Channel 4’s Mirror on the Industry Report Introduces Alternatives to Traditional Socioeconomic Grading


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“Mirror on Class and Social Grade”, the freshest addition to Channel 4’s Mirror on the Industry series, challenges prevailing assumptions within the media industry regarding consumers’ social grade and class. This report, put together by Channel 4 and Republic of Media, suggests that assumptions in these areas might just be the last remaining acceptable stereotypes within the industry.

The Socioeconomic Grading (SEG) system, widely employed to target ‘ABC1’ audiences, is examined in the context of its evolving relevance. The report questions whether this system, initially designed to serve a specific purpose, is now out of touch with the realities of contemporary demographics, changes in household composition, and the evolving nature of work. The ABC1 category, now representing more than 60% of the UK public, is seen as lacking the precision it once had.

Based on insights gathered from a survey of 100 media agency experts and a cross-section of 1000 members of the UK public, the report sheds light on the potential pitfalls of the socioeconomic grading system. In Channel 4’s broader Mirror on the Industry study, focusing on TV advertising representation, it was evident that working-class portrayals often leaned heavily on stereotypes. Northern accents were also disproportionately tagged as working-class, and characters identified as ‘lower social grade’ in ads were 50% more likely to be from an ethnic minority.

“Mirror on Class and Social Grade” takes things a step further by exploring alternative approaches to advertising that pivot towards tracking and targeting affluence, affordability, and attention, steering away from the traditional metrics of class and social grade. Affluence, reflecting disposable income, affordability as a measure of financial security (with outright homeowners being a solid audience for high-value goods), and attention, spotlighting a commercially responsive audience with plenty of time, are proposed as more relevant and nuanced indicators. One of the conclusion points, according to Channel4: “We can’t change the trading mechanism right now, but we can understand what the SEG system does and doesn’t tell us about audiences”.