Hulu will soon show banner ads when viewers pause a show

Hulu knows there's a good chance you're pausing so you can go to the bathroom. (Hulu)

Watching video on demand gives viewers the option of hitting pause when they need a break, and Hulu will soon begin filling that space with some advertising.

The subscription/ad-supported streaming service said it is beta testing ads on pause screens with companies including Charmin and Coca-Cola and expects the pause ads to officially roll out to select content within the Hulu streaming library by the second quarter of 2019.

But viewers won’t have to worry about unidentified sounds coming from the other room while they’re trying to take a quick bathroom break or grab a snack midbinge watch. Hulu promises the ads will be nonintrusive and viewer-initiated.

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“Our pause ad research found that consumers generally preferred ads that were subtle and nonintrusive, and that extensive audio and video when pausing was considered disruptive. These insights led us to take our current approach to pause ads, and the research so far has shown a positive response from viewers,” wrote Jeremy Helfand, vice president and head of advertising platforms at Hulu, in a blog post.

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The ads consist of two elements—contextual ad content and a background gradient to distinguish the ad from the content scene.

When reports surfaced in December that both AT&T and Hulu were experimenting with pause ads, questions arose over how consumers would receive the additional marketing. Rob Silvershein, an advertising analyst with The Diffusion Group, said that wouldn’t catch anyone’s attention unless they meet the criteria of being relevant, authentic, contextual and engaging.

“Hitting pause while streaming means that I want to take a short break and leave to do something else, thus the odds of the message getting through to me are remote at best,” Silvershein wrote in a blog post.

Hulu seems cognizant of the limitations with pause ads. A video depicting a sample pause ad features a simple banner-style ad off to the right side of the screen with Charmin asking the viewer if they “need a break” and telling them to “enjoy the go.”