Bolder Thinking Blog

Who’s on Hulu?

May 29th, 2020 | Nick Batt

Advertisers have flocked to Hulu with varying strategies to reach its ever-growing audience.

More content, more ad space

As Hulu’s subscribership and content library expands, windows open for countless brands to hit diverse groups of users with the right message. Additions like FX on Hulu and frequent new originals have put the service, which now includes nearly every genre of programming, among the “must-haves” in streaming video –– and one of the few that has ads.

This places Hulu in a similar vein as YouTube as a video advertising platform, ripe with opportunity for a host of brands to reach prospective customers with targeted, impactful video communication.

Find the right format

Most Hulu ads are standard video marketing, reminiscent of television commercials. But, varying formats require different purposes. Video ads on Hulu usually take one of two predominant forms: the “presented by” brief pre-roll ad, which is best for brands seeking broad awareness via high-profile shows with large viewership, and the 15-to-30-second mid-roll ad, which is best for brands looking for targeted awareness among more definite interest groups.

Carvana‘s reliance on timely pre-roll ads on Hulu signals the company’s strong effort to spread awareness about the “future of car buying.” By linking its pre-roll ads to relevant seasonal events (like Americans receiving their tax refund checks), Carvana has effectively used advertising on Hulu to get the word out about buying cars, even in the middle of a pandemic.  

Source: Comperemedia Omni

Changes due to COVID-19

Behind food and drink and the auto industry, financial services made up the next highest percentage of all Hulu.com ads since the beginning of 2019, according to Comperemedia Omni data. This percentage is likely to decrease –– especially as the COVID-19 pandemic carries on –– as financial services brands reevaluate marketing and consumers opt to increase savings in place of spending. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Chase invested heavily in ads for its Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, reaching users who were likely thinking about travel later in 2020.  

Source: Comperemedia Omni

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, advertising on Hulu shifted to include only companies relevant to consumers’ stay-at-home needs. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, ad spend on Hulu has consisted solely of “essential” businesses, including brands from the content, telecom, health care, retail and big tech sectors.

As demand to advertise on Hulu decreases despite increased viewing, ad costs may lower, leaving an opportunity for brands with smaller marketing budgets and less mid-pandemic relevance to re-enter Hulu at the first sign of relaxed social distancing nationwide.

Interest with innovation

Ad innovation is taking shape on the platform. Though standard pre- and mid-roll ads remain dominant on Hulu, it continues to deploy ad formats that extend beyond video, increasing the ways that brands can have a presence on the platform. 

With its recent introduction of new ad formats- including choice-based and transactional ads, along with mobile phone integration via QR codes-  Hulu appears insistent on opening the door for brands who would benefit from advertising on the platform but may not have the video production capabilities required. 

Allowing customers to choose an ad experience is a new tool that brands can invest in to boost sentiment, serve only desired communication, and learn customers’ interests via demographic and watch history data. 

What we think 

Hulu has grown substantially in just one year, becoming an essential service to many consumers’ streaming video mix with its low ad-supported price point, Disney backing, and ever-increasing purchased and original content library.

As streaming activity remains elevated across the board as long as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers in the public consciousness, brands that are interested in digital video marketing and capable of doing so should place Hulu high on the list of most necessary platforms to reach prospective and current customers. Whether placing their message before a popular show or in the middle of niche, binge-watched programming, brands can ensure their voice is heard- and with the right innovative techniques- among the right crowd.

Nick Batt

Nick Batt

Nick provides marketing insights through syndicated and custom reports in the telecom, financial services and sports marketing sectors, with a focus on emerging trends and new product innovation.