Hulu: The Creative Imperative in the Fight Against Ad Blocking

By Peter Naylor & Justin Fromm Hulu Insights Archives

The rise in ad-blocking software is another sign that users are now in control of their media experience and it’s no surprise the advertising industry is abuzz with talk about ad-blocking. Some observers suggest the best solution is to fight fire with fire and propose deployment of software to block the ad blockers.

In Hulu’s research with Leflein Associates, we’ve found that just 7% of TV viewers avoid ads at all costs. The rest of the viewing population is on a spectrum of varying levels of advertising acceptance. Marketing Sherpa just published data echoing Hulu’s, showing that just 8% of consumers don’t want to receive any updates or promotions from companies.

So, rather than enter into an antagonistic battle of the ad-blocking bots, what if advertisers and publishers alike do more to engage viewers? Engage them especially on interactive platforms where viewers are in control of their own experience? At Hulu, we encourage all ongoing explorations underway to evolve advertising and brand storytelling and offer three areas proven to increase consumers enjoyment and receptivity of ads (not to mention brand recall and, of course, purchase intent): Choice, interactivity, and creative storytelling.

CHOICE-BASED ADVERTISING in an on-demand environment mirrors viewers ability to choose their preferred content, platform, and viewing location, resulting in a much more enjoyable ad experience. Hulu’s best known choice-based ad is called the “ad selector,” which allows viewers to select the ad they prefer (watch the ad for a convertible or the one for a minivan, for example). Choice is also a powerful tool for advertisers as it reorients the viewer from a posture of skepticism (looking for reasons to distrust the message), to one of confirmation (looking for signals to affirm the choice they made). Cognitive dissonance is the key to why choice based ads work in that once viewers choose the ad they want to see, they look to confirm that they made the right choice! This reorientation results in greater ad and brand recall. In our research, choice-based ads can increase top-of-mind recall 250% compared to a linear TV ad.

INTERACTIVITY is intrinsic to the Web experience and continues to redefine our relationships with technology and media. It has also become an important part of the on-demand video viewing experience. In advertising, interactive and two-way ads increase an ads recall with a viewer. Dr. Duane Varan, CEO of MediaScience, has done research that shows that one interactive ad delivers the impact of seeing a linear ad three times, without the overexposure fallout. “It’s a powerful multiplier which ups the ante considerably,” notes Dr. Varan. Viewers who engage with interactive ads on Hulu spend considerably more time with those ads than the 30-seconds that a standard video ad affords.

CREATIVE STORYTELLING has always been at the heart of great advertising and this “law” has not been repealed. The 1-to-1 “personal playlist” proposition of digital video not only allows for better targeting and potentially greater relevancy of ads for viewers, it also allows for a different approach in how advertisers communicate with viewers. Hulu research shows that following a :30 second ad with a :07 second ad in any of the subsequent ad pods increases not only top of mind awareness by 160%, but purchase intent as well by 16%. Sequential advertising is welcome in an on demand world and offers the opportunity for brands to tell the same kinds of engaging stories that viewers seek out in their very personal viewing experience.

With on demand viewing and Internet streaming, viewers are in control of their own TV experience. It is vital that the advertising experience evolves to mirror this shift in viewing behavior. Just as they expect content providers to curate the viewing experience to them, consumers expect advertisers to do the same. Brands and media companies must start incorporating key characteristics of the viewing experience, including choice and interactivity, into their ongoing relationships with consumers or we may see more viewers shift away from ad acceptance to ad avoidance.

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