Hulu is testing a static ad experience with Charmin and Coca-Cola that appears when users press pause — and it is designed to be a less obtrusive experience than other annoying ads on the internet

Hulu
  • Hulu is testing a new ad format called “Pause Ads” with Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble’s Charmin.
  • The ad format kicks in when users pause what they are watching on the streaming service and is a static image that takes over the right side of the screen.
  • Hulu says that the ad is not intrusive or interruptive experience, but viewer-initiated.

Hulu is testing a new ad format called “Pause Ads,” which kicks in when users pause what they are watching on the streaming service. The company will start testing the ads in the second quarter with Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble’s Charmin.

The new ad format is a static image that takes over the right side of the user control screen with a catchy brand message and a visual – essentially, a glorified banner ad. The pause ad format is only shown to people who subscribe to Hulu’s ad-supported tier, who are the majority of subscribers. The company expects to introduce the ad format widely later this year.

“How TV is consumed has changed, but TV advertising has not,” Jeremy Helfand, Hulu’s VP and head of advertising platforms, told Business Insider. “Consumers want a less intrusive ads experience, and we see ourselves in the best position to reinvent TV advertising.”

Hulu argues that the ad is not intrusive or interruptive, but viewer-initiated, since it appears when users take a break. The ads kick in five seconds after the user hits the pause button and are translucent, so the content and on-screen prompts show through.

For brands, the format is a way to compete for fragmented consumer attention without interrupting someone’s viewing experience. The messaging and background gradient can be customised from brand to brand to further distinguish the ad.

“When someone pauses their program, it’s presumably because they are ‘going’ – it’s an extremely relevant place for our brand,” said Janette Yauch, Charmin’s brand director. “We know that brands need to reach their audiences at the right time with the right message.”

Hulu has taken other steps to boost its advertising. The company recently turned on a private marketplace for its OTT inventory and announced that it would offer attribution measures for advertisers. AT&T is also testing a similar pausing ad. More broadly, other networks are beginning to use consumer data to make ads more personalised.


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Hulu has refined the format for months. It user-testing at the end of 2018, and found that consumers considered ads with extensive audio and video while pausing disruptive, which is why it was developed as a static format. The company says that its research shown a positive response from viewers.

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