January 30, 2007 07:00 ET

JWT Worldwide Study Identifies the 'Atalanta' as Significant Target Group for Global Marketers

Study Shows Twentysomething Women Are Pushing Back the Schedule for Marriage and Family to Enjoy the "Me" Years

NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- January 30, 2007 -- Nearly two-thirds of single twentysomething women across nine countries agree that it's not unusual for a woman to remain unattached into her 30s, and almost a third plan to postpone childbirth until their 30s, according to a study released today by JWT. In fact, a woman today can feel comfortable about being single for almost nine years longer than she could 20 years ago, say the respondents. For marketers, these young single women -- termed "Atalantas" by JWT -- offer significant opportunities.

The goal of the survey -- which polled almost 6,000 single women -- was to gain a deeper understanding of unmarried women in their 20s and the changing attitudes toward them, part of JWT's ongoing exploration into this demographic. "At JWT, we have always considered ourselves anthropologists first, advertising people second. We are dedicated to delivering big global ideas based on universal human truths to energize and grow our clients' businesses," says JWT Worldwide Chairman and CEO Bob Jeffrey. "Our global study into twentysomething single women is yet another example of our commitment to thought leadership on exciting consumer groups."

JWT describes these women -- who are single, independent, educated, upwardly mobile and in no rush to wed -- as Atalantas. In Greek mythology, Atalanta broke with convention and refused to settle down until she finished her education and saw the world; when Atalanta finally did marry, it was on her own terms. "Today's strong-willed single twentysomething is a contemporary Atalanta. She's a huntress -- especially when it comes to her personal, professional and sexual pursuits -- and an adventurer: experimental and exploratory in nature," says Ann Mack, JWT Director of Trendspotting. "As with the sought-after market of single 18- to 34-year-old males, with each passing year the earning power and expendable income of these women will rise, making them increasingly lucrative and appealing for marketers."


The survey, commissioned by JWT, was conducted in summer 2006. The sample was made up of 5,946 respondents from nine countries: the U.S. (2,143), the U.K. (1,501), China (500), France (500), Russia (500), Australia (302), Mexico (200), Brazil (200) and the Netherlands (100).

The mean age of respondents was 24.3, with just six months separating the oldest group (France, with a mean age of 24.6) and the youngest (the U.K. and Russia, with a mean of 24.0).

JWT, owned by WPP Group (NASDAQ: WPPGY), is the largest advertising agency in the U.S. and the fourth largest in the world. WPP's Millward Brown International compiled and analyzed the data across all markets.


The survey reveals key insights for marketers trying to reach the increasingly prevalent, important and influential consumer group that is the Atalantas.

1. Realize Her Consuming Potential

Today's twentysomethings say that more education, improved career options and better earning power are the top factors contributing to their independence. "While they are just gaining a foothold in the working world, they are indulging in luxuries both big -- a Hermes bag -- and small -- a Starbucks vanilla latte -- as rewards and 'just because,'" says JWT's Marian Salzman, EVP, Chief Marketing Officer. "Truly reveling in their 'me' years, they are eagerly sampling life, love and leisure. And they are forming relationships with a multitude of brands -- household goods, electronics, cosmetics, fashion, food, beverages and many more -- that may last a lifetime."

2. Think Beyond No-Brainer Categories

Sure, Atalantas are prolific purchasers of beauty and fashion. But brands in categories that primarily target young single males should also consider the potential of this consumer group. "These women are rendering the term 'boys' toys' archaic," says Mack. "They're into gaming, and they love sports. They're attuned to -- and buying -- the latest technological gadgets, and they rightly expect to be courted with as much reverence as their coveted male counterparts."

3. Meet Her in the Middle

The Atalantas are a study in contradiction. Respondents were asked to rate opposite personality descriptors on a scale of 1 to 10 (the midpoint is 5.5). The results showed that they think of themselves as slightly more "anything goes" than the more controlled "maintaining standards," with an overall mean of 5.8 (where 10 is "anything goes"). At the same time, they believe themselves to be more organized (10) than impulsive (1), returning a mean of 6.2.

"This population feels a push-pull between living a life of free-floating exploration and one dedicated to getting ahead unencumbered," says Salzman. "Their personalities tend not to be one extreme or another: They are carefree and spontaneous one minute, responsible and thoughtful the next. Marketers should meet Atalantas in the middle, reassuring them that flip-flopping between the poles is just a part of self-discovery. They should spark conversation with them through life, love and career coaches."

4. Lighten the Workload With Levity

Belonging to a generation that has been raised to believe they can be anything they want to be, Atalantas lean toward ambitious (10) vs. easygoing (1), with an overall mean of 6.2.

"They feel they are capable of great things, but once they enter the work world, twentysomethings face the letdown of expectation versus reality," says Mack. "It's a shock to start at the bottom. Because they often feel disrespected due to their low rank and relative inexperience, marketers should speak to Atalantas in their voice, approaching their jobs and other issues in a sharp, satirical or witty way, a la "The Devil Wears Prada." Allowing them to laugh at their woes will go a long way toward earning their time and respect."

Also, brands should hit ambitious Atalantas where they spend most of their time: at work, where they are always online, navigating between e-mail, browser windows and work documents.

5. Go for the Nesters, Not the Nightclubbers

Careers are a new factor for young twentysomethings in many parts of the world -- a huge new factor that takes up much of their time, energy and attention. As a result, the key challenge for Atalantas is finding a balance as they juggle work and/or school, family, friends, relationships, fitness and entertainment. Many feel they have little time to sit back and relax.

It's no surprise, then, that twentysomething women are more inclined to describe themselves as home-loving (10) than clubber (1), returning an overall mean of 6.3. "Living a life in constant motion, this group seeks refuge in the home," says Salzman. "Brands should provide Atalantas with products and services that help turn the home into a sanctuary and a place to relax with friends."

6. Give the Idealist Credit: She Craves Tough Love

Atalantas incline far more strongly toward idealism (10) than pragmatism (1), with an overall mean of 6.5. And when it comes to relationships, these women say love is the single biggest motivating factor that drives them to commitment; this point scores an overall agreement mean of 4.6 on a 5-point scale -- almost as high as means tend to go.

"Though idealistic, Atalantas' views of relationships are based in reality," says Mack. "In their search for love, they enjoy the tell-it-like-it-is nature of books like "He's Just Not That Into You." It's not masochistic -- it's liberating. So when it comes to the opposite sex, rather than perpetuating "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus"-type psychoanalysis or greeting-card notions of romance, marketers should take more of a tough-love tack: 'If he's not into you, move on; the sooner you do, the sooner you'll find the one who is into you.'"

7. Align With High-Profile Role Models

High-profile female role models are seen as a key factor enabling female independence, with the strongest agreement on this coming from the U.S., Australia, Mexico and China.

"Brands should align themselves with high-profile female role models, whom Atalantas admire for their passion, dedication and even obsession about achieving their goals," says Salzman. "Atalantas respect people who have attained success in one form or another -- not media-hyped celebrities who are famous for being famous."

8. Create the Next "Sex and the City"-Meets-"Friends" for Her Mediascapes

"Media-friendly attitudes toward women" are also seen as a strong enabling factor contributing to female independence, and specifically "media portrayal of single women (e.g., 'Sex and the City')."

"Atalantas are looking for the next "Sex and the City"-meets-"Friends" that not only reflects their reality but influences it," says Mack. "Right now they are filling the void in quality programming that speaks to their lifestyles by creating their own mediascapes using interactive technology. More marketers should team with content creators, media companies and consumers themselves to develop quality programming and place it on the new platforms where these young women spend their time."

9. Never Underestimate the Power of Peers

According to the survey, Atalantas emerge as balanced between career-minded (10) and friend-focused (1), with an overall mean of 5.6. At this stage in their lives, they also tend to live with others from their peer group, especially in the U.K. (42%) and Australia (35%), where "flat sharing" is part of the culture.

"More often than not, Atalantas look to their peer networks, both real and virtual, for advice on everything from cars to cosmetics to clothing," says Salzman. "From a grassroots standpoint, marketers should focus attention on online social networks and alphas in peer groups, who tend to influence their friends' brand choices and purchasing decisions. But involvement must be organic, not contrived. The goal is to ingratiate, not alienate."

10. Prepare to Target Single Mothers by Choice

Not so long ago (and in many places still), it was not possible for an unattached woman to deliberately plan to have a child. But that has changed significantly: A quarter of respondents (26%) say they would have children without a partner.

"Though most of these respondents will not go on to have a child on their own, their openness to the idea indicates that single mothers by choice will become a growing niche over the next five to ten years," says Mack. "Companies need to start thinking seriously about developing specific marketing communications and products and services aimed at these mothers."

About JWT

JWT's heritage of brand-building excellence extends back to 1864, making us the world's oldest advertising agency brand. Today we rank as the fourth largest global agency and the largest U.S. agency. In 1939, JWT pioneered the first national consumer research panel. In 1988, we created the first research study of consumer lifestyles, "Life Stages." We believe in being anthropologists first, advertising people second. JWT is owned by WPP Group (NASDAQ: WPPGY).

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