Hulu's Pause Advertising that Refreshes

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Hulu has embarked into new advertising terrain with their advancement of "pause advertising" and has just announced that they have signed up two beta advertisers, Coca-Cola and Charmin, to test its ad effectiveness and reception.  The intent is to roll it out in 2Q19 in select content within the Hulu streaming library.

What Is Pause Advertising?

If you have never heard of it before, pause advertising is messaging that runs during the time viewers press pause on their remote or screen.  Hulu and AT&T have both been testing these types of contextual ads with the belief that they might feel more relevant to viewers.  And they just may.

The philosophy behind pause advertising is that it is viewer initiated and comes at a time of transition where contextual advertising can be even more effective.  So, it has greater resonance to the viewer while also creating more touchpoint moments for advertisers.  Pauseable moments can include a bathroom break or snack time when viewers leave the room.  In Hulu's preview video it can also be viewable during multi-tasking times.  I can certainly relate to that.

Why Is it Effective?

For programmers, pause advertising also increases advertising inventory in what was until recently an unexplored area of content consumption while still providing an uncluttered viewing environment.  This is welcome news at a time when viewers are pushing back on clutter through the use of fast-forwarding and ad-free subscriptions, while networks are trying to find ways to shorten commercial pods while still meeting revenue goals.

But pausing also mutes audio.  To overcome that obstacle, Hulu is featuring static slides without any need for audio along with a background gradient that distinguishes the ad from the content scene.  This has gone through considerable testing and is proving to be effective.  "We know that brands are vying for consumer attention more than before and need opportunities to tell their stories in authentic and non-intrusive ways, which is why Hulu is exploring formats like the pause ad," explained Jeremy Helfand, Vice President and Head of Ad Platforms for Hulu.

How Is it Measured?

At this time, Hulu will be using impressions as the measurement metric for the two beta advertising clients, probably using their own internal ad tech to do so.  I don't know of any capability to measure during mute from any syndicated measurement services as of this time, but hopefully -- if this type of advertising takes off -- syndicated measurement solutions will be developed, so this type of advertising will become standard industry wide.  "We're going to be constantly assessing and iterating on the pause ad so we may add additional metrics down the road for reporting," stated Helfand.

Conclusion

As one who accesses content online, I have become used to advertising popping up pre-roll and mid-roll and as underlays while content streams. There is something less intrusive about ads that display during muted moments because, at that time, I am temporarily opting out of the content anyway.  I suspect that pause advertising will feel less intrusive and disruptive to viewers and be effective … as long as they are still viewing the screen and not venturing off somewhere to get a beverage.  If they do, maybe a seed will be planted as to which beverage that should be.

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