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“Pause Advertising” and Its Implications

March 5th, 2019   ||    by Charlene Weisler

Pause advertising is a new form of messaging where advertising automatically runs when viewers pause content. According to Variety, it’s currently being tested by streaming services Hulu and AT&T. The thought is that a contextual ad, such as an ad for soda as you pause to get something to drink, might spur greater viewer attention and retention. Also, it enables the creation of new messaging inventory at a time when the trend is to reduce the length and number of ads within pods while still meeting revenue goals.

This leads to questions and implications. For one, when someone presses pause, it’s usually to leave the viewing area to do something else, like get a beverage or take a bathroom break. That potentially leaves the ad to play to an absent audience. It can also be construed as intrusive. Pause often is exactly that, a pause from viewing anything at all.

Why Pause Advertising?

But there is good reason to consider pause advertising. Media is fragmenting. Advertisers and content owners are faced with finding new ways to reach viewers who are increasingly in control of where, when, and how they watch. Viewers do not want to watch as many ads, judging by the degree of fast forwarding through commercials and viewing via ad-free streaming services, according to the Los Angeles Times. But advertising revenue helps to pay for all of the great content currently offered. The perfect format is yet to be discovered, thus the experimentation of ad insertions in previously unexplored moments.

For Hulu, this type of advertising makes perfect sense. Jeremy Helfand, VP and head of advertising platforms at Hulu, noted, “We know brands are vying for consumer attention more than before and need opportunities to tell their stories in authentic and non-intrusive ways. This is why Hulu is exploring formats like the pause ad.”

Implications for TV Advertisers

Sellers are optimistic about the prospects of pause advertising. “If it is adopted, it has the potential to keep 30-second ad loads down and subscription prices reasonable,” noted Chris Pizzurro, head of sales and marketing at Canoe Ventures. If viewers are receptive, it enables advertisers to expand their ability to reach consumers in new states of engagement.

“Pause ads will become the pause that refreshes ad revenue,” said Jeff Greenfield, COO and co-founder at C3 Metrics. “The math is simple: consider the number of streams that involve pause instances and multiply that against a $60 retargeting CPM for 30 seconds against the total seconds of pause.”

But when pause is pressed, audio is muted. Hulu solves for this in their pause ads by using the muted period to offer a static ad with a gradient background so the ad stands out from the content.

Will These Ads Be Effective?

Currently, there is no standard measurement capability during pause. However, Hulu and AT&T have proprietary ad technology to measure viewer activity during pause mode. Ideally, if pause advertising takes off, there should be an industry standard capability to measure viewership across platforms.

But novelty combined with media’s innate creativity should give advertisers a reason to not delay in trying pause advertising out. Helfand believed, “Formats like pause give advertisers the opportunity to flex their creative muscles and reach consumers beyond the traditional 30-second spot. These unique advertising opportunities capture attention and inspire consumer action.”

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