Monday, February 2, 2009

Video Insider: Hulu's Super Bowl Message Delivers Blow To Online Video's Value Proposition

Hulu's Super Bowl Message Delivers Blow To Online Video's Value Proposition

Despite the mostly weak display of conceptual and copywriting prowess (if you can call it that) that was this year's crop of Super Bowl ads, one ad that stood out in the mind of this creative director as being particularly useless was the Alec Baldwin shill for NBC/FOX's Hulu online video platform. 

What a lost opportunity.

For those of us engaged in the online video space, be it sellers, buyers, creators or platforms, we spend considerable amounts of time educating agencies and brand marketers on the value of the medium to consumers.   This includes what it offers that's unique and exclusive, and why it commands the kind of CPMs that often eclipse cable television.  So hearing there was a Hulu ad in the fourth quarter of this year's Super Bowl, I was intrigued to see how they'd handle the opportunity.  The result? Yes, very funny. But even more frustrating.

As a big "30 Rock" fan myself -- in particular, an Alec Baldwin fan -- I'm always up for watching more Jack Donaghy in character.  Yet, despite his humor in the ad, I found the completely smarmy "turns your brain to gelatinous matter" value proposition to completely miss the chance to deliver at least something about the platform that might raise awareness not only for Hulu -- but also for the entire online video platform space.  After all, a rising tide raises all ships, right?  In this case, maybe it's rising gelatinous matter that raises all ships.

Maybe I should lighten up.  After all, it's the Stupor Bowl, and the only things that matter are humor and recall, right?  Along those lines, the spot did pretty well according to the polls I've seen.  Yet brand linkage here will almost certainly be the challenge.  Will they remember Jack?  Positively.  Will they remember they saw that guy from "30 Rock"?  Without a doubt.  Will they remember the brand?  Hulu?  What it is?

Therein lies the $3 million question.

Yes, great commercials are supposed to entertain and reward us for the time we spend watching.  They're also supposed to cleverly deliver a BENEFIT that matters to people and doesn't simply rely on the trivial, meaningless and often easy, sexist, smarmy or punch-line-driven one-off executions that the vast majority of Super Bowl ads have become.  "Does anybody remember laughter?"

Just off the top of my head, there's a ton of great things to say about Hulu (Carol Burnett archives aside) that TV star Alec Baldwin could have mentioned casually in Jack Donaghy character -- like the ability to email your favorite clips to a friend; choose from dozens of your favorite classic TV series; even rate stupid commercials like this one. 

Then again, if mentioning benefits like these seems like just more commercial blah-blah to you, then perhaps your brain, too, has already turned to gelatinous material -- worthy of reruns of, say, "Joey" or "Father of the Pride"?

Alan Schulman is Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of U. DIG > The Digital Innovations Group. An industry leader in the development of new ad units for new and emerging platforms, Alan works with a variety of brand marketers on digital education, online and mobile creative innovations and digital integration.

Video Insider for Monday, February 2, 2009:

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