Commentary

Hulu: Ads As Wretched As Plot Of 'The First'

It seems Hulu has become the lost child of OTT, with three parents all trying to figure out who will get custody if and when the divorce is final. Whoever it is needs to fix the user experience (and the depth of its library) if it hopes to overcome Hulu's estimated losses of $1.5 billion in the past year.

We have the "poor people's" subscription to Hulu, meaning we are subject to blocks of ad interruptions. I really don't mind the concept of ads because it gives me a way to track the progress of OTT advertising, which at least on Hulu leaves a lot to be desired.

Last week, while we waited for Hurricane Florence to wipe us off the Charleston map (Florence the Hurricane that the Moron in Chief said was "really wet, in terms of water") we decided to watch what we called Sean Penn Goes To Mars. If you plan to watch it (“The First”), you might want to stop reading, because spoilers are a-coming.

While laden with all of the symptoms of a Terrence Malick movie (the overly long establishing shots, the mumbled remote narration, etc.) it turned out to be an Edward Albee exploration of the tortured relationships between everyone associated with the astronauts about to lead the first manned mission to Mars.

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They could have just as easily been setting off on a long weekend to Maui (as long as the first attempt to get there exploded just off the tarmac). At any rate, if you are a diehard Sean Penn or Natascha McElhone fan, you will probably love it. If you want the gut-wrenching drama of space flight, skip it.

But this is not a review of the content, but an observation on the advertising. Clearly no one at Hulu has heard of frequency capping, because we saw the same three or four ads over and over and over and over (are we up to eight episodes yet?) and over again. It was a crushing experience, and we could not hit mute fast enough. If at first blush you had any affinity for the marketer, by the fifth or ninth ad, you wanted them to catch Ebola and suffer a long painful death.

As we moved deeper into the series, some other advertisers appeared -- but they had to have faith that we hadn't dropped out once we realized we were not getting space travel, but dysfunctional family drama.

In any case, it was clear that Hulu has no accurate viewer data that would have resulted in more targeted ads (either to the family or my wife, who’s the one with the subscription). They have our viewing history, which because of Hulu’s shallow library, pretty much consists of only the first two season of “The Handmaid's Tale.” But I am not sure there's an audience segment called "likes hopelessness and anxiety."

It is said that OTT advertising will hit $2 billion this year. If it does, unless it improves dramatically, those gains will be made without me.

3 comments about "Hulu: Ads As Wretched As Plot Of 'The First'".
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  1. Colleen Jones from Martin Communications Inc., September 21, 2018 at 1:08 p.m.

    I keep the ad-supported version for "market research" as well. You're right - a few big advertisers are eating up the inventory, and I see the same spots over-and-over-and-over-and-over, sometimes even twice in the same set break!


    As a local marketer, I want to include Hulu, but their minimum spend is just to high. If they want to keep everyone happy and help fix that revenu problem, they should do a reality check.

  2. Scott Turner from DataLaborTechnology, September 21, 2018 at 3:32 p.m.

    Great commentary George..although this problem extends well beyond Hulu's commercial rotations, I take your point that they SHOULD be able to do better, considering the targeting capabilities.  Did they at least over-serve ads for products and services that are relevant to you and your wife?

  3. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications replied, September 21, 2018 at 4 p.m.

    They were generic enough for anyone, bank, movie promo, cell phone, but even if one was for the bathroom tile we are currently in the market for, the redundancy would have killed any chance of a purchase. 

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