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Hulu is about to start showing ads when you pause, and this is what they’ll look like

Published Jan 31st, 2019 9:03AM EST
Hulu pause ads
Image: Hulu

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Starting in the second quarter, Hulu is going to start slotting ads into a new spot on its popular video streaming platform.

It’s an all-new ad experience the streamer has come up with that it calls “pause ads,” and they’ll work just like the name implies. Whenever you’re watching a show or movie on Hulu and hit pause, what you see now is screen real estate that stays frozen and unused, while you ran to make a sandwich or maybe answered the phone. At some point, though, Hulu realized it could make money by selling space and running ads on those paused screens, and in just a few months it’s going to start doing exactly that. In fact, it’s already testing this ad format with two brands.

Lest you read this and get worried that a new form of intrusive advertising is going to start annoying you and taking over your screen — well, see what you think about the image below, which shows how the ads on paused screens will look. In this example, someone had been watching Marvel’s Runaways, hit pause, and a static ad for Charmin comes in from the right-hand side and stays there until you un-pause the screen:

Image source: Hulu

I confess that when I first heard towards the end of last year that Hulu was moving forward with this, it sounded worrisome. According to the company, it tested a few different things and made note of the fact that consumers were pretty turned off by those pause ads showing audio or video to much of a degree. That’s what my first fear was — that you’d hit pause, and after maybe a few seconds, a video ad might take over your screen.

“Our pause ad research found that consumers generally preferred ads that were subtle and non-intrusive, and that extensive audio and video when pausing was considered disruptive,” Hulu said in an announcement today about this coming ad format. “These insights led us to take our current approach to pause ads, and the research so far has shown a positive response from viewers.

“With Hulu’s new pause ads, advertisers no longer need to interrupt the storytelling experience to get their message in front of the viewer. The pause ad takes advantage of the natural behavior exhibited in streaming TV viewing today. It is non-disruptive and viewer-initiated, and appears when a viewer pauses the content they’re watching. This 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.”

Hulu is testing the format for now with just two brands — Coca-Cola and Charmin. Also, it doesn’t sound like the pause ads will show up during every single movie or TV show Hulu currently offers. The company says that when this format starts to appear in the second quarter, it will only do so within “select content” in Hulu’s streaming library.

For some people, advertisements of any kind are considered an intrusion, though this format as explained by Hulu arguably seems to have a bit of a lighter touch compared to how heavy-handed the streamer could have gone. “Just as consumers’ viewing habits have evolved, their expectations for advertising have also changed,” Hulu’s announcement continues. “Viewers no longer accept an irrelevant, intrusive ad experience and appreciate when brands tell their stories in authentic and integrated ways. To stand out and continue engaging their target audiences, brands must rise to the challenge and flex their creative muscles to go beyond the traditional commercial break.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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