Friday, October 01, 2010

HULU’s “Is this ad relevant to you?”

OK this is one of my rant posts. You may have noticed that Hulu asks you the question: “Is this ad relevant you?” on top of their advertisement. Let’s understand this question and where it comes from.

Most of us (by “us” I mean professionals of build Web businesses) know that the #1 revenue making machine on the Web is on-line advertisement. We also know that the Holly Grail of this industry is to be the most relevant to viewers so that they will click as we cash-in on every click. We also know that there is a fine line between increased relevance and privacy. Thus when we want explicit relevance we ask for permission, or for the user to tell us more about themselves. Others like Google’s Gmail are more bold, they will actually use the content of your emails to push “relevant” ads your way.

Using the term “relevant” is the issue I have with Hulu. What it says is that their marketing and advertisement team have spent too much time talking about increasing relevance and have transposed an abstract term to their viewers. What does this question mean in the first place?: “Is this relevant to you?”, especially when the advertisers’ messages are about strengthening their brand in a repetitive manner. What is Hulu trying to do here? I think that they simply want numbers to report on their “increasing relevance” campaign for internal and executive validation. Or that they are dealing with an inexperience team who just learned the word “relevance” in the context of on-line advertising. If they come from the TV industry, the ladder is most probable.

I have asked many of my friends what they answer to Hulu’s question. All of them said: “I click on NO so that they’ll stop bothering me with these ads.”. Here you go Hulu... you can’t be asking the question to your users that you yourselves are incapable of answering. Then again you are dealing with the traditional TV advertisement industry, and you are not using technology to change the paradigm of what a relevant message should be. Until Hulu can actually innovate instead of transposing, I suggest that it infers relevance from the shows and type of subscriptions the viewers select. Because let’s face it, you just don’t ask if people find advertisement relevant... it is a tolerated evil for free entertainment, no more, no less.

Here are some questions Hulu may ask (I am being ironic ;-):
“Is this ad repetitive?”
“Is this ad entertaining to you?”
“Did you know this brand?”
... So what? Will Hulu stop showing us ads that we don’t care about? Of course not! So once again, just like TV, we are back to branding.

I also remember that when Hulu stared; they had lower budget ads with actual messages that made me discover new products and social missions. Perhaps that is more powerful and relevant to viewers who know already who Microsoft and Toyota are.

Also Hulu might learn a thing or two from Google who actually made it possible for a new smaller companies to afford to reach more people through relevance. Perhaps someone should tell the media companies that we watch our shows at anytime and that the concept of prime-time placement is IRRELEVANT ;-) Can Hulu be that messenger?

What this blog relevant to you? ;-)