'We needed to re-educate the market on Hulu': The video streaming provider's CMO explains why it needed a refresh

  • The OTT space is heating up, with AT&T announcing this week that it will launch a new streaming service next year to compete with the likes of Netflix, Hulu and Disney.
  • But Hulu is not worried, and has plenty of things going for it, its chief marketing officer Kelly Campbell told Business Insider’s Tanya Dua in an interview.
  • The streaming service recently launched a brand refresh campaign called „Never Get Hulu“ to re-educate the market on Hulu, she said, and make consumers aware of the range of services it offers apart from on-demand TV.
  • Hulu is „like a playground“ for brands, Campbell said, as it offers advertising opportunities far more creative than 15 or 30-second long ads, such as brand integrations with its shows.
  • She also said that the biggest marketing myth out there is that Gen-Zers are not receptive to advertising.

Following is a transcript of the video, which has been edited for clarity. 

Tanya Dua: So let’s start off on a high note. You just had a huge campaign come out, „Never Get Hulu“ —stereotypical Hulu tone. You’ve always kind of heavily leaned on celebrities from Alec Baldwin about a decade ago, to Sofia Vergara now, and of course a lot of others. Why that prominence to celebrities in Hulu campaigns?

Kelly Campbell: So as you mentioned, it’s a pretty exciting time for Hulu. We have grown tremendously in the last 10 years. In fact, we’ve grown a ton in the last year. If you look at Hulu today, we have the most on-demand content. We’re bringing that together with live television, and we’re offering consumers something that they can’t get anywhere else. When we went to the market to do some research, we found that consumers associate Hulu very heavily with television, but they don’t necessarily understand all that Hulu has to offer.

And so with this campaign, it’s our chance to change consumer perception, to take consumers from Hulu as „next day television“ to Hulu as „a better way to watch television.“ And the campaign really hinges on this insight that better ruins everything: You take an Uber or Lyft, you don’t really want to go back to a taxi. You get upgraded to first class, not super excited to go to economy. You watch television on Hulu, we think you’re not going to want to go back to your old way of watching television.

So we’re excited about the campaign and we thought about how to bring it to life in a fun way. This is where the celebrity angle comes in. If you look at the celebrities featured in the campaign, they all tie back to content on Hulu, whether it’s our licensed content, our original content, and also we have some athletes in there to bring attention to our live content.

Dua: Why were you calling it a brand refresh though? I read somewhere that you said that. Isn’t Hulu too young a company to have a refresh already?

Campbell: You know, we’re actually more than 10 years old, which is kind of crazy ‚cause it still feels like a startup. It still has that fun sort of startup vibe and entrepreneurial spirit. The brand refresh and the brand campaign came together at the same time for a number of reasons, but most of all it was because we felt like we needed to re-educate the market on Hulu. So if you look at the actual brand refresh part, which is more the look, feel, tone, voice; that really has some roots in early Hulu, but it also brings more of a sort of up-to-date, modern feel to I think Hulu’s look, feel, voice, and tone in the market.

Dua: As you said, you’re trying to educate the customer about what all Hulu is. When it comes to your competition, who are you competing with? Are you competing with other content players? Are you competing with the Netflix’s and the HBOs? Or are you competing with other OTT platforms like DirecTV?

Campbell: When it comes down to it as an entertainment company, we’re competing for time and attention. And to compete for something as broad as time and attention, you have to really offer something unique and differentiated to viewers. And that’s why we believe that by bringing the most on-demand content, our exclusive original programming, award-winning original programming, and our live television offer together, we are offering unprecedented value to consumers. We are offering them something that they can’t get anywhere else. That’s why the campaign is so focused on highlighting all that Hulu offers today, and that’s changed a lot in the last 10 years. So, it’s really a chance to sort of re-educate consumers on what Hulu is and why it’s a better way to watch television.

Dua: So you mentioned kind of scaling tremendous growth over the past one year. I think your ad sales surpassed a billion dollars last year. But you hear from marketers all the time that OTT is not particularly its own line-item when they’re looking to invest their marketing dollars. How are you trying to combat that perception?

Campbell: We actually see brands getting more and more interested in advertising with Hulu. Our ad revenues have grown tremendously in line with our subscriber growth.

Dua: Do you have a more updated number to share?

Campbell: I don’t today, but I think we’ve been on a healthy cadence of sharing updated metrics with the market. We’ll continue to do that. It’s an exciting time for Hulu, so it’s fun for us to be able to share those stats because it’s not only a sign of the health and growth of Hulu, but it’s a sign of the health and growth of the industry. And there’s so much happening in our space right now. I can’t imagine a more fun place to be right now. We’re literally at the intersection of all that’s happening in the entertainment space and the technology space. Hulu is really in a unique spot at the center of that.

Dua: So how are you attracting advertisers, brands that you meet that are still kind of on the fence about OTT? Excited about the prospects but still not 100% convinced? What do you tell them?

Campbell: We speak with brands about premium content that they can reach advertisers through on Hulu. One of the things that I’m not sure everybody knows about Hulu is that we have both an ad-supported product and an ad-free product. And our ad-supported product is chosen by more than 60% of our on-demand customers. And so for an advertiser you’re reaching consumers who have chosen an ad-supported product, which I think is pretty unique when it comes to both television and digital advertising opportunities.

The other thing is it’s not just 30s and 15s; we can literally do anything. So for a brand, it’s like a playground. Like they come in and we can start brainstorming on ways to reach Hulu consumers both throughout our platform but also through our content.

We’ve done some really neat integrations with Lyft, for example, with one of our shows „Marvel’s Runaways.“ The second season is launching pretty soon, and in the first season we did a really nice integration and it literally started because the actresses and actors on the show were coming to work in Lyft every day, and we were like we need to call Lyft and do something with this. We ended up integrating Lyft into the actual content, into the premiere, and so it was a lot more than just 15s and 30s. It was a way for Lyft to really connect with their consumer in a unique and different way, that they can’t do anywhere else.

Dua: Interesting point. You bring up the fact that you’re also serving their digital needs, but not just 15 second or 30-second commercials. Yet, attribution remains a huge concern for a lot of marketers right? And of course, measurement in the OTT space is still in its nascent stage. What are you doing? Are you working with the Nielsens and the ComScores? Where do you see that go?

Campbell: We are. We have a great partnership with both and I think we’re making a lot of advancements. We are continuing to introduce updated methodologies. We’re also continuing to do things in a more custom way with some of the direct-to-consumer brands who have a certain metric that they want to hit. We can work with them to say okay, how are we going to measure whether or not we hit that goal? So, there are ways to work directly with customers to make sure that the advertising is not only checking like the standard boxes but also meeting their unique goals.

Dua: So turning the attention toward the customer. You have access to so much data.

Campbell: Yes, we do.

Dua: How are you using that to better tailor the experience for customers, whether that is in terms of content recommendation or just targeting them with ads? How are you making the experience better for the customer?

Campbell: So, you’re right. We have access to a tremendous amount of data. One of the things we do right from the onset when someone signs up for Hulu, is we have an onboarding process. So people can actually set up their profile. A household can set up more than one more profile and people can identify what they’re most interested in watching. So that gives our recommendation engine sort of a headstart, so that it can start surfacing in a very personalized way, content that we think the viewer’s going to want to watch, and then it creates a feedback loop. So there’s machine learning built into the algorithm that can start to predict what you’re going to watch next.

On top of that — that’s sort of a data and automated side of it — we also still have a programming team that’s able to curate content into collections. So, we just launched our „Huluween“ collection. Huluween is like the biggest holiday of the year. Inside the walls of Hulu, we have a massive decorating contest and costume contest, but we’ve also started to bring some of that to our users. We get pretty excited about Halloween. Why not make Huluween a celebration beyond the walls of Hulu?

So that team has curated content including movies, as well as very famous Halloween episodes of television. You can find the super scary stuff or you can find the spooky but not scary stuff, and that’s literally a combination of family-friendly Halloween movies all the way through to episodes of television that are just the Halloween episode.

Dua: So let’s turn the attention to you now. You started your career at Google. How do you think that prepared you for your current role? And just so much is transforming in marketing today. Do you think your job is harder than ever?

Campbell: I love my job. I feel so fortunate. I really can’t imagine a better place to be right now. I spent 12 years at Google. I took so much from that experience. One of the things that I think I uniquely got to do at Google was wear a lot of different hats. I got to gain so much perspective. The company was growing really fast. I got to play at different functional leadership roles, which I think prepared me really well for Hulu, because my scope as a CMO at Hulu includes the brand and creative and content marketing side of things. It also includes research and insights and it also includes accountability for the full customer experience end-to-end, which means we’re focused on acquisition, engagement, retention. We have a customer support team. We have an automated self-service support team. So it really set me up to be able to take on the type of scope necessary to be the CMO that Hulu needs.

Dua: Tell me more about your team. How much of the work that you do that is external-facing is done in-house? And what are your thoughts on that kind of an operating model? A lot of brands today are bringing in more functions than less in-house. How does that work for you? Are you still relying on your agencies? Not so much?

Campbell: We are. There’s a lot of attention on this topic right now and I’m in the mix, and having those conversations, but the reality is for us, we have a great balance. I would say we have a really healthy balance of internal and external. Our internal teams, they know our brand, they know our customers, they know our products and they can work fast. We are so nimble and able to produce the right content at the right time on a dime.

Our external partners who we work very closely with, they’re well integrated with us. They know our brand pretty well, but they also bring a fresh perspective. They bring a broader perspective. You know how you get into the walls somewhere and it’s so easy to lose that perspective that’s more broad and I think our external partners bring that and they also bring fresh ideas. So for me, it’s a healthy balance and that model’s working really well for us.

Dua: Alright, so you’re never going to get rid of your agencies then?

Campbell: Not anytime soon, no.

Dua: Your jobs are safe.

Campbell: Yeah, we have great agency partners and we’re very grateful for that. And we have a lot of talent in-house and I want to continue to bring the best talent in house, but I don’t think that’s going to negate the need for really strong external partners.

Dua: Okay well, wrapping up. What do you think is the most powerful tool in your arsenal as a chief marketing officer today? And what do you think is the biggest marketing myth that just annoys you?

Campbell: We talked about data. So for a tool, I have to say data. I think we’re using data in new and unique ways. What we can do with data with data to pull out actionable insights, I think we just have so many new tools at our fingertips as marketers, and that can allow us to provide marketing that is more useful, that is more targeted and more relevant.

And long those lines when it comes to a myth, I think the biggest myth out there right now is that Gen-Zers — our youngest generation — that they’re not receptive to advertising. We’ve done research that shows that they’re actually more receptive to advertising than prior generations, and I think part of that has to do with the fact that they entered the internet at a time when they missed all the pop-ups and officials and being like just having advertising …

Dua: Interrupt their experience.

Campbell: Popping up everywhere. Exactly. I think they understand the value of advertising and see it almost, are starting to see it more as perhaps a useful service.

Dua: Alright, thank you so much for being here, Kelly.

Campbell: Thank you.

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Source: Business insider

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