2 Ways to Target Ads to Hulu Binge Watchers

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The Super Bowl is a marketer’s dream, but brands that target ads to binge-watching streaming service viewers are also finding captive audiences. Here are two ways they’re doing it.

Hulu created binge-viewing ad formats that present relevant commercials to viewers, such as ads for snacks, as well as ads that appear when viewers pause a program, reports Ad Age on May 1.

Hearing the news, Ownzones entertainment tech CEO Dan Goman told Target Marketing the secret for brands is knowing their audience and customizing the viewing experience to their needs. “By harnessing OTT marketing data, Hulu is finding its competitive edge and leaning into what its customers want — a necessary move as the streaming wars begin to look like the ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Avengers: Endgame.’ ”

He cites OpenX’s “2019 Consumer OTT Report”:

  • 54% of OTT users said that ads don’t bother them, when they’re relevant
  • 52% agreed they are more likely to click on an ad that is customized to who they are and what they care about
  • Right now, 41% of streamers who have noticed ads while streaming content feel traditional TV has the best ads, versus 25% of those who think streaming video does — not good news for Hulu and YouTube, two of the top providers of ad-supported streaming content
  • 72% of OTT consumers have noticed ads, 66% have learned about a new product or company from an OTT ad
  • 40% have paused the content they were watching to learn more about a product or make a purchase

This may seem counterintuitive to marketers who see far more Netflix customers. But, as The New York Times puts it on April 16:

“With 148 million subscribers and a value of $157 billion, Netflix is the leader in streaming. But Hulu, now controlled by Disney, has something Netflix doesn’t: ads. And they are worth a lot.”

In Hulu’s press release from in January, announcing its 25 million U.S. subscribers (on May 1, saying that that number is now past 28 million), Hulu says:

“Binge-viewing is prevalent on Hulu. Looking at the top 100 shows on Hulu, over half of all viewing sessions consist of three or more episodes of the same series.”

Hulu also stated its ad revenue grew by 45% in 2018, to nearly $1.5 billion.

Here‘s why Hulu, and perhaps other streaming services, have viewers who are open to ads.

Relevant Ads

Hulu announced on May 1 that the binge-watching viewers will see ads that match the programming:

“The new format will make it possible for marketers to target binge viewers with a creative that is situationally relevant to their viewing behavior.”

The Times summarized the way Hulu viewers are separated:

“Hulu … has three products that may better reflect what the future of streaming will look like. It has a live-TV service that replicates a small cable bundle at $45 a month; a video-on-demand service that sells for $12 a month without ads (this one acts most like Netflix); and a streaming service with advertising that costs $6 a month.

“The last one is Hulu’s most lucrative business and points to future profits. Even though it charges $6, the service generates more than $15 in revenue per subscriber each month, because of the high-cost advertising sold against those customers.”

Not Disrupting Shows

Hulu states on May 1:

“The binge advertising experience is the second format in Hulu’s suite of situational advertising solutions available to marketers in 2019. Hulu also announced it will expand the availability of its pause ad experience beginning in August.”

These ads are also relevant to viewers. Think of when consumers pause a show and what Variety reported in January makes sense:

“Two of Madison Avenue’s top residents will work with the video-streaming outlet to see if viewers will accept the new ads. Coca-Cola, which once used the slogan ‘the pause that refreshes’ to great effect, and Charmin, the Procter & Gamble toilet tissue that offers succor during many breaks in TV viewing, will both take part in Hulu’s effort. The company intends to run ‘pause ads’ for a period of a few months later this year, and hopes it will find out how consumers react to seeing static ad pitches surface as they stop the action at moments of their own choosing.”


Heather Fletcher is a freelance reporter for Adweek. She covers performance and direct marketing.
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