When you think of the typical YouTube viewer, a member of the 50-plus age group probably isn’t the consumer you have in mind, but the AARP is showing those viewers desire relatable content just as much as younger cohorts do.
The AARP, which has a membership base of more than 38 million people, has found success by accelerating its presence on YouTube through audience analysis, careful strategy, and shows that appeal to viewers of all ages.
AARP has made videos for YouTube since 2009, but it reimagined its content operations in 2015, AARP Studios Vice President Jeffrey Eagle told Tubefilter. In 2017, the company launched Dinner With Don, a web series led by legendary insult comic Don Rickles and his famous friends (like Jimmy Kimmel, Amy Poehler, Billy Crystal, and Snoop Dogg, to name a few). After Rickles passed away in April, the show emerged as a posthumous tribute of sorts, with Eagle referring to it as a “gamechanger.”
The 14 installments of Dinner with Don have racked up several hundreds of thousands of views a piece. Just watch the first 10 seconds of this upload with Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese and you’ll see why.
Later in the year, AARP continued to populate its YouTube channel by launching Badass Pilot, which profiles retired Marine corps officer Art Nalls. After 22 years of service, Nalls retired from the Navy in 1998 and now owns his own Harrier jet outright, which he showcases in the series. The original pilot version (no pun intended) of Badass Pilot received more than four million views in 2015, so the AARP decided to build Nalls’ story into a longer format.
The results have been encouraging.
TJ Cooney, the manager of AARP’s YouTube channel, told Tubefilter that videos posted there boast a 56% completion rate, with an average watch time of 4.5 minutes per video. The majority of viewers are over 50, but AARP’s digital content is attracting audiences of all ages, who tune in from a variety of platforms. For Dinner With Don, 55% of the viewership came from mobile devices. Such diversity is possible because AARP delivers “evergreen, universal themes,” Eagle said.
Despite its multi-generational appeal, the AARP YouTube channel is still grounded “for old people,” Eagle says. For them, shows like Badass Pilot can have a relatable element. “I think we were always trying to tell stories about real people — the real struggles, the real successes — and that certainly hasn’t changed,” Eagle told Tubefilter. “We wanted to make sure that we were connecting real stories about people who are 50+ and making sure people could see themselves.”
As it uploads more videos to YouTube, AARP will continue to employ the “analytical perspective” it applies now, according to Cooney. To that end, the company will throw several formats at the wall to see which ones stick.
No matter what AARP’s shows look like, though, they will be designed to be “provocative” and “thoughtful,” Eagle said. “Folks are giving us a look and they’re sticking around for four-plus minutes,” he told Tubefilter, “and it seems like they’re coming back.”