Gladys Santiago

Hulu’s Superbowl AdZone

Posted in Uncategorized by Gladys Santiago on February 7, 2010

Hulu - Superbowl

The above image was part of a pre-roll ad that aired several hours before Superbowl XLIV.  In celebration of the game, Hulu launched a special section called AdZone which will feature Superbowl commercials after they air during the broadcast.  Hulu visitors will be allowed to vote on their favorite ad.  We all know that the ads are part of the Superbowl’s appeal and people expect them to be grandiose and entertaining.  The game is continuously the most-watched telecast of the year and is pretty much immune to time-shifting and audience segmentation, issues that are haunting broadcast networks.  The Hulu spot and the whole AdZone concept makes me wonder what kind of viewing behavior is Hulu encouraging?

Live blogging, Tweeting and chatting about shows as they air is becoming part of the viewing experience.  For an event that is synonymous to HD, big screen TVs, it seems Hulu is reminding visitors to go online for a more involved, informed and personalized feeling.  While Hulu is primarily a streaming video service and, the AdZone section does have some social network-like offerings, such as a message board.  The site provides a space for reflection and discussion where viewers can feel actively involved in a cultural event.

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Hulu’s Captions Search has the Potential to Change Online Video Consumption

Posted in Media, Television by Gladys Santiago on December 26, 2009

Hulu recently introduced Captions Search, which, as implied, allows viewers to search for their favorite lines of any show that features closed-captioning. This latest addition to the streaming video site is a complete game-changer as it allows users to easily find very specific content and share it with others. As search results are pull up, a Heat Map is also displayed that visually distinguishes where the desired content is located and which parts of the video are most popular.

While Captions Search is still a work in progress, I envision the Heat Map developing into a sort of Google Trends feature that not only lists what shows are viewed most, but also what specific content struck a chord with viewers. Heat Map is not only a snapshot of what people are watching, it’s an insight into what they are engaged with. They are recalling certain words, lines or scenes and actively seeking to return to that content. The creation of Captions Search is proof that viewers are becoming more involved with programs. Hulu is encouraging analytical viewing and curiosity.

Captions Search may not be able to precisely answer why people find certain content memorable, but I think it provides the opportunity for social scientists and cultural researchers to make connections and create stories. Captions Search has only been available for a few days and already the discussion board lists a topic on utilizing the feature as a research tool for school reports. It’s only a matter of time before it evolves into a tool for advertisers to monitor campaigns or for brands to manage their reputation and public relations efforts. From what I can determine, Hulu’s Captions Search operates a lot like Critical Mention search platform, but it’s geared to the average viewer and emphasizes content spreadability.

Image via: Hulu

Can Hulu’s In-Stream Ads Become Entertainment Content?

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Media, Television by Gladys Santiago on December 19, 2009

Flip Video - Hulu Ad

Ads are obviously used to increase brand awareness and likability, so as media habits change, adverting approaches need to evolve as well. Compared to television, watching videos online is significantly more active. People actively seek online video content as opposed to aimlessly flicking through channels. I’ve recently noticed a proliferation of Hulu ads that appeal to the more active, and possibly impatient, type of viewership emerging.

The Hulu ad package has gone from predictable overlays, slates and pre-rolls to experiences where viewers chose which ads play or watch “branded commercial-free” content (click here for video example). Last year, Hulu unveiled what I refer to as their “choices” feature, which provides the option of watching one long-form video or several shorter ones. Hulu describes it as a “win/win experience for both the advertiser and the user” (via: Hulu Case Study). This approach has evolved to Hulu offering viewers ad selection options, which of course provide for a more meaningful and memorable experience.

In a medium where people can search for, create and tune-out content so easily, it seems only natural for them decide what marketing messages they would like to receive. Unlike YouTube, which recently introduced an ad-skipping option to its site, even Hulu’s commercial fast-forwarding feature is brand-sponsored (click here for video example). What Hulu particularly succeeds at, is making its ads seem non-invasive. I’ll go as far to say that it’s creating opportunities for ads to be a form of entertainment. YouTube product manager, Phil Farhi states, “Advertisers like in-stream ads because they look and feel like TV ads,” however to truly reach and engage audiences pre-rolls/in-stream ads must mimic how people use the web (via: Adweek). Case in point: Lowe’s Christmas ads inviting users to tour its websites.

The Lowe’s ads combines terms like “mouse around” and “explore” with interactive displays that invite heavy click-through activity. Viewers are even invited to build their own online Christmas tree, which would obviously distract them from the program they’re watching. Farhi believes people are “less conditioned” to ad interruptions online, but I believe since the Internet consists of perpetual interruptions, advertisers just need to put audiences in the driver’s seat and make those interruptions entertaining.

Hulu in-stream ads aren’t going the way of the 30-second TV spot, they’re going the way of the app. By this I mean they have the potential to develop into fun ways to waste/occupy time. I recently saw a Hulu ad for Toyota that featured a trivia game before my program began. I played out of curiosity and boredom, but was overall impressed by the lack of the hard sell.  And with Hulu inevitably transitioning into both an ad-supported and subscription service, the advertising as entertainment approach seems even more appealing and less likely to draw resentment.