Hulu gave us "The Handmaid's Tale," then gave us "Little Fires Everywhere." So, personally, I don't need another reason to love the streaming platform. But if I had a small business, I would have just gotten one.
In July 2020, Hulu announced Hulu Ad Manager, a self-service advertising platform designed for smaller advertisers with limited budgets.
Previously, Hulu ads were only accessible to top brands with the finances to fund large campaigns. Now, small- and mid-size businesses (SMBs) can reach the platform's 92 million ad-supported viewers without dishing out thousands of dollars.
So, how exactly does the Ad Manager work? We'll cover that and more below.
How to Use Hulu's Ad Service
Currently, Hulu's self-service solution is in the beta phase.
To access the platform as a beta user, you must first submit an RSVP form with information on your business.
If accepted, setting up your ad is easy. Here are the steps.
1. Select the dates within which you want to run your ad campaign.
2. Build your audience.
On Hulu Ad Manager, you can target users by age, interest, gender, location, and of course show genre. When it comes to location, you can narrow it down by state, city, ZIP code, or a designated marketing area (DMA).
However, you cannot select which shows you want your ads to run on, only the genre. If you're not sure what will align best with your brand, look through the current show selections to get an idea of what to expect.
3. Set your budget.
To run an ad on Hulu, you must have a minimum budget of $500 per campaign, which is considerably less than the usual cost of ads on streaming platforms. For comparison, Amazon's self-service platform for video ads typically requires a minimum ad spend of $35,000.
4. Upload your video ad.
There are a few requirements your ad must meet to be approved:
- Be between 15 to 30 seconds long
- Formatted in MP4 or MOV
- Be in HD and have stereo sound
- Fit the tech specs outlined by Hulu
- Comply with Hulu's advertising policies.
The approval process usually takes up to three business days.
5. Make a payment.
Currently, Hulu doesn't accept business bank accounts or debit cards for payments. You must use a credit card. If you choose to pause or cancel your campaign, you will only pay for the delivered impressions.
6. Track your ad performance.
Once your ad is live, you can start tracking its performance in the Hulu Ad Manager.
Note that you will not be able to find out what times your ad aired and during which shows. However, you can expect to find standard metrics, such as impressions and clicks.
Hulu Advertising Options
In addition to Hulu's most recent self-service option, the streaming service also offers two other advertising options:
- Premium Programmatic – This is ideal for brands who want to leverage lookalike audiences, audience CRM matching, and behavioral segmenting in their campaign.
- Action With Broad Appeal – With this option, you can integrate your brand with Hulu's, create branded content collections, and deliver ads in innovative formats.
Each option caters to your brand's specific goals and can be designed to fit your budget.
For instance, you can run brand lift studies, which are ads designed to measure consumer perception of your brand after a campaign.
Jillian Hope, senior marketing manager of brand advertising at HubSpot, explains that they can help brand advertisers understand the impact Hulu campaign exposure has on key brand KPIs.
Pros and Cons of Hulu Ads
Pro: Hulu has extensive targeting capabilities.
With any one of the three advertising options available on Hulu, you can use Hulu's targeting features to reach your ideal viewers.
"[You have] the ability to define target audiences using Hulu's first-party audience data or leverage lookalike audiences using your own first-party data," said Hope.
The extent of the targeting parameters will depend on which option you are using. For instance, if you are using programmatic buying, you can use lookalike audiences to match the exact users you're looking for with Hulu's viewers.
However, on the current beta version of the self-service solution, you can only target users by demographic and show genre.
Despite this, Hope adds that targeting on a platform like Hulu is much more advanced than it would be with traditional, linear TV.
Pro: Innovative ad formats allow you to experiment.
On Hulu, you're only limited to video commercials if you're using the self-service option. The platform offers over 15 ad products to reach viewers.
"There are multiple ad formats available and lots of innovation happening," said Hope. "For example, [there's the] new QR code integration that is more desirable to direct response advertisers."
It's just a matter of figuring out which ad product best aligns with your goals.
For instance, there's the cover story brand placement, which allows you to seamlessly integrate your branding on Hulu's homepage.
Then, there's the ad selector, which puts the power back in the consumers hands by letting them select which ad they want to see.
These are just a few of the ad formats you can pick from, each one creating a different experience for the user. To see all the ad formats available on Hulu, visit Hulu's ad product page.
Con: You can only accomplish so much with a limited budget.
One of the downsides of Hulu ads is that certain campaigns will require a bigger budget than you may have available.
"Some of the more premium ad placements, as well as brand lift studies, require budget minimums in order to reach statistical significance," said Hope. "So, they are less attainable to smaller advertisers."
In this case, Hulu may not be the best platform on which to run these types of campaigns. You may want to opt for another ad platform, like Facebook Ads, where you can reach more users who still fall within your target audience for less money.
How Hulu Ad Examples Can Inform Your Next Campaign
If you're not ready to pull the trigger on a Hulu campaign, get inspiration in the meantime.
See how other brands – notably your competitors – are using the platform to reach their target audience. This means looking at their creative, reviewing case studies, and monitoring consumer sentiment via social media.
This competitive intelligence can help you devise a strategy during the ideation phase of your campaign.
Given that the Hulu Ad Manager is still in beta, the platform will likely include more features once it fully launches. In the meantime, SMBs can reach TV viewers for a fraction of what it used to cost.