What is the size of the advertising to parents market?
While there is no pre-existing information to fully answer your question, we've used the available data to pull together key findings: We triangulate that no less than $68.9 billion and no more than $92 billion of advertising dollars are spent targeting parents each year. Millennials are disproportionately targeted by advertisers, with 5/6ths of all advertising dollars being spent on this demographic. Nevertheless, about 73% of mothers (who spend over $2 trillion per year) say that advertisers don't understand them or their needs.
Below you'll find an outline of our research methodology to better understand why information you've requested is publicly unavailable, as well as a deep dive into our findings.
In the absence of clarification, we interpreted your question to refer to the North American (specifically, the US) advertising market, which is the largest in the world. We began by searching for a marketing report which might provide the answer; while such marketing reports are typically locked behind expensive paywalls, the information presented in the abstracts often either provides the answer or provides the key to triangulating an answer. However, we could not find such a report published within the past two years. We next searched repositories of statistics and marketing industry sites like Adweek and Ad Age. Finally, we conducted a wide search for any publicly published data that might answer the question either directly or by providing enough information to triangulate it.
TOTAL PARENT ADVERTISING MARKET
While there is no single source which attempts to determine the total advertising dollars spent on any particular demographic, we can pull together the information from three distinct sources to approximate an answer. First, Statista estimates that total US advertising spending reached $206.77 billion in 2017. (We were unable to find a source that reported actual spending for 2017, though one or more is likely to become available in the next few months.) Second, Adweek reports that marketers are spending five times as much on Millennials as any other demographic. The same report shows that 57% of Millennials are "struggling aspirationals," younger members of the generation who have yet to establish themselves. The remaining 43% are homeowners, active affluents, and "comfortable TV watchers," sub-sets who are far more likely to have children of their own. This corresponds to a Gallup study that shows that 40% of Millennials have children under the age of 18 in their homes.
For the sake of this calculation, we will assume that advertising expenditures targeting Millennials are equally spread across all groups; e.g., that 40% is targeted at Millennial parents. This gives us a formula of $206.77 billion x 5/6ths (the proportion of advertising targeting Millennials) x 40% (the percentage of Millennials with children of their own) = $68.9 billion in advertising targeting Millennial parents, which is equal to about 33% of all advertising spending.
Of course, Millennials are not the only generation with kids still living at home. Gallup shows that 68% of Gen Xers have children under 18. If we assume, as we did with Millennials, that advertising dollars are spent proportionally to the number of parents, our formula would be $206.77 billion x 1/6th (non-Millennial advertising dollars) x 68% = $23.4 billion. This would represent an extreme upper bound; after all, the children of Gen Xers would average a much older age than the children of Millennials, and advertisers are not shy about marketing directly to minors. (See below.) Therefore, the upper bound of advertising dollars spent targeting parents is (23.4 + 68.9) $92 billion, about 44% (92 / 206.77) of all advertising dollars. The actual amount is likely closer to the $68.9 billion spent on Millennial parents, but we lack the data to be more precise.
This percentage is not far from another statistic. Mothers "are worth more than $2 trillion to U.S. brands," according to Jamie Dunham Brand Wise. Since the total retail sales in 2017 in the US equaled $5.7 trillion, this means that mothers are responsible for (2 / 5.7) approximately 35% of all US spending. We could not find an equivalent study on the spending power of fathers, but the fact that mothers spend about the same percentage in the economy as the lower bound of our triangulation above gives us a high confidence in our results.
OTHER USEFUL FINDINGS
Just as there is no study on how many advertising dollars are spent targeting parents, there are no studies providing further market segmentation. However, a few useful details emerged in the course of our research.
According to Gallup, 15% of Millennials have one child, 13% have two, and 11% have three or more. For Gen Xers, 23% have one child still at home, 26% have two, and 19% have three or more. Gallup did not report on the average ages of those children.
Among the 43% of Millennials most likely to have children (see above), successful homeowners (18%) are most targeted by the financial services and telecom industries, active affluents (17%) are most targeted by the financial services and electronics industries, and comfortable TV watchers (8%) are most targeted by the automobile, food, and travel industries. We could not find an equivalent study targeting Gen Xers. Furthermore, $15 billion a year in advertising is spent directly targeting kids age 12 or younger with the intent of indirectly influencing the parents' buying decisions.
In 2015, 7.7% of households had become "cord cutters," using high-speed internet in lieu of traditional TV and cable, and another 2.9% were mobile only. Of these, 29.2% of "traditional" cord cutters and 35.5% of mobile-only consumers are parents. That number has been steadily increasing, resulting in TV advertising steadily losing its effectiveness.
Finally, even though it is widely acknowledged that marketers need to identify and understand their target audience, “About 73% of moms say that advertisers don’t understand them and don’t understand their needs."
Despite a lack of pre-compiled data in the public domain, we estimate that advertisers target parents with between $68.9 billion and $92 billion per year, in addition to another $15 billion targeting children under the age of 13. Despite this, there is a disconnect between the advertisers and their target audience, one which marketers need to close to remain effective.