Hulu’s Choice

Today I went on Hulu.com to catch a few minutes of the latest Saturday Night Live episode.  Naturally, they showed me a (forgettable) commercial before I was able to view the show.  And as usual there was a feedback button that asked, “is this ad relevant to you?”  I’d seen that before on Hulu and at first it seemed nice that they asked for input but it did raise the expectation that somehow, over time, the commercials would be tailored to my specific tastes or interests.  But no such luck.

After watching some of the SNL show, I had to sit through another ad which was also forgettable, and in that context, a big annoyance.  Hulu and NBC are making money by forcing viewers to sit through commercials they don’t want to see.  But how is that any different from regular TV?  It unfortunately is not.

The web is supposed to be different somehow.  Interactive.  Engaging.  A feedback loop.  But too often online advertising is just a mirror of traditional advertising with bad execution.

The benefit of streaming video for the audience is time shifting…the ability to watch your show when you want.  And for that privilege, viewers are forced to sit through commercials they don’t want to see, even after explicitly saying they don’t like them.  At least with regular TV the expectation of relevant advertising is not raised.  You know what you’re in for:  a dumb monitor showing dumb untargeted commercials with no feedback mechanism.  And that’s kind of okay.  No expectations, dulled down senses and an occasional laugh.

If you’re going to give people the opportunity to provide feedback, really do it.  Give robust options. Commentary.  The ability to see what others think — including the votes of your friends.  Show statistics broken out for one’s state, county and city vs. the national average. A map that shows where people liked the ad the most.  An invitation to make a better commercial, with some tools to make that happen.  Sure, most people won’t participate in these things because they just want to view content.  But there are ways of making feedback engaging for people who are so inclined.  Certainly those people may be in the minority but some of them just might have hundreds of Facebook friends.  And others may spark an online discussion that yields 10X more visibility for a brand than a static, traditional commercial.

When the medium changes, so should the execution of the marketing.  Anything less is just, well, less.

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