Hulu’s Jason Kilar ‘Thinks Different’ about television

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Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar chose the advertising agency’s conference in Los Angeles to do his own riff on Apple Inc.'s “Think Different” campaign.

Instead of saluting “The Crazy Ones” from the memorable TBWA/Chiat/Day ad campaign from 1997 that heralded the rebirth of Apple -- and featured some seminal figures of the 20th century, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi and Albert Einstein -- Kilar offered his own pantheon of innovators.

Kilar saluted those who strove to do better -- including Walt Disney, who conceived of the idea for Disneyland while sitting on a park bench in Griffith Park, watching his daughters ride a merry-go-round; James Dyson, who invented the bagless vacuum cleaner (and brought a sense of industrial design to the bland household appliance), and Steve Jobs, whose iPhone relegated the rotary dial phones to museum pieces.

“I can think of no bigger inspirations for looking at the world around you and looking for a better way,” said Kilar, speaking Wednesday at the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies conference at the Beverly Hilton hotel.


Hulu, said Kilar, strives to bring the same relentless innovation to television. “If we’re really on our game people will look back on it and will say, “Wow, I can’t believe TV was like that in 2007.”

The online television service, which is jointly owned by media giants News Corp., Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal, as well as Providence Equity Partners, brought in $420 million in revenue last year. The site, which features television shows from the current season, attracted some 37.7 million viewers last month.

Kilar articulated his oft-repeated vision for the future of television, saying it will become more personalized (the way Internet radio service Pandora delivers music tailored to a listener’s taste) and social.

“TV is one of the most social mediums.... The things people talk about most are the weather and television,” Kilar said. “With digital, we should be able to encourage social to the core. It’s going to be a big, big deal.”

Kilar also highlighted some of Hulu’s attempts to re-imagine advertising, including allowing the viewer to choose which ad they’d like to watch, or to skip commercials they don’t find relevant. Such efforts increase the viewer’s ability to remember the promotions they’ve watched, Kilar said. “The recall goes through the roof because they’re mentally engaged with the ad.”


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-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Video: Steve Jobs narrates this unaired version of Apple Inc.'s 1997 “Think Different” ad campaign.