With the continued rise in streaming service adoption, advertisers are increasingly turning to OTT (over-the-top) advertising, which allows brands to reach their target audiences while they stream television shows and movies. OTT advertising is advertising delivered directly to viewers over the internet through streaming services or devices, such as streaming sticks and smart TVs. One of the most popular streaming ad-supported streaming services today is Hulu.
TechRadar gave Hulu 3rd place in their Best TV streaming service 2021 overview—just behind giants Netflix and Amazon Prime, and one position ahead of Disney+. Their “low base price” ranks high in the list of reasons to subscribe to Hulu, in addition to their stellar selection of popular TV shows, and Hulu original content. But back to that price…
At just $5.99 per month—half the cost of Hulu without ads—ad-supported Hulu is an incredible deal. And where the deals are incredible, the subscribers follow.
In 2019, shortly after Netflix announced they would be increasing their subscription cost, Hulu announced something else entirely that is far less common in the entertainment space—a price reduction for their ad-supported offering. Dropping their then $7.99/mo. cost to $5.99/mo. for new and existing subscribers brought a fresh influx of Hulu ad-supported viewers. And as a recent TiVo survey shared by MediaPost reveals, many viewers like or don’t even mind ads being part of their viewing experience.
The formula itself is one we’re all familiar with, and it appears to be working out quite well for Hulu.
- Low prices attract more viewers
- More viewers brings more eyes to Hulu ads
- More eyes on ads brings more interested advertisers
- Advertising revenue climbs alongside impressive viewer growth
In this particular scenario, everyone wins! In fact, Hulu ad revenue for 2021 is projected to reach $2.7 billion.
If you are new to OTT, check out “What Is OTT Advertising: A Beginner’s Guide” for more information.
In the following article, we will cover:
What is Hulu?
How to Advertise on Hulu
Ad Types Available on Hulu
How much does Hulu Advertising cost?
How do brands buy Hulu Ads?
Best examples of Hulu Ads
Best strategy for Hulu Advertising [from the experts]
What is Hulu?
Hulu is a service that offers subscription video on demand. Hulu currently has more than 41.6 million subscribers across their SVOD (ad-free subscription video on demand) and AVOD (advertising-based video on demand) plans, translating to nearly 100 million viewers in 2021. eMarketer predictions estimate that number will grow to 115.6 million viewers by 2024.
Hulu notes on their website that their ad-supported offering is their most popular. Previously shared statistics showed that in 2019, 70% of total Hulu subscribers opted for the ad-supported plan.
Hulu subscriptions can be purchased on their own, or as part of a bundle with other services. One such popular option is The Disney Bundle, which also includes access to Disney+ and ESPN+. The Disney Bundle is available with ad-supported Hulu, or Hulu without ads, which commands a higher price. Another option students should consider is the budget-friendly Hulu, Showtime, and Spotify Premium Student bundle.
Hulu’s ad-supported and ad-free plans offer subscribers a vast streaming library, inclusive of thousands of movies and TV episodes. Hulu Originals are also included in both plans, as is the ability to watch on the internet-enabled device of your choosing—TV, mobile, tablet, or laptop. As the first platform to introduce viewer-first advertising innovations, like the industry’s first interactive ad formats, Hulu continues to give viewers choice and control over their ad experience.
Outside of the primary differentiators between the two options—ads or no ads, and cost—the only additional distinction to be made is that the ad-supported version does not allow subscribers to download and watch titles on-the-go.
As CNET noted in their Best streaming service of 2021 list, “If you have $6 per month to spare and don’t mind trading a few ads for a wealth of TV options, Hulu is a no-brainer.”
Hulu has its very own ad platform that includes a robust set of options for bidding, targeting, and measurement, as well as different ad experiences.
How to Advertise on Hulu
Here’s what you need to know to advertise on Hulu, from buying and targeting to measurement and optimization.
Ad buying and audience targeting on Hulu
Hulu offers several advertising reach options for brands:
- National: Reach viewers across the US
- Local: Reach a localized target audience
- Advanced TV: Automated, data-informed ad buys
Within the Advanced TV category, Hulu has 3 different bidding options:
- Programmatic Guaranteed: Automated, guaranteed buy with advanced targeting.
- Private Marketplace: Non-guaranteed buy with increased targeting control.
- Invite-Only Auction: Find your audience, set your price, and optimize from within your DSP
In Hulu’s invite-only auction, advertisers select their target audience, determine their bid price for that audience, and control and optimize their ad campaigns in real-time based on results and performance. You can learn more about Hulu’s advanced targeting options here.
*Ad Types Available on Hulu
Hulu offers what they call “a viewer-first ad experience” made up of an extensive variety of different ad products and solutions, including:
This is the most ‘standard’ ad type available from Hulu, with your video playing during any “long-form content commercial breaks.” Hulu allows 7-, 15- and 30-second video commercials, and “does not accept stitched Ads.” This simply means that if advertisers want to display a 30-second commercial, they will be required to have an asset of the correct length, and can’t ‘stitch together’ two separate 15-second ads.
This ad type gives the viewer greater control over their ad experience. Viewers will be given the option to choose between two or three different video ads to watch from the same advertiser. This can increase the chances that viewers will be engaged with your ad as they had some degree of choice in watching it. If no ad selection is made within 15 seconds of being presented with the options, one of the two or three available ads will be selected at random and played automatically.
According to Hulu Brand Lift Norms, 2020, products like these that “give viewers choice and control” have “result[ed] in 70% higher lifts than the average campaign on Hulu.”
Branded Entertainment Selector (BES)
Choice comes into play with Hulu’s BES ads as well, but in this scenario, they are choosing not just their ad experience, but their viewing experience as well. Viewers are given the option to watch their programming of choice with the typical commercial breaks, or to enjoy their programming uninterrupted by first watching a longer ad. We like to think of it as finishing your dinner before eating dessert! This is a popular choice for advertisers who want to tell a story with their ad—or advertise a movie or upcoming event—and need more than 15 or 30 seconds to do so.
Advertisers are given the opportunity to reach audiences before the show has even begun with Branded Slate custom title cards. These brief, static video ads feature your logo with “Presented by” text, with voiceover audio that identifies your brand as the sponsor. Hulu also offers Branded Slate ads specifically tailored to entertainment clients.
Max Selector (Beta)
In this ad type, viewers are given a choice over how they would like to learn about the product or service being advertised. Interactive templates are designed to create “a more engaging and immersive choice-based ad experience.”
Poster Marquee Ad
Want to entice viewers to watch a specific series or theatrical release? This ad type makes it possible by leveraging “existing coming soon design components to promote a trailer for an upcoming title.” Hulu recommends that these should ideally be an “extended trailer,” with 15-second and 30-second ad spots not recommended.
This 7-second ad type is similar to the aforementioned Branded Slate ads, but allows for advertisers to include “their own video, dynamic visuals, and sound” as opposed to a static video with voiceover. If preferred, you can still opt for the voiceover to be handled by Hulu talent, but it is not required as it is with the Branded Slate ads. Hulu also offers Premium Slate ads specifically tailored to entertainment clients.
Promoted Content Marquee Ad
This unique advertising option “mimics the existing Hulu UI design and only supports long-form full-length episodes or feature films.” Because “Hulu viewers already recognize this design to promote content that is available for them to watch,” they may not even realize what they’re seeing is an ad.
Sponsored Collection Brand Placement
This placement offers “advertisers extended ownership of a collection sponsorship through logo placement adjacent to content in Hulu’s UI across devices.” As shown in the above example where “Newly Added TV” programs are “Presented by LOGO” (your logo here!), your sponsorship displays in a highly visual location that naturally draws in viewers’ eyes.
Want to reach viewers dedicating some of their downtime to an hours-long binge session, but don’t want to risk hitting them with the same ad, delivered in the same way, episode after episode? Hulu’s Binge Ad placements are designed with brand safety and a positive watching experience in mind. These “enable marketers to deliver contextually and situationally-relevant messages at the right time and place – during a viewer’s binge session.”
According to the Kantar Brand Lift Study, 2020, ads like these have been shown to “increase[ing] unaided brand awareness by 24% and ad recall by 25%.”
These unique ads are designed with conversions in mind, bringing together “Hulu’s traditional living room video ads with action-oriented prompts and personalized offers.” GatewayGo ads harness “second screen enablement technologies such as QR codes and push notifications” by “shifting conversion actions from the TV to mobile devices.” Viewers who wish to learn more can simply scan the QR code using their phone—which is likely within reach, if not in their hand—or choose to receive notifications.
According to a 2020 Hulu Internal Study, “6 in 10 viewers like that they can discover and act on deals with GatewayGO.” For these ad types, Hulu strongly recommends 30-second placements “to increase engagement,” though the minimum required length is just 15-seconds.
Cover Story Brand Placement
For this ad type, the only thing Hulu requires is your logo, which will be showcased directly within the Hulu homepage alongside the “Presented By” notation, as shown above. Thanks to their prominent placement, these ads are ideal for increasing exposure, and enhancing brand recognition.
Pause ads are unique in that they reach viewers who have decided they are ready for a break by pressing the pause button, with the ad serving as a screensaver of sorts. These offer an ideal opportunity to reach viewers in the least intrusive way possible, and give you significant opportunity to increase brand awareness—particularly for viewers who pause often, and for longer periods of time.
Interactive Living Room
These ads are designed to “foster greater affinity with a brand” through “customizable interactivity” focused on whatever elements of your brand you would like to promote. Whether you want to get the word out about a new product launch, enhanced features of an existing product, a new line of services, a company announcement, or more, these ads make it engaging and easy. Hulu notes that they offer “select functionality via third-party producing and hosting partners,” and that the production lead time is quite a bit longer than for most ad types at “four to six weeks from the receipt of the final assets.”
*Note: The ad units mentioned are almost exclusively available via guaranteed IOs (national or local) and not the audience-driven methods.
Hulu Ad Measurement and Optimization
Hulu offers advertisers varying measurement and attribution insights for their campaigns, which depend in part on how the ads were purchased. Hulu’s attribution capabilities let advertisers measure brand lift and direct ROI, and business outcomes across QSR, retail, ecommerce, tune-in, automotive, and CPG categories. Hulu also partners with third-party providers to verify audience data and viewership measures.
“Hulu is a valued partner for Tinuiti’s direct and audience first, programmatic approaches to OTT / Connected TV. Hulu, and the broader OTT landscape, is an advertising channel that has scale, is targetable, and measurable: the three components required for performance marketing. The channel represents the opportunity to truly connect with high-value audiences and grow your business via sight, sound, and motion messaging, with sound on, and with 100% share of the largest screen in the house.”
– Jesse Math, VP; Advanced TV & Video Solutions at Tinuiti
How much does Hulu Advertising cost?
Hulu advertising costs are structured to allow for advertisers of all sizes and budgets, with the campaign minimum for their self-service platform set at just $500. The total costs you’ll realize will largely depend on a number of factors, including:
- Whether you’re buying directly through Hulu or a DSP (demand-side platform)
- Any restrictions you place on Hulu regarding where your ads display. Specific audience or genre targeting, and/or frequency caps, may incur a premium as well
- Which ad types you choose
- How much creative you will need to generate for your ads (production costs)
- Seasonality—Q4 advertising costs are higher than other quarters
- Whether you’re buying through an up-front agreement (advertising commitment for a full TV season), or the scatter market (ad buys that run month-to-month, or quarter-to-quarter)
How do brands buy Hulu ads?
Hulu offers brands of all sizes a chance to advertise on their platform. However, the method through which you purchase ads plays a role in the measurement insights you’ll receive. Below are the three primary ways to buy ad placements on Hulu, with additional details regarding programmatic buys, and Hulu’s new self-service platform.
- Purchase ads directly from Hulu sales teams
- Programmatic ad buys
- Through Hulu’s self-service platform (currently invite-only, but brands can request access)
Programmatic Guaranteed (Reserved Buys)
Ads purchased through a programmatic sales team that works directly with platforms and agencies, like Tinuiti, offers advanced local and national targeting and measurement capabilities, enhanced reporting, and fixed (not variable) rates.
Whether you want to target lookalike audiences, specific demographics, interest or behavioral segments, or leverage audience CRM matching for a customized group, you’ll know exactly when and where your ads showed, and be provided with robust reporting that helps measure what’s working best, and where you should continue to invest for optimal performance. You’ll also enjoy guaranteed buys that ensure you get the expected visibility and reach.
There are certain Hulu ad types that can’t be purchased programmatically, including sponsored placements, pause ads, and ad-selector ads, among other standout units. For these types, Tinuiti makes reserved buys for our clients from opportunities that are only available through Hulu directly.
Not sure which ad types make the most sense for your business and advertising goals? Our team works with clients to determine which campaign initiatives are best for them, and help ensure their creative meets Hulu’s requirements.
Self-Service Hulu Ads (Beta) – Must RSVP and Be Approved as a Brand
Hulu’s new self-serve ad platform allows brands to access ad inventory directly, with a modest $500 campaign minimum. These ads are ideal for smaller businesses that don’t have a sizable streaming ads budget, or are just getting started with OTT and want to test the waters.
Reporting Limitations: Notably, when purchasing through the self-service platform, your reporting will only include impression data; you won’t have insights into where your ads actually ran.
Best Examples of Hulu Ads
Filippo Berio is a brand best known for their selection of olive oils and vinegars, with a legacy tracing back more than 150 years. Their thoughtful use of interactive ad formats helped them in connecting with potential customers, with their Hulu ad campaign resulting in a “2x lift in brand favorability”, and a “3x lift in brand consideration.”
- Filippo Berio’s use of the Interactive Living Room ad type “was especially impactful as an awareness-driver, highlighted by a +44% lift in brand awareness and +64% lift in message association”
- Other ad types were included in the campaign as well, including standard and situational ads
ThirdLove is a lingerie and loungewear company that focuses on body positivity and inclusivity in their marketing, and importantly, their range of products and sizes. The brand crafted a Hulu advertising strategy that aimed to enhance “awareness and overall consideration for their products across women of all demographics” with ads that ran “alongside premium and contextually-relevant Original content.”
ThirdLove saw results that outperformed “both industry and Hulu retail norms,” in part by advertising during women-produced content, and content that focuses on themes and issues that are of importance to women. This Hulu campaign included:
- Co-branded ads at the start of every episode of Mrs. America
- Creative that included a CTA and a discount code that could be accessed by “visiting a unique URL tied to the Hulu Original series, Little Fires Everywhere”
Best Strategy for Hulu Advertising [from the experts]
Experimentation is at the heart of all statistically-significant data, and Hulu makes experimentation easy and affordable. With more than a dozen distinct ad types to choose from—and an array of ad lengths to suit all advertising needs and goals—you are provided with all the necessary tools to find the ideal methods to reach new and existing audiences.
With Hulu ads, there is no shortage of innovative options to choose from, and we encourage you to experiment extensively, but also strategically. No matter how sizable your streaming ads budget, no brand can afford to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. But you can thoughtfully design combinations of differing visual components, and ad lengths, to see which resonate best with viewers.
These learnings can then be applied across similar OTT platforms as well, many of which won’t have the same robust inventory of options to experiment with.
According to a Nielsen CTV Analytics study, 62% of Hulu viewers never saw a brand’s ad campaign on linear TV, making Hulu a critical partner to brands trying to reach new audiences or their full target audience. And with Hulu’s ability to audience-target based on CRM matching or behavioral segments, Hulu is an important partner in delivering addressable TV at scale.
If you’re interested in advertising on OTT/Streaming TV, check out Tinuiti’s OTT advertising services.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Tara Johnson in July 2020 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.