Hulu tests self-service ad tool for small businesses

Dive Brief:

  • Disney’s Hulu streaming service this week started testing a self-service ad platform for small- and medium-sized businesses. Hulu Ad Manager will let a company activate, manage and track a campaign for as little as $500, Faye Trapani, Hulu’s director of self-service platform sales, announced in a blog.
  • Hulu Ad Manager supports 15- and 30-second video ads, and lets businesses use one ad per campaign. The ads must be in a high-definition format and comply with Hulu’s ad policies. Hulu will review the ads before they appear on its platform, which usually takes at least three days, per its website.
  • Businesses can target audiences by age, gender, location, interests and content they watch. The location data can be narrowed to state, designated marketing area (DMA), city, ZIP code or any combination of these regions. Advertisers can’t choose specific shows, but can select broader genres that include multiple shows, per Hulu’s website.

Dive Insight:

Hulu’s test of a self-service ad platform is the starting point in giving a broader range of businesses a way to reach the growing audience for streaming video. As Hulu notes in its announcement, the company typically works with many of the top 200 brands in the U.S. that want to reach a mass audience. Hulu Ad Manager can help smaller companies to reach highly targeted audiences based on more granular data, including demographics and location, and set goals based on their budgets and number of impressions.

The news comes as connected TV ad spend overall is expected to grow as consumers shift their viewing habits to streaming content, and as brands look for the kind of automated buying and granular metrics that digital media provides. Ninety percent of 13- to 54-year-olds watch TV on a streaming platform, per Hulu. While the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating trends toward digital media, the economic fall out and uncertainty caused by the health crisis are causing brands to reduce their ad spend overall. 

With the test of a self-service ad platform, Hulu joins the digital media companies that are putting software tools to run ad campaigns into the hands of marketers, helping to automate sales. Social video app TikTok last week introduced a self-serve platform and pledged $100 million in ad credits to help small businesses get started with campaigns. The TikTok for Business Ads Manager has tools to create ads and manage their ad budgets. Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Snapchat and Twitter also have had self-serve platforms for years.

As Hulu notes, it typically works with many of the top 200 brands in the U.S. that want to reach a mass audience. The company can greatly diversify its revenue among a broader base of customers that use the self-service platform, as social media companies have done. Hulu’s parent company Disney is making the streaming platform a bigger part of its ad sales efforts as audiences shift their viewing habits away from broadcast and cable TV. Hulu last month launched a direct response ad format called Gateway Go to let viewers interact with commercials. On Oct. 1, Disney will offer an ad product called Disney Hulu XP that gives marketers a way to buy ads on Hulu and Disney’s network brands such as ABC, ESPN, Freefom, FX and Nat Geo.

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