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Is Hulu’s ‘Choose Your Ad’ Experience The Worst Type Of Ad Experience?


Hulu 'Ad Selector' format showing a choice of three different ads.

In our experience, Hulu is one of the worst paid streaming services in terms of the quality and frequency of ads. In addition to the number and duration, Hulu also employs different ad formats, including an ad experience that allows subscribers to choose the ad they see. Well, sort of.

Hulu’s which ad experience do you prefer? (technically, the Ad Selector ad format) typically involves a choice between ads for the same thing. So while a subscriber can choose the ad, they are still getting an ad for a specific brand or product. It is just they can choose the theme of the ad.

From Hulu’s perspective, this type of ad experience is designed to offer a more personalized experience. Also from Hulu’s perspective, this is designed to be beneficial for both the subscriber and the advertiser, which ultimately makes it beneficial for Hulu as well.

The problem, we suspect many don’t want to choose the ad experience they see. For those users, ads are a necessary evil, and as they are something they are forced to sit through, many are unlikely to care which ad experience they encounter. If anything, having the option to choose an ad actually extends how long the ad break lasts, making it a worse experience than seeing an ad that’s preselected by the service and automatically plays.

In this sense, we imagine many will consider Hulu’s choose your ad experience to be one of the worst. For now, at least.

New Ad Formats Introduce New Annoyances

Over the past year couple of years, we have seen a significant increase in the variety of ad formats in use in streaming. With these newer ad types turning up in more places, and in some cases, requiring user participation, they run the risk of becoming even more annoying.

Pause Ads

Outside of traditional ad breaks, one of the more common ad formats subscribers now encounter is Pause Ads, where ads appear on the screen when a video is paused.

While not massively intrusive, it is an ad type that also isn’t always well-received by users, due to it being shown outside of a traditional ad break. In spite of this, more services are continuing to embrace Pause Ads, with Fubo and Prime Video the latest examples.

Frame Ads

Another ad format that’s become increasing common is Frame Ads. These are particularly relevant to live content, as they allow a service to display an ad alongside the live experience.

This ad type temporarily reduces the live feed to a smaller window, allowing for an ad to be shown around the live feed. While Frame Ads are most commonly encountered with live sports, they are becoming increasingly common in general. As an example, The Weather Channel recently confirmed it will also be embracing this ad format in the future.

Even though Frame Ads don’t interrupt the viewing experience they do disrupt the viewing experience, and this raises their potential to be annoying for viewers.

Shoppable Ads

Shoppable Ads aren’t quite as common as Pause or Frame Ads, but that looks set to change in the future. As the name suggests, these ads make it possible to shop for a product directly from the ad, and appears to be an ad type many platforms are interested in deploying.

Amazon Shoppable Ad example for Ring Doorbell.
Amazon Shoppable Ad example

Due to its status as one of the country’s largest retailers, Amazon is naturally keen on the use of Shoppable Ads. Other services, including Roku and YouTube, are also embracing Shoppable ads as well. In fact, so is Disney.

While Shoppable Ads do offer an interactive element, and are potentially useful for shoppers, they do run the risk of annoying viewers by constantly trying to get them to use the remote or their phone to perform various actions, including scanning QR codes.

Most Ads Are Annoying

Whether Hulu’s choose your own adventure styled ads are ultimately any more annoying than some of these newer ad formats we’re now seeing, they are still annoying in general.

With new ad formats and experiences continually coming through, it is likely that users of streaming services will encounter more types of ads that they consider to be annoying. At the same time, with ads becoming more interactive, some may find some new ad types to be an easier way to get through the commercial break.

In our opinion, it seems highly unlikely that any current, including Hulu’s Ad Selector, or future ad format will ever be quite as annoying as repetitive ads. The quicker the industry is able to deal with repetitive ads, the better the ad user experience will be.

John Finn


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