Why Hulu’s Super Bowl ad is as smart as it is funny

February 4, 2009

I’ve been answering press questions about Super Bowl advertising for a decade or more, both as an analyst and as an academic (used to teach advertising management at Syracuse back in the good old 90s when your only way to watch Super Bowl ads was on TV or VCR). It seems that every year I’ve been involved the press stories say the same thing: Ads cost too much and aren’t as good as they used to be. 

Once in a while, an ad comes along that is brilliant. That brilliance is usually measured on the funny-meter, however. Rarely does it mean that a product has been properly promomted.

That’s what makes the “Huluwood” ad from Hulu featuring Alec Baldwin so brilliant. Not only is it funny, but it actually accomplishes a very subtle yet powerful marketing objective. Watch the commercial, have a few laughs, then read on.

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Why is this ad so good? Because it positions Hulu in exactly the right light. Instead of trying to say that Hulu is some kind of new service “unlike anything you’ve ever seen before,” this commercial makes it clear that Hulu is just TV, taken to the max. Which is exactly what people want. They don’t want Gemini Division, they don’t want LonelyGirl15. They want Lost and Family Guy and The Office. And they want it whenever and wherever they want. This is exactly what Hulu gives them and it’s the USP (unique selling proposition, sorry, I’m slipping back into professor mode, I can almost smell the classroom now) the ad delivers.

Personal riff: I absolutely love the new phase in Alec Baldwin’s career that this commercial epitomizes. From the guy who first interpreted Jack Ryan on the big screen in Hunt for Red October to this slightly hefty but immensely comedic persona that 30 Rock unleashed, I think he’s a million times more interesting now than he ever was in his movie star days. I don’t know how big a role Tina Fey had in bringing this out of him, but I assume she had a role because she is, after all, a genius.

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What I’m watching

October 17, 2008

I’m totally predictable. First, some background, I give speeches and talk to clients and the press about TV all the time, and I find it’s helpful to provide examples of what I’m talking about. So I toss in TV shows I’m familiar with.

Which is where my aforementioned problem arises: I’m totally predictable. Gee, tech geek, grew up on Star Trek, what do you think I’m watching? Yep, it’s the obvious.

 

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I was a huge fan of Heroes from season 1, episode 1. However, this season has me concerned. I’ll stick it through to the end, but if we don’t provide some actual character development soon (instead of rushed plot points), I’m going to give up. I’ve learned from the complex J.J. Abrams dramas of the past that once a show starts to spin out of plot control, it doesn’t come back to redeem itself. I watch this one on DVR almost exclusively.

My 2nd favorite show this season is Fringe. Yes, I have fallen for a third J.J. Abrams drama, despite my warning above. This one has yet to really grab me, but I’m giving it a chance. Anna Torv‘s character is practically anonymous, that’s how little background we have on her, while the mad scientist has a deep history already. There are hints about her past; I hope we’ll get to plumb those depths soon. I watch this show entirely online, as it fits in my schedule better that way (don’t have to compete with the kids for the DVR).

Like I said, there’s no mystery about me here. And, yes, I’ll be watching Battlestar Galactica and Lost again in early 2009 when those shows start up again.

But enough about me. What are you watching? Are you following any new shows this season? I know you’re watching something, and based on how many odd looks I get at conferences, it’s not what I’m watching…so chime in.