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November 11th, 2009
11:15 AM ET

50on50: Trial Lawyers v. the 18-49 demo


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Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

I bumped into a trial lawyer acquaintance of mine at Starbucks in the CNN Center the other day. Somehow we got into talking about what litigators look for when choosing a jury. That’s when it hit me. How to select a jury can help people in my business choose a target audience. And the lesson from jury selection is: the 18-49 age demo seems to make little sense. Its days are numbered as I approach my 50th birthday.

THE ONE

The name of the trial lawyer who sparked my eureka moment is Stefan Turkheimer. He used to be with the DA’s office prosecuting felonies, including “a lot of meth trafficking.” Now he represents plaintiffs in personal injury and other cases.

Turkheimer explained that, because it’s so hard to get 12 members of a jury to agree on a verdict, attorneys can’t possibly try to pick the right 12.

Instead, they try to pick the right ONE. The ONE who has the potential to – and here’s the key word - INFLUENCE the other 11 jurors. The ONE who can “marshal the troops in the jury room.“ That ONE, you hope, you’ll be able to persuade.

How old does that someone tend to be, I asked Turkheimer. “It’s someone who has reached a certain age,” was his answer.

MEN & WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE

A CERTAIN AGE? Can we pinpoint the age? Is it, by chance, at the younger end of 18-to-49 spectrum, the older end, or even beyond?

“You’re not going to have a 20-year-old telling the rest of the jury what to do,” said Turkheimer. “It’s just not gonna happen.”

So, in a jury room, the INFLUENCERS are … I can’t wait to hear the answer ….

“I’m looking for people,” he says, “who will pay attention to my arguments and then make my case in the jury room.”

Yes? Yes? And?

And that means, according to Turkheimer, you’ll generally, not always, but generally, want a jury that skews older.

THE INFLUENCERS

Ah HAH! So attorneys seeking a juror who has INFLUENCE will tend to choose an older person. In my business we have a name for the influencers in our audience. We call them INFLUENCERS.

Yes, lawyers and programmers and advertisers – all of us are searching for them.

WHEN ARE INFLUENCERS BORN?

There’s no official birthday that marks a person’s entry into the influencer category. But there’s certainly no age that knocks you out, as I’m about to be knocked out of the 18-49 demo simply because I turn 50 next month.

It’s pretty clear then. If you want to bring more influencers into your audience, you’d better not make 49 the cutoff.

SAYS WHO?

The attorney I’ve relied on to get me to this point, Stefan Turkheimer, might not be of “that certain age.” He graduated from the University of Georgia Law School in 2004. He’s been busy in the five years since he got his law degree. He’s tried about 30 to 40 cases. But still. He’s only 34-years-old!

In order to successfully make my case – the case that what we learn from selecting a jury could render the 18-49 demo a relic – that will take some corroboration. Corroboration from some of the most experienced veterans in litigation. Men and women of a certain age.

It’s worth a few more calls. Because this idea has the power, once and for all, to create A NEW DEMO FOR A NEW AGE.

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Follow Michael Schulder's battle against getting kicked out of the 18-49 demo here


Filed under: Michael Schulder • Opinion
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Susan

    As a Business School prof once noted: the Real Influencers are the 3 year olds –
    They are articulate enough to voice their desires in words we big people understand.
    They know what they want and think/feel and have no compunctions about telling you.
    And they are cute as a button so you just want to fulfill those desires.
    Thank goodness 3 year olds are not allowed on juries.

    Trial Lawyers... dont get me started.

    November 11, 2009 at 9:34 am |
  2. Lori

    I have never met any healthy individual who regrets having reached a certain age. The value of wisdom can not be matched with youth.

    November 11, 2009 at 8:43 am |