Live-streaming TV services such as Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV, and PlayStation Vue now account for more than three-quarters of all plays and viewing hours in the U.S, according to a report by TechCrunch. This January, Hulu got more good news when its annual report for 2018 revealed that advertising revenue grew 45% from 2017 to reach nearly $1.5 billion, and the average time subscribers spent on Hulu increased 20%.

But the company is not resting on its laurels; Hulu continues to innovate in the TV advertising field, rolling out two unique new ad formats just a few months apart. The latest, called Hulu pause ads, are a new “non-intrusive, viewer-initiated” ad unit that plays when viewers pause the show they’re watching, according to the company’s press release. Hulu is currently testing the ad with Coca-Cola and Charmin, and expects to make it generally available for select content by next quarter. So far in testing, Hulu found that viewers accepted the format “if the ad is subtle and relevant.”

One of Hulu’s pause ads, which looks like a translucent banner ad.Enter a caption

In a follow up to last year’s interactive ads that allows Hulu viewers to buy movie tickets from the ad they are watching, the company debuted another interactive ad this month – one that lets you get offers via email. Hulu again partnered with BrightLine for the development of this new ad format, which envisions interactivity as the future of TV commercials. Some of the possible actions that could be incorporated in interactive TV ads include allowing viewers to request coupons, schedule test drives or other appointments, sign up for newsletters, start planning a vacation, or get various product offers. The idea seems to be catching on: Hulu claims that interactive ad units drive a 50% increase in ad recall and a 45% increase in purchase intent.


Traditional TV networks are not standing still, either. In November 2018, NBC launched a program that makes TV ads more accessible to direct-to-consumer brands, who can be scared off by high entry prices. Besides offering full technical and creative support, the program will measure results based on business outcomes rather than on Nielsen demographics – another big change for the industry.


From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • In Hulu’s test of pause ads, the company reported “[The ads’] high-impact ad execution currently consists of two elements – ad creative supported by contextually relevant messaging along with a background gradient to distinguish the ad from the content scene.” If you were a marketing manager at Coca-Cola, what would you want your pause ad to look like? What would be the message? How would you determine which of Hulu’s content you would want your pause ads to appear on?
  • New methods of television ad interaction produce new ways to track the consumer journey as well as analyze behavior and intent. If your marketing department implemented new interactive ads with Hulu, such as coupon request ads, test drive lead forms, and newsletter sign-ups, at what stage of the marketing funnel would you want to deploy each?