In June 2015, Verizon Communications Inc. completed its acquisition of AOL for $4.4 billion in cash. And in July 2016, Verizon Communications Inc. announced its plans to acquire Yahoo! Inc. for approximately $4.8 billion in cash. In Q1 2017, Yahoo! will be integrated with AOL, creating one of the largest portfolios of owned and partnered global brands with around 225 million monthly active users. So this fall, video marketers should spend some time discussing where Verizon’s AOL-Yahoo fits in their plans for next year, and how they can create and distribute content that consumers will watch, and engage with.

Instead of seeing AOL-Yahoo as yet another video platform where you can buy eyeballs by the ton, brands and agencies will do themselves a favor by checking out some of the research that these folks are producing, which often delivers strategic insights, tactical advice, and significant trends in the digital video marketing business.

Why Consumers Watch Videos

For example, AOL recently conducted some global research to discover which emotions motivate consumers to engage with content, including video content. The research focused on “why” consumers engage with content across eight different markets around the world: Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.

AOL analyzed over 55,000 “content moments,” which it defined as an occasion when a person engages with a specific form of content, such as an article, video, or blog post. And the critical data revealed there are eight kinds of emotions that drive all of these digital content moments: Be in the Know, Comfort, Connect, Entertain, Feel Good, Find, Inspire, and Update Socially.

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In other words, each piece of content fits into one content segment, and the segments are mutually exclusive and exhaustive. The research was conducted by AOL, and was just published earlier this month. Here are the key findings and takeaways for brands and agencies:

  • The four most popular “content moments” with U.S. consumers are Inspire, Feel Good, Entertain, and Update Socially. These content moments are also popular in the seven other countries where the survey was conducted, so they have global application. However, the U.S. exceeds other markets around the world in content moments that Connect and Comfort. And consumers in the U.S. lag behind those in other markets around the world for “Find,” which is where Italy over-indexes the most.
  • Length of content moment varies by device with consumers spending more time with larger screen sizes. This is especially true when consumers seek Entertainment and Feel Good content moments in contrast to more functional, internet-based behaviors. For example, in the U.S., consumers are spending an average of 11 minutes per content moment on smartphones and tablets, 12 minutes on computers, and 19 minutes on game consoles.
  • Consumers in the U.S. are spending less time engaged with content than consumers in other markets around the world: On average, consumers in the U.S. spend 12 minutes in an individual Content Moments, compared to 13 minutes globally, and 16 minutes in Brazil, where it is the highest.
  • U.S. consumers are spending longer with content to relax and escape. Content moments such as Entertain (15 mins on average) and Connect (17 minutes on average), where motivations are driven by relaxation and escapism, engage consumers in the U.S. the longest.
  • Content moment types vary according to the time of day. In line with the global average, U.S. consumers spend nearly twice as long in a content moment late at night (17 minutes on average between 11 pm and 2 am) than they do in the early morning (9 minutes on average between 5 am and 9 am).

So, what makes this research so remarkable? Well, it focuses on “why” people engage with content, rather than looking (yet again) at “who” engages with content. In other words, behavior trumps a target audience’s age, gender, and geographic location.

Video Marketing Insights for 2016 & Beyond

Now, many video marketers have traditionally relied on audience-based segmentation to better understand their consumers. These classifications, however, often have little to do with the constantly changing wants, needs and motivations of an individual at a given time. A moments-based segmentation approach, on the other hand, considers the fact that a particular piece of content can serve the needs of a wide range of consumers. Segmenting based on behavior, not just characteristics, can bring brands and agencies closer to understanding a consumer’s propensity to make a purchase. And, along with a growing amount of available data and marketing automation technology, marketers can make surprising strides towards truly understanding the relationship between content and consumers. But wait, there’s more!

Earlier this year, Yahoo! partnered with Nielsen & Hunter Qualitative to collect strategic insights related to different variables within the pre-roll and native video ad formats. They surveyed 13,600 people (6,400 PC users and 7,200 mobile users), ages 18-54, and 50% males/50% females. Their research methodology involved surveying people prior to ad exposure, then exposing them to a video ad, and finally surveying people again following ad exposure. Here are the key findings:

  • Optimize for mobile: Video marketers should optimize their video ads for screen alignment. Why? Because Horizontal Landscape and Vertical Portrait alignments generate higher increases in affinity and purchase intent, while Vertical Landscape is less effective at increasing familiarity and purchase intent. So, think long and hard about how your target audience is more likely to hold their smartphones to watch your videos. Hint: More than nine out of 10 mobile users will hold their devices vertically, so Vertical Portrait alignments are more effective.
  • Align tone of ads with KPIs to reach Millennials: Brands and agencies should employ different ad tones to drive Millennials down the purchase funnel. For example, use comedic ads to make them familiar with the brand, Dramatic/Emotional ads to appeal to them, and Informational ads to drive the purchase. In other words, one size does not fit all.
  • Use traditional ad lengths for pre-roll: Video marketers should continue to use 0:15 and 0:30 ads in pre-roll formats since research found that they drive higher aided recall, affinity, purchase intent, and recommendation than 0:05 ads. Increases for affinity and recommendation are even higher for Millennials on Mobile. By the way, it’s worth knowing that only one out of the four ads in Geico’s “Unskippable” pre-roll campaign generated high levels of engagement. (The one with the dog eating the family’s dinner.)
  • Use Calls-to-Action: Whether they are URLs or hashtags, brands and agencies should be sure to include CTA’s in their video ads. Like TVs spots, video pre-rolls can increase awareness. But, including CTA’s in video ads can also generate increases in lower-funnel metrics, such as Purchase Intent and Brand Recommendation.
  • Use Bigger logos: Logos in far too many mobile video ads are small and visible for only a short time, but it’s important to make them large and clearly visible. Larger logos deliver higher brand metrics than smaller logos, and this is especially true for Millennials.
  • Brand anywhere, anytime: When vide marketers use visual brand imagery or verbal brand mentions, they should feel free to introduce the brand at any point in the video ad. Key brand metrics are not impacted by introducing the brand at the beginning, middle, or end of the video.

In summary, don’t stop using YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. According to Tubular Labs data, these have been the top four video platforms over the last 365 days. But, brands and agencies should take a long look at Verizon’s integration of AOL and Yahoo! Over the next 365 days, the combination could provide video marketers with a lot more than a ton of new eyeballs. These video platforms could also become a surprising source of strategic insights, critical data, tactical advice, and significant trends in the digital video marketing business.