Hulu Adds Behavioral Targeting, Marking Step to Video Ad Maturity

Hulu has partnered with AudienceScience to enable behavioral targeting for its in-stream video ads and for the display ads that run adjacent to those spots. Whether advertisers find behavioral targeting on the video site worthy of the premium cost remains to be seen. However, some auto advertisers have already begun doing behavioral advertising on Hulu.

Hulu, an online video venture owned by News Corp., NBC Universal, and Disney providing long-form TV programming, is using AudienceScience’s behavioral targeting platform on a site-side basis. Essentially, the video site’s sales team now offers behavioral ads along with other more typical forms of targeting to advertisers; Hulu is not part of AudienceScience’s ad network.

AudienceScience CEO Jeff Hirsch believes that by employing behavioral targeting, Hulu will learn things about its audience that wouldn’t surface through more standard demographic and contextual video ad targeting. The company compiles data derived through its ad network to devise behavioral audience segments to target on Hulu.

For AudienceScience, “This is the first pure-play video company doing this, absolutely,” said Hirsch, adding that other clients offering video along with other forms of content also use the platform for behaviorally-targeting video ads. Time and Wall Street Journal Online are also clients.

Online video advertising is still in its nascence, with standards for formats, measurement, and buying still evolving. Hirsch said Hulu has the right amount of video consumption to support behavioral targeting, which requires a base level of reach and frequency to be effective. “One of the interesting challenges for behavioral early on was scale [and need for repeat visitation by individual users],” he said. “In order for this to work for video advertising, you have to have those same [factors]…���¦Video advertising, especially with a player on such scale as Hulu, now has the volume to support making behavioral targeting a valuable piece of what they sell to their advertisers.”

“I see it as means for a publication to monetize inventory that otherwise might not be sold,” said Razorfish VP Media Sarah Baehr. “Particularly for Hulu, people are going in to buy particular verticals…It’s a way for them to diversify that.”

In addition, the targeting capability enables Hulu to create scale for advertisers looking to reach audiences they normally target only through specific types of programming. Now, they can also reach those audience segments in other inventory in lower demand.

However, Baehr is skeptical that all advertisers will find value in the behavioral offering, which usually involves an additional cost. She told ClickZ News she isn’t sure that selling behavioral in-stream video ads “is going to work out from an ROI perspective…whether you’re going get enough of a benefit to justify the increase [in CPM rates].”

For advertisers looking to increase brand awareness among certain audiences, she continued, it could be worth the additional cost, but that may not be the case for more ROI-driven campaigns. “It varies so much depending on how you’re buying the inventory,” she added.

In the end, she suggested, Hulu may be adding the offering simply because that’s what advertisers expect. “To me, it’s just being able to check off the basics,” she said.

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