Questions for Jean-Paul Colaco, Hulu’s SVP of Advertising

The launch of premium video portal Hulu has quickened the pulses of brand advertisers everywhere, at least to judge by the blog buzz and zealous media coverage this week. Yet as elegant as the platform is — and it had to be after a year in development — the important test still lies ahead in the form of audience growth.

Advertising SVP Jean-Paul Colaco knows this, and he says his six-person sales team is doing all it can to guarantee a unique and flexible ad experience for the firm’s clients and consumers alike.

To that end, Hulu, a joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp., has introduced an element of choice with its marketing message. Viewers can select their advertisers or opt to watch lengthy branded experiences in lieu of much shorter interruptive ad placements.

In this interview with ClickZ, Colaco talks about the inventory sharing arrangement among Hulu, Fox, and NBC. Other subjects touched on: Future targeting methods and the problem of ad repetition in long form video entertainment.

Q. Why introduce more consumer choice in the ad experience?

A. There are two reasons we’re doing it. The first is to really capture the power of the Internet platform, which is that you can have a higher level of user engagement and user interactivity. We believe that by offering users choice you create a much more compelling ad environment for them and that should result in higher effectiveness of the ad.

The second piece is that advertisers were coming to us [asking], “How can I offer a branded entertainment experience that can be longer than a 30-second ad?” Our solution to that problem was to let them create the branded entertainment experience. We’ll put that up front and let them watch that to enable an experience that’s interruption free.

We’re testing it on movies, but it’s something that could run on any long form content that we have on Hulu…It’s not on every movie but it’s sort of randomized.

The advertiser selector…is rolling out over the next month…we’re going to partner with an automobile company most likely on the first round of the ad selector.

We’re 17 or 18 weeks into this project. These two products are a start point, not an end point.

Q. How large is your sales team?

A. Right now it’s fairly small. We have about six people. As you know we went live today. As our traffic continues to increase we will expand our sales force to meet the growing demand we’re seeing from the advertiser perspective and growing traffic from a consumer perspective.

Q. How does your sales team work with NBCU and News Corp?

A. NBC and Fox can sell what we call 360-degree ad packages around their content. NBC can sell “Heroes” packages that are on television, on NBC Web platforms, and on Hulu. Fox can do the same with “Prison Break” or any of their shows.

Hulu is selling somewhat differently. We’re selling run of site, by genre and by demographic. Over time we’ll evolve toward behavioral targeting, geo-filtering…those are things we’re working on the technology for.

Q. Do you think the frequent repetition of the same :15 spots threatens to undermine the effectiveness of video ads on Hulu and other sites?

A. As a user I’m troubled by the repetition of ads. I believe that’s an industry wide issue. Advertisers are slowly migrating advertising from the television to the Internet. In the last couple years it’s been more of a testing ground for them. As publishers such as ourselves continue giving them feedback from users about how they react to repeated views of the same ads, it will help them evolve their knowledge and push them toward developing new and different kinds of creative.

It’s our belief that a storyboard ad experience with multiple creatives [best] keeps the attention of the user. We want ads to be additive and have a compelling user experience.

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