Benita Chacko
OTT Streaming

Ads on Pause: D+ H spots non-intrusive ad break for premium subscribers

Dhruv Dhawan, head of ads, explains the advantages of the format for brands.

Disney+ Hotstar has introduced ‘Pause Ads’ exclusively for its Connected TV (CTV) feed, becoming the first platform in the country to implement this format. A pause ad is an advertisement that appears when a user has paused or temporarily halted the content.

In an interview with afaqs!, Dhruv Dhawan, head of ads, Disney+ Hotstar, says these ads have two key highlights: one, they can reach their audience without interrupting their content viewing experience and two, it is innovative, thus helping break through the clutter.

“It's a unique moment. Moreover, it is non-intrusive. The ad appears during a natural break initiated by the viewer, rather than interrupting the experience. Unlike pre-rolls that delay content, this format enhances the viewing experience by seamlessly integrating ads,” he explains. 

On average, users pause content 4-5 times a day, with over 90% of these pauses lasting less than 10 seconds. “This presents a huge opportunity for advertisers to engage with their consumers in a seamless manner.”

Currently, it is offering these ads only in a static format. “Video ads create a little bit more complexity on the tech side,” he says.

It has three variants of pause ads available - Immersive Pause Ads, which blend with the background providing a seamless experience, along with Rectangular and Square Pause ads which are compliant with standard ad guidelines. These ads are available only on Video on Demand (VoD) content and not for live streaming.

“The offering was carefully designed to ensure that an advertiser gets the maximum possible real estate without hampering any of the user controls, thus maintaining the user experience,” he says.

Tang ad on Disney+ Hotstar
Tang ad on Disney+ Hotstar

The ad rates are marginally higher as it is considered a premium placement. The ads will be shown to the SVoD audience on CTV across all plans, except for the ad-free plan priced at Rs 1,499.

“All our connected TV content is behind a paywall, making it premium SVOD content. While there is a slight premium for these ads, it is not significantly higher than what our partners are accustomed to,” he says.

While Marico, Mondelez, and ITC are among the early adopters, Dhawan says it is an exciting opportunity for brands across categories. 

“All advertisers can benefit from Pause ads, as it can solve for a wide range of use cases starting from building brand awareness and recall, to communicating very specific features, USPs and offers. As of now, the Consumer Durables category has shown great interest and they are the early adopters of the same,” he says.

Saffola's ad on Disney+ Hotstar
Saffola's ad on Disney+ Hotstar

This approach also offers a creative element, allowing for different creatives tied to the pause moment. For example, Savlon’s ad says, “Germs don’t take a pause. Wash your hands.” Similarly, Saffola’s ad says, “Hit pause on junk, hit play on health!”

Somasree Bose Awasthi, CMO, Marico, in a press release said, "A powerful context relevant occasion was activated for the initiative (World Health Day) every time the Disney+ Hotstar user initiated a break. This was built on consumer insight that a large majority of content pause occasions are initiated around snacking. A perfect time for brand Saffola to remind our consumers to choose 'better for you' foods from the Saffola Franchise as a healthier alternative.”

Disney+ Hotstar has introduced this feature in India taking a leaf from its US counterpart Hulu, which began testing Pause Ads in 2019. 

The platform has piloted pause ads with CTV as the real estate available to advertisers on CTVs is much higher compared to handheld devices. Currently, it does not plan to introduce Pause Ads on mobile devices, but it may consider doing so in the future.

“Advertisers still highly value the addressable TV market for brand showcasing. While mobile has seen significant digital disruption, the demand for connected TV real estate remains high,” he adds. 

The choice of CTV versus mobile is also inspired by the US, where a large CTV audience exists. 

For mobile devices, the streaming platform launched 3D breakout billboards in August 2023. It is the first ad users see when the app is launched. 

YouTube has also been experimenting with Pause Ads. In April 2024, Google's chief business officer Philipp Schindler said YouTube saw strong traction from the introduction of a pause ads pilot on connected TV. He went on to share that YouTube's pause ads are "driving strong brand lift results" and "are commanding premium pricing from advertisers". 

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