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In March of 2012, the US Marine Corps launched a major awareness campaign targeted to young men. With the help of the YouTube homepage masthead, First Watch, and TrueView, the Marine Corps' YouTube campaign was found to reach a bigger audience than at the Super Bowl, and to deliver incremental 4.26% reach at 40% savings compared to TV.


Increase brand awareness amongst young men aged 18-24


Launched two YouTube homepage mastheads for two 24-hour takeovers

Complemented homepage masthead buy with YouTube First Watch, a cost-per-day pre-roll ad that greets users when first visit any YouTube watch page

Extended reach with TrueView in-stream video ads targeting men 18-24


Users engaged with the Marine Corps video experience >128 million times in 48 hours, a bigger audience than at the 2013 Super Bowl

YouTube delivered incremental 4.26% reach at 40% savings compared to TV; increased reach amongst lightest quartile of TV viewers by 11%, more than 500,000 men aged 18-24 not reached through TV

50% of digital TRPs were delivered to the light TV viewer, whereas less than 20% of TV TRPs reached this audience

In March of 2012, the Marine Corps, working closely with Mindshare and JWT, launched a major awareness campaign targeted to young men. The goal was to reach this audience in an impactful way and demonstrate the Marine Corps’ bravery, commitment, and leadership via their new messaging platform: “Toward the Sound of Chaos.”

The unique media consumption habits of young men posed a challenge for the Marine Corps’ recruitment efforts. Youths still watch traditional television but are increasingly relying on digital video channels to supplement their video consumption.

With this insight, Mindshare partnered with Google to create a program that connected with young men via video where, when, and how they consume media — online, and on YouTube.

The Research: Methodology

Research shows that the lightest TV viewers watch TV less than an hour a day, and young men make up a disproportionately large percentage of this group. One of the goals of this program was to reach those young men where they spend time – watching videos online. But what incremental value does online video contribute to traditional broadcast television?

A Nielsen Data Fusion study examined this key question using their panel of 50K TV viewers and 250K online users. The 3-month study looked at viewers who had seen only the TV ad, those who had seen only the online ad, and those who had seen both. By compiling this data, we can better understand which audience segment was only reached online, the increase in frequency achieved online, and finally, the efficiencies gained by coupling TV and online video together.

Engaging with Online Video

Marines Case Study

The campaign kicked off with two back-to-back YouTube homepage mastheads, which featured streaming video. The first 24-hours of the campaign also included a YouTube First Watch buy, which ensured that the Marines pre-roll video was the first video ad users saw when they visited a YouTube Watch Page. In just 48 hours, YouTube users engaged with the Marine Corps video experience over 128 million times — a bigger audience than this year’s Super Bowl, at a fraction of the cost.

Marines Case Study

Over the next three months, the Marine Corps continued to invite young males to engage with the brand through a series of targeted videos on YouTube. Most pre-roll ads ran using TrueView in-stream ads, which give users the option to watch the video and advertisers only pay for engaged views. The videos were viewed close to 2 million times, with many viewers commenting, sharing and +1’ing to add their voice to the conversation.

And the result?

  • YouTube delivered an incremental 4.26% targeted reach at a 40% savings vs. comparable TV.
  • The Marine Corps’ YouTube campaign increased reach amongst the lightest quartile of TV viewers by 11%; more than 500,000 men 18-24 not reached through television.
  • Over half of the digital TRPs were delivered to the light TV viewer, whereas less than 20% of TV TRPs reached this audience. Online was critical for reaching this growing segment of young viewers. 

Better Together: Increased Frequency and Efficiency with Online Video

YouTube also proved instrumental in achieving the necessary frequency with lighter TV viewers. Combining digital with TV increased average frequency among light TV viewers from 3.8 to 7.3. This helped keep the message top of mind with young men and increased the likelihood of them taking the next step.

If you look at (young men’s) behavior on the Internet, you’ll see that watching videos on YouTube is one of their highest ranking activities. We’re fishing where the fish are.


Younger Americans are consuming digital video more and more than TV, and platforms like YouTube are crucial to ensuring maximum audience reach. Not only did YouTube connect the Marine Corps with more of their target audience, but it also helped increase audience engagement and deliver a more efficient campaign overall.