on the initial Census release media coverage and its angle – the average Australian is a 37 year old woman with two children who is likely to work in a sales position – which might mean that iconic representations of lean Australian males in Akubras will disappear the way that market segment actually largely disappeared a while ago. Yet what is most interesting is the growth in categories which don’t fit the stereotype promulgated by, for instance, political campaigning.

Of Australian families less than half (44.6%) consist of families with children. Some 37.8% are families without children and 15.9% are one parent families. This is no doubt why politicians talk so much about working families rather than traditional families but the slight rhetorical shift probably doesn’t really encompass the range of family-types and of household formations.  In terms of household formations 24.3% of Australian households comprise one person living alone. For all the concerns about mortgage holders they comprise 34.9% of households compared with 29.6% renting and 32% where the home is owned outright. As far as income is concerned 23.7% earn less than $600 a week and 11.2% earn more than $3,000. This demonstrates that the middle class welfare introduced by the Howard Government benefits just a minority of Australians and mainly the upper middle classes.

And in very good news those telling the Census collectors that they had no religion at all comprised 22.3% of the population (a close second to those claiming to be Roman Catholic and more than say they are Anglicans) up from 18.7% in the 2006 Census.

Some communicators would argue that social media and media fragmentation allows them to take these changes into account and segment Australians far more effectively than in the past. Some might be, but mainstream media still seems to largely reflect the stereotypes.

While the US is a weird and wonderful place in many ways the Census data there demonstrates why their PR people and politicians are also having problems. Christopher Caldwell, a Financial Times weekend edition columnist, recently wrote (5 April 2013) about “how little resemblance the working world bears to the folkloric economy of children’s books and politicians’ rhetoric.” Caldwell pointed out that the US has more graphic designers than bakers and more sports coaches than both of those. By the way the figures show the US also has more substance-abuse counsellors than Australia does journalists and PR people combined. In 2008 Caldwell pointed out that the US also has more choreographers than metal casters. The no religion numbers are on the increase in the US as well according to the Pew Research Centre (http://religions.pewforum.org/reports) with about 16% being atheist, agnostic or unaffiliated. It must be said though that the unaffiliated looks as if it might include people between religious engagements so to speak and the atheists are less than 2%.

So, things may be changing, but sadly many campaigns don’t seem to be changing with them – as the 2012 US Republican campaign showed.