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Hulu Says Creativity and Engagement Will Win the Next Era of TV

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“There’s a tremendous opportunity to help advertisers align their messages with creative storytelling," said Jeremy Helfand, vice president and head of advertising platforms at Hulu, speaking at New York Advertising Week.

It's time to rethink advertising for the current environment, he added. The topic of his panel was "What it Takes to Win in the Next Era of TV," and for him the answer is innovative storytelling from brands and agencies that will keep viewers engaged.

Hulu is trying to lead the way on that front, creating novel ad experiences that are less disruptive that traditional 30-second spots. Hulu's pause ads, for example, only display when the viewer pauses their video, perhaps for a kitchen or bathroom break. The pause ad can than show a relevant message for that moment, as Charmin has done.

In three years, half of all advertising on Hulu will come from less disruptive sources, Helfand said. In conversations with advertisers and agencies he's seeing a thirst for innovation. It's something viewers appreciate, as well, and the "halo effect" around less disruptive ads transfers to the brand.

Hulu is developing other types of less-disruptive ads, such as ads that only play when a viewer binge-watches a series, and postproduction tools that insert brands into edited programs.

Looking at how TV advertising has changed, Helfand said "content used to be a proxy for audience," meaning buyers would buy ad time on the programs likely to get the viewers they wanted, and then "audience became the proxy for ROI," meaning digital buyers could get the audience they wanted, although they couldn't prove sales. But with improved measurement tools, that's changing as well: "Now ROI will be the proxy for ROI."

With that now possible, he believes it's time to redefine creativity in digital television. That means combining the ad message with appealing delivery and engaging behavior, as well as the data to measure who is being reached and what the outcome is.

There's strong acceptance of ad-supported OTT networks when the content is free, noted Christina Beaumier, vice president of product, TV platform, at Xandr. Citing a company survey, she said 56% of respondents want free ad-supported programming. But viewers want ads to make sense with the program they're seeing: 61% would prefer an alignment between the content and the ad experience.

Looking ahead, Beaumier predicted 5G will be a strong force for creating powerful storytelling and engaging ad experiences. Consumers are going to demand more from the entertainment and ads they see, so brands and agencies will need to think carefully about reaching their audiences at the right time with tailored creatives.

Photo: Christina Beaumier of Xandr and Jeremy Helfand of Hulu

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