HULU’S COMMERCIAL ALGORITHM: THE ULTIMATE TROLL

Hulu has crashed onto the streaming services scene and has really been making waves. Offering a live TV option. Giving you the fastest access to current seasons. Beginning to rival Netflix’s quality and quantity with their Hulu Originals. Having one of the best color schemes in television apps. Green is honestly superior to red. It’s the color of money for one. And half of the Christmas color scheme. Supposedly, according to my BIF (best Internet friend) Google, our minds associate it with life, nature, energy, growth, freshness, safety, and ambition, among other things.

Despite all the good things going it’s way, though, Hulu has a dark side. Some might think that’s their default advertisement tier. Those people would be partially right. I mean, sure, there is the option to pay for Hulu with no ads. But who has that kind of frivolous spending in their budget? It’s twice as much. And then I would lose my built in bathroom, and snack, breaks. In other words, for more of my money, I would physically have to pick up the remote to pause what I was watching to take a break. That feels backwards. A little unfair, honestly. Thus, I am but a Hulu peasant living with their commercial breaks.

Side tangent aside, the commercial breaks are a necessary evil in my current lifestyle. If you’re living the 1% life and don’t have the basic plan, then you may not be able to relate to the one major downside to Hulu. Which, of course, is their commercial algorithm troll. During my PH years – that’s pre-Hulu in case it was unclear – I thought I was kind of an average, normal-ish millennial. Sure I had my quirks, but overall believed I was in the same general range as my peers. From a lifestyle and preferences standpoint.

However, after leveling up to multiple streaming services and adding the big green H to my TV apps, I’ve realized that I am both a middle aged soccer mom and a lonely college student. I am neither a mom, nor am I middle aged, nor am I lonely, nor am I a college student. At least, I didn’t think I was. Enter Hubert the Hulu Troll. In my mind this algorithm is an angry old man, so I figured Hubert best fit that analogy. Hubert made me realize that I’ve basically been living in some weird dream as a mid-twenties millennial. 

I’m no algorithm expert, but I know that at a basic level it takes your viewing preferences and suggests commercials based on what category it thinks you fall into. Oh, and obviously your smart TV, and any other devices with your Hulu app, listens to your conversations and throws out commercials based on your conversations. So it takes the data it has, steals data from private conversations and stereotypes you. How fun is that?! 

If it feels a bit creepy, that’s because it is. I’ve been talking about adopting a new puppy since the fall. Simply talking. And texting. With my friends and family. On my phone. Which doesn’t have the Hulu app. Yet, guess who keeps getting Petfinder and Hill’s Pet Nutrition commercials? Correct, yours truly. Although, if we’re being honest, it could have been a much worse topic for them to take from my non Hulu related activity, so I guess there’s a silver lining. I get to see adorable dogs on my commercial breaks. On the flip side, though, it also thinks that I have children. I get a disturbing amount of Pull-Ups, minivan, and Hornitos tequila commercials. If Hulu is listening, please just send me more puppies.

Like all good technology, it doesn’t always get it right. Occasionally I get commercials for Meow Mix and I know you don’t know me, but I’m not a cat person. I don’t own a cat. I won’t own a cat. Stop trying to sell me on the impossible. I also find it funny when I get whiskey commercials since I hate whiskey. And all of my private conversations would indicate that. Maybe my significant other is whispering sweet nothings in Hubert’s ear to try and get me on the brown liquor train. But I will stand strong. 

My favorite part about Hubert, is that for a while I naively believed it was just random placements of ads to the highest bidder. Then my siblings, one who is in college and one who just graduated from college, informed me that they got Trojan, Tinder, and Tito’s commercials. At which point I realized that Hubert genuinely believes that I’ve outgrown my youth. I have not received a single commercial for any of those products. And I love a good moscow mule so what’s up with that?!

Alright, jumping off my pedestal for now. If you know someone who would enjoy this post and want to share it with them, that would be awesome. Sharing is caring, after all. Don’t forget to subscribe to get these in your inbox twice weekly and follow TRP on Twitter for frequent musings. Thanks for reading!


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DEAR TWIX: NOBODY CARES, STOP MAKING US PICK SIDES

We all know commercials. The ones that inconveniently interrupt your binge-watching session so that someone can profit. Is it the TV provider? I certainly hope not! My bill is high enough so if you’re getting commercial revenue in addition I would like a discount. In actuality, I think it’s mainly for the shows, or movies, or reality stars, or puppy bowl participants, to make money. Which, ok, on one hand this strategy makes sense. You spend millions of dollars per episode and that has to come from somewhere! I’ve never owned a million dollars and would happily work for a few hundred, so if it’s a payroll problem hit me up. On the other hand, though, we live in a modern age. An age where promotional consideration is everything. So, why can your promotional products not pay for what I’m watching? Apple is doing just fine, they can bankroll your movie if you opt for the iPhone look over Samsungs. 

Maybe I don’t know enough about how the screen world works. I will admit, these could be both accurate and incorrect assumptions at the same time. What a fun paradigm that is! Hypothetically, if you’re both wrong and right, are you actually wrong? Is right even a thing? Is it possible that two wrongs don’t make a right, but one wrong can? I have a million questions for the philosophers behind morals now. I believe I’ve found the loophole to life! Wasn’t where I thought this was going just a paragraph before, but wow! I’ve shocked myself and that doesn’t happen often.

Life lessons aside, commercials are a part of life. They mostly suck. Some commercials are absolute gold, though, and worthy of my time. The Snickers feed the world Super Bowl spot, for example. Progressive’s parental life coach is also on that list along with another premium insurance one – that, of course, would be GEICO’s “well, the squirrels are back in the attic. Your father says it’s personal this time” ad. When that first came out, I simply thought the tagline was excellent. Since then, however, my parents have become obsessed with the squirrels in their backyard. This is a true story. They drink coffee and watch the squirrels. If you’re in a conversation with one of them, and they see a squirrel in their peripheral, they’re no longer listening to you. It’s an experience. I’m sure it will be a whole post very soon.

I’ve just spent a lot of space, and mental energy, very off topic. Let’s circle back! The majority of commercials that grace our television, computer, phone, tablet, treadmill, bike, watch, etc. screens have no business being there. Limu Emu being one. What even is happening with the emu? Where did Doug find Limu Emu? How long have they been partners? How is the emu contributing to insurance, in any way? Yellow, why yellow? Why a car from the 60s? That was 60 years ago now, is the company doing that bad where they can’t afford a new model for their best agents to drive around in? I’ll stop hating on Liberty Mutual there. 

The ones that irk me the most, though, are the infamous Twix commercials. Twix used to be normal. I used to buy Twix candy. And then, someone, somewhere, on their team decided that division was the best way forward. Literally. Right vs. left. Left vs. right. I’ll just say what we’re all thinking: it’s the same thing! No differences exist. When you package all as right, you’re now lying to customers. Because, some of them have to be left. And vice versa. If you’re going to compete, against yourself might I point out, at least have some differences. Make one side caramel and one side peanut butter. One side milk chocolate and one side dark chocolate. One side a rectangle and one side a circle. Anything! 

Because it’s confusing to open a pack of Twix thinking there’s two different pieces of candy (since they’re different and you have to choose according to their marketing team) and finding out they’re simply the same. One is on the right and the other is on the left. If you flip the package 180 degrees, then the right is now left and left is now right. What even – I definitely have questions, but also I would just like it to stop. There’s enough separation in the world without Twix throwing their two cents into that pile. Was anyone buying into this scheme? How has it lasted so long? Moral of the post is, I rarely eat Twix anymore because it’s now a stressful experience. Like taking an AP English exam where all the multiple choice answers are based on your opinion and interpretation of the passage. Another day, another time.

Alright, jumping off my pedestal for now. If you know someone who would enjoy this post and want to share it with them, that would be awesome. Sharing is caring, after all. Don’t forget to subscribe to get these in your inbox twice weekly and follow TRP on Twitter for frequent musings. Thanks for reading!


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WARNING! SCARY COMMERCIAL COMING

It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of HALLOWEEN – more specifically, I’m not the biggest fan of frightening things. I don’t like to be scared…it’s not my idea of a good time. People who like to be scared confuse me. There are plenty of other ways to have a mini heart attack and induce nightmares for weeks that don’t involve creatures from the deepest, darkest, depths of hell.

I mean, really, where do people even come up with some of these ideas?! Kind of seems like they take something that’s supposed to be calming and happy and they turn it into a devil that terrorizes innocent people because why? Because they can? Where do these people even come from?! What happened in their childhood to make it so that their joy is derived from the terror of others? I honestly don’t even understand how one gets to that state mentally.

My list of questions about who is creating this content, why they think it’s acceptable, the people who pay money to partake in this, etc. are endless. Regardless of my feelings on the matter though, scary movies are wildly popular. All year long. Even during seasons that are supposed to be purely delightful, pleasant, and merry. I won’t even get started on the Christmas horror movies that have appeared recently. No, just no – those need to die.

So we have these scary movies out there, and, for some reason, it was decided that airing commercials for these movies on public television was completely fine. This would be alright if they didn’t show any of the scary parts. Let’s all agree that you can tell it’s going to be a scary movie by the state of the family’s house. Or by the emphasis on one of the children – usually looking like they aren’t fully there mentally. Or by the creepy music in the background. Or by just general human intuition that lets you know something isn’t quite right with what you’re watching.

Why, then, must we show the demon, or the zombie, or the clown, or whatever the freaking antagonist is?! And why is it always as a jump scare?! Can we not casually just fade in their picture with the movie title?! Scary movie lovers will know what the deal is and all normal people of the world won’t have to go find a change of pants.

From a marketing perspective, I get it, I really do. You want to show the people a preview to get them hooked into watching the whole thing. Alright fine, you can keep the scary part of the commercial in there. But please, for my sake, if no one else’s, put some sort of warning up on the screen before you play it! Then I can look away, or go find a snack, or water my succulent, or return the voicemail someone left for me last month, or ANYTHING besides watching what is assaulting my television.

The irony is not lost on me that anyone, including those under 17, can watch said commercials. Yet if that movie minor wanted to go pay to watch it in a theater they could not. Another reason to take the scariness, or the R ratedness out of the previews? I think so! Don’t agree? I take it you’re one of those disturbed humans who enjoys that ridiculous then?

Alright, jumping off my pedestal for now. If you know someone who gets scared easily (like mwah) then pass this along so they can know that other scary commercial survivors exist and we have safe havens waiting – The Food Network and HGTV. Thanks for reading!


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