Back in 2011, I thought that mobile marketing belonged in a whole different bucket than video marketing. But, back in 2011, only 6% of YouTube views came from mobile devices. So, it made sense to put topics like QR codes and hashtags in one bucket and subjects like Cosmic Panda and “As Seen On” in another. But, things have changed dramatically since then. YouTube views coming from mobile devices jumped to 25% in 2012, rose to 40% in 2013, and increased to 50% in 2014. Today, more than half of YouTube views and 65% of Facebook video views occur on mobile devices.

So, it’s time to update my thinking. No, the terms mobile and video aren’t synonyms … yet. Mobile advertising still includes text ads and image ads as well as video ads. And video advertising still reaches people using desktops, laptops, tablets, game consoles, and smart TVs as well as smartphones. But, the large and growing overlap between mobile and video means that the top three priorities of video marketers need to mirror the top three priorities of YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki: “mobile, mobile, and mobile”.

Video Advertisers: Target Audiences Are On Mobile

But here’s a strategic insight: you should probably focus on your target audience first before looking at the devices that these people use. So, let’s say your top three priorities are “Millennials, Millennials, and Millennials.” According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are set to overtake Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in the U.S. by the end of 2015. And according to a research study by Berglass + Associates and Women’s Wear Daily, Millennials will carry the bulk of the spending power by 2017. So, for most video marketers, this is the right audience to target.

Now, the young adults of today came of age just as e-commerce, cell phones, social media, and instant messaging were becoming pervasive technologies, which molded them into the communicators and consumers that they are now. And the challenge for video marketers lies in delivering relevant messaging to this target audience, which has access to a vast ocean of content.

Smartphones are #1 Device to Reach Millennials

So, where and when can you reach Millennials? Well, as we learned a couple of weeks ago, you should probably try to be in the right place at the right during one of the micro-moments when they check their smartphones 150 times a day. Yep, whether you start with mobile or your start with Millennials, you end up in the same place.

youtube-insights-stats-data-trends-vol6_articles_01In October 2014, Google and Ipsos asked 1,519 smartphone owners aged 18- to 34-years-old to keep detailed accounts of all of their online and offline video activity over 24 hours. Respondents had to access video via an app, so the study was limited to Millennials who owned a smartphone in 2014, But that still covered 81% of individuals age 18 to 34. The research found that smartphones were the top device to reach 98% of those Millennials, higher than tablets or desktops. The research also revealed that watching video on a smartphones was less distracting and disruptive for respondents, compared to watching video on a TV. Watching videos was the sole activity for 53% of the mobile video sessions.

Now, home wasn’t the only place Millennials were watching mobile video last year. Thirty-four percent of mobile video minutes were watched while people were out and about. People watching digital video outside the home were also 1.8x more likely than average to be meaningfully engaged because they were likely to be watching video for active purposes, such as looking for information or exploring a passion. While marketers traditionally sought Baby Boomers’ attention in their living rooms, sitting in front of a television, mobile video consumption by Millennials has changed that dramatically.

YouTube: Mobile Session Watch Time on Increase

Since the research was conducted a year ago, YouTube reports that users are spending more time per session watching videos. On mobile, the average viewing session is now more than 40 minutes, up more than 50% year-over-year. The number of hours people spent watching videos on mobile is up 100% year-over-year. And YouTube’s mobile revenue from advertising is up 2x year-over-year.

So, why did advertisers finally jump on YouTube’s bandwagon? Well, they were probably jumping on the mobile video bandwagon – and YouTube as well as Facebook have both benefited from this trend in the digital video marketing business. Advertisers realize that Millennials are twice as likely to be focused on the content while watching a mobile video as they are while viewing it via a television screen. Mobile truly is the first screen when it comes to this demographic.

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This was validated by more research conducted by Google and Ipsos in February 2015. They wanted to see how this enthusiasm for mobile video translated for brands. So, they surveyed U.S. consumers who watch video on various devices. And this year’s research found that people who view videos on their smartphones are 1.4X as likely to watch ads as those who view videos on TVs or desktop computers.

And these results were published well before Apple threw a spanner in the works with its decision to support ad blockers in iOS 9, which was released in September. And that was followed by the launch of YouTube Red in October. So, why should video marketers be shocked, shocked, shocked that YouTube Red now enables viewers to watch videos without ads, while also letting them save videos to watch offline on their smartphone or tablet, and play videos in the background, for $9.99 a month?

Video Advertisers Need a New Strategy

Take a deep breath and remember that many video marketers did just fine, thank you, before TrueView ads were introduced in December 2010. So, we should be able to figure out how weather this storm, too. If fact, the advent of ad blockers and YouTube Red could trigger a Renaissance in video marketing that mirrors the one we’ve seen lately in video advertising. In other words, it’s time to start creating a YouTube strategy to help your brand stand out in today's evolving digital era. It’s time to focus on creating great content, devising a holistic channel strategy, using non-paid as well as paid means to promote your videos, and identifying the right KPIs to measure your results.

During Google’s third quarter 2015 earnings release call, Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, said, “You know from the last quarterly call about the amazing momentum that YouTube has in mobile and it’s largely coming from the YouTube app". So, what kind of branded content have you been creating lately? Ad blockers don't prevent iPhone users or YouTube Red subscribers from watching how-to videos, product demos, or explainer videos by brands. So, is this a good time to talk about shifting some of the budget from mobile video advertising to mobile video content creation?

New Advertising Format Opportunities

youtube mobile video mastheadAlthough, I wouldn’t pull the plug on mobile video advertising altogether. Even if you see fewer results from iOS users or YouTube Red subscribers, there are still some very interesting advertising opportunities for reaching Android users.

For example, check out YouTube’s mobile video Mastheads. They are similar to YouTube’s desktop video Mastheads, but the mobile video Masthead is a native video-based ad format. Advertisers and ad agencies can buy mobile video Mastheads on a cost-per-day basis -- on a reservation basis – instead of through the AdWords auction. So, you need to contact your Google sales representative if you want to purchase this mobile ad format.

Mobile video Mastheads appear on the YouTube mobile homepage ( and Android apps as well as on iOS apps that don’t also use ad blockers. Because a mobile video Masthead is purchased for a full day (generally from 12:00 AM to 11:59 PM), you can create a Mobile Roadblock. Why would you do that? Well, an ad on YouTube Mobile’s homepage reaches a huge number of viewers – 13 million monthly users in North America alone.

But wait, there’s more! You should also consider using TrueView in-stream video ads, which run when  YouTube app users on an Android device play a video published by a premium inventory partner.

And, as I mentioned last week, Google Play now has more than 1 billion users. So, how can mobile video advertisers leverage this? Well, Google Play can provide unique marketing insights and custom targeting options, including:

  • Similar App Installers: Find out users who have downloaded similar apps so you can target them as part of your campaign.
  • In-App Purchasers: Identify users who have either paid for apps, or made in-app purchases so you can also target them.
  • Codeless Android App Install Tracking: Google allows advertisers to track their Android downloads without having to add any code at all to their app.

Yes, video marketers feel like they’re playing Calvinball, the game invented by Bill Watterson in his comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. As Calvin once explained, “The only permanent rule in Calvinball is that you can’t play it the same way twice!” So, we just need to continue doing what we’ve been doing since we first got into this game: figure how to adjust in the rapidly changing world of mobile video marketing and advertising.