×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hulu’s Interactive Ad Lets Viewers Buy Movie Tickets With a Remote Control

Subscribers to Hulu sometimes use the streaming-video site to watch movies. Now they can use certain ads on the service to buy movie tickets.

You might call it a commercial interruption interruption: In recent days, some Hulu users have been served a video trailer for the Warner Bros. and MGM movie “Tomb Raider” that asks them to use their remote to order tickets if they’d like to see the film in a nearby movie theater. Viewers can toggle to a new page to check out showtimes, see the format in which the movie will be shown, and find the closest movie house.They can then offer their email address to get a link sent to their phones allowing them to pay for tickets.

Younger consumers who have grown up in an era when ads can be skipped or ignored “come with different expectations for TV,” said Peter Naylor, senior vice president of ad sales for Hulu, in an interview. “The game is changing, and we have to run new plays.” Warner Bros. is expected to use a similar ad format on Hulu to support the Dwayne Johnson movie “Rampage.”

Studio executives think the marketing initiative helps close the gap between the time a potential moviegoer sees a trailer and the time she or he decides to go see the film being advertised, says JP Richards, the studio’s executive vice president of worldwide marketing and chief data strategist.“We are definitely trying to connect the experiences of watching a piece of content to buying a piece of content – a movie ticket,” he said.  With affluent, younger consumers migrating to streaming services from linear TV, he added, finding new ways to connect with them is of growing importance.

Futurists have predicted such stuff for years. When “Friends” was a big hit on NBC in the mid to late 1990s, executives loved to talk up the notion of a consumer who sees a sweater being worn by Jennifer Aniston on screen being able to order it immediately with the toggle of a mouse.

Indeed, media companies have worked for years to build what Hulu’s Naylor called a “transactional commercial.”  Earlier this decade, for instance, Cablevision – now part of Altice – would run cable channels that were essentially interactive pages sponsored by advertisers. Subscribers could use a remote control to input information that would spur a phone call from employees of Walt Disney Co. to help plan a trip to one of the entertainment company’s vacation parks. Or they could ask Royal Caribbean to send info about a rewards program. In 2010, Mattel ran interactive efforts on Cablevision, Dish and AT&T’s U-verse that let them stream videos about Barbie, play games and request information be sent to them.

But the format had its limits. The technical requirements of a Cablevision often varied from those pertaining to Comcast, DirecTV or Cox. If a big advertiser wanted to run an interactive ad across the nation, the company would essentially have to build a different version of the ad for each cable or satellite distributor it needed to use.

Streaming services, however, have a broader geographic reach, noted Jaqueline Corbelli, Chairman and CEO of BrightLine, a company that helps build commercials for digital and on-demand venues and worked with Hulu to develop its new ad unit. “This is the first step in a much broader strategy and approach to the marketplace to bring the transcation closer to the viewer,” she said, noting that several TV networks are working to offer similar concepts.

Hulu and other streaming-video sites have long offered ads that consumers can play with. When Hulu, owned by Comcast, 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney and Time Warner, launched in 2007, it touted its ability to let viewers in some instances choose the type of ad they wanted to see. Fox accelerated the push for interactive ads when it purchased ad-tech firm TrueX for around $200 million in late 2014. That firm created a product that asks video viewers to interact with an advertising unit in exchange for some kind of offer, like the opportunity to preview a movie.

Coming up with interactive formats could be key for streaming-video providers.  Expectations are high among executives that Amazon will likely roll out technology that lets viewers of its Amazon Prime Video make purchases related to the programs they watch in its popular e-commerce portal, raising the specter of heightened competition.

Besides, advertisers need to maximize the streaming environment as more consumers adopt it. Streaming “is growing in prominence,” said Warner Bros.’ Richards.

Hulu’s research shows the interactive ads are easier to recall and remember, said Naylor, while spurring purchase intent.  “This is the first transactional ad” on Hulu, he said, “but it’s not going to be the last.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Will Arnett Joins BBC Soccer Comedy

    Will Arnett Joins BBC Comedy ‘The First Team’ From ‘The Inbetweeners’ Producers

    Will Arnett and Chris Geere will star as the chairman and coach of an English soccer team, respectively, in “The First Team,” a new comedy for the BBC from the producers of “The Inbetweeners.” The series will follow the off-the-field misadventures of three young soccer players played by Shaquille Ali-Yebuah (“The Feed”), Jack McMullen (“The [...]

  • 'Game of Thrones' Fashion at the

    'Game of Thrones,' Fashion Slayers: HBO's Drama Winners Also Shined on the Carpet

    The cast of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” knew how to make an entrance (and an exit) on Sunday night at the Primetime Emmy Awards. Before winning the night’s final trophy, Best Drama Series, stars like Emilia Clarke and Gwendoline Christie pulled out some fantastical looks on the purple carpet, with Clarke donning the mother-of-all-earrings by [...]

  • Emmys Fashion: Best Dressed on the

    Emmys: Best Fashion on the Purple Carpet

    The biggest stars in television stepped out on the Emmy purple carpet on Sunday night in a stunning display of gowns and vivacious looks. Fashion expert Brooke Jaffe, who visited Variety’s set after the show, picked some of her favorite dresses of the night, which included Zendaya’s truly enviable Vera number and Mandy Moore in [...]

  • Emmys 2019: Biggest Winners and Losers

    Winners and Losers of the 71st Emmy Awards

    The 71st Emmy Awards was a spectacular affair for the Brits, while broadcast networks all but vanished. Watch Variety’s Elaine Low and Audrey Yap unpack TV’s biggest night of the year, which saw “Game of Thrones” and “Fleabag” take home the top prizes, winning best drama series and best comedy series, respectively. Popular on Variety

  • Atmosphere71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Show,

    Emmy Viewers Not 'Feelin' Good' About Bizarre Music Choices

    It was known ahead of time that the Emmy Awards planned to dispense with a traditional orchestra or pit band for the walk-up and bumper music. What wasn’t anticipated was that the music choices were being outsourced to a bar mitzvah DJ in Des Moines. Or, very possibly, it was a local who had found [...]

  • Atmosphere71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Show,

    Emmys: Big 4 Broadcasters Post Lowest Combined Wins Ever

    The Big 4 broadcast networks put a cap on their worst year in Emmy history on Sunday night. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC brought home just 16 Emmy Awards — the lowest combined total in history for the four major broadcast networks. The previous low was 19 combined wins in 2016. Last year, the networks [...]

  • Karamo BrownLA LGBT Center 'Hearts of

    Karamo Brown Addresses Backlash Against Sean Spicer Comments

    Karamo Brown has doubled down on comments he made about his fellow “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Sean Spicer, in which he promoted the idea of meeting political adversaries “in the middle.” The amicable “Queer Eye” host received criticism when he said he was “most excited to meet” Spicer ahead of the show’s 28th season, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content