"As Hulu's content slate has grown, we have evolved to offer
advertisers more comprehensive integrated solutions, including
targeted integration into Original Series," Hulu said in a
statement. "As part of this process, the integrated marketing team
will work more closely with the Ad Solutions team to offer clients
fully integrated, cross-platform opportunities." The company
declined to comment on Mr. Thoensen's departure. Mr. Thoensen did
not respond to a LinkedIn message seeking comment.
Hulu's brand-content division had sold marketers like Ford and
Subway on funding programs that the brand would produce either on
its own or with Hulu and then distribute on the digital video
Earlier this year Hulu premiered a
docu-series that it produced with GroupM's entertainment arm.
Subway and anti-smoking organization Truth signed on as
Mr. Thoensen joined Hulu in 2011 to launch its brand-content
organization. He had previously been VP-marketing at Hollywood
talent agency WME and is considered "a left-right brain combo who
gets talent, gets creative and gets the business side," according
to one person who asked not to be identified.
But it seems Mr. Thoensen was in the middle of a tug-of-war
between the objectives of brands and Hulu's owners -- Comcast's NBCUniversal, 21st
Century Fox and The Walt Disney Co.'s ABC --
when it came to securing branded-entertainment deals.
"Branded content almost lives in a purgatory between media,
creatives and publishers. It's smart because it ties to content,
but everybody and nobody owns it, which means everybody or nobody
will buy it," said 360i CEO Sarah Hofstetter. She said that if
Hulu were to recalibrate it's brand content team's focus toward
sponsorships of Hulu's original series, "it gives [Hulu] more
control and puts them in the driver seat."
"They had a fairly rigid model that felt more like a TV model.
They're competing against a lot of other digital publishers like
Yahoo or AOL who are approaching [branded
content] through a digital lens with more flexibility on rights and
creative input. Hulu, given its heritage, saw it more through a TV
lens," said DigitasLBi senior VP and social content practice lead
The digital video service's decision to restructure its
brand-content team is said to be part of a broader shift toward
producing more original programming a la Netflix and reducing the
company's reliance on brand dollars. Last month the New York Post
reported that Hulu is
considering cutting the number of ads that run on its
paid-subscription service Hulu Plus.