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At the heart of every brand is a story. While you can tell yours in many ways, a great narrative is best when it comes alive in video. There’s something compelling about the combination of sight, sound and motion that’s tough to overlook—and that’s exactly why smart marketers leverage video advertising to capture attention, drive engagement and build brands.

We all know that video ads work. After all, viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to just 10% when reading it in text. But the cost to play hasn’t been cheap, and without a corporate-sized budget, small businesses have been forced to watch—from the sidelines.

Now let’s put this into context: the pandemic has reshaped media consumption. With more people spending time at home, more people are watching TV. And, as more people stream video on their devices, more people are shifting a higher percentage of disposable income to ecommerce. Yes, streaming video is on the rise, and aggressive advertising make sense. But the game is changing, and this is great news.

Self-serve ad platforms are closing the gap between big budgets and video advertising success.

Highly successful streaming media services, like Disney’s Hulu, Spotify and even TikTok are lowering the barrier to entry into the streaming ad market by opening the floodgates to small businesses. In a strategic move, these platforms are offering self-serve tools aimed at smaller companies lacking budget. Now, it’s easy to unleash your creative side and connect with a larger audience—all without making a significant financial commitment.

For small brands, being seen on an established, high profile platform is next to godliness—and being able to test, learn and spend at your own pace—well, that’s pretty great too.

At Dash Two, we think advertising choices should be simple. So, we rolled up our sleeves and did the research. We compared self-serve ad functionality for three high profile streaming platforms: Hulu, TikTok and Spotify. We defined what they have to offer, investigated what you can do with them, and listed out a few pros and cons for each. Here’s how they stack up, alone and against one another.

Hulu Ad Manager

Hulu’s video on-demand subscription service is widely popular with a reported 30.4 million users as of February of this year. Hulu regularly runs ads from top U.S. brands, but recently decided to open advertising to a broader range of sponsors. In June, they launched Hulu Ad Manager, targeted at small and medium sized businesses.

What it is

  • A self-serve solution that lets you upload, target and measure the performance of short form video ads on Hulu.
  • The service is currently limited, and there’s no timeline for when it will be available to all. However, the plan is to bolster capabilities before opening the tool to more advertisers.

What you can do with it

  • Support 15 and 30 second video ads.
  • Target by location, interests and program genre.
  • Track up-to-date campaign performance on Hulu’s campaign dashboard.


  • Flexible budgeting with a low minimum spend of $500.
  • Campaign data is available within a dashboard.
  • Easy to target viewers by age, gender, location (by state, zip code), interests and content.


  • Ads can’t include interactive elements, like call to action buttons.
  • Only one ad can be used per campaign, rather than showing multiple ads in sequence.
  • Can’t target specific shows, only broad genres that includes multiple shows.
  • Ads must be comply with Hulu’s ad policies. The review process takes up to 3 days.
  • No access available to Hulu’s customer databases for targeting purposes.
  • Campaign performance data is limited. Updates only for impressions and budget. No data is available on which shows display ads.

How Hulu Ad Manager Differs from the Others:

  • Campaign control is good. You can stop, pause, cancel, or delete a campaign at any time.
  • Hulu has the largest streaming TV library. As a leading ad-supported platform, your ads will reach a huge audience.

TikTok Ads Manager

TikTok is a relatively new video streaming app that lets you create, share and discover short form (15 to 30 second) videos on any topic. As of July, the platform had a billion users worldwide in 150 countries. Simplified video creation is appealing, and in 2020, the platform launched TikTok for Business featuring TikTok Ads Manager.

What it is

  • A self-serve video advertising platform that lets you optimize a video marketing campaign with an easy-to-use platform and a range of resources and tools to help you create and track ad campaigns.


What You Can Do With it

  • Organize by Campaign, Ad Groups and Ads
  • Set objectives for campaigns, define your budget
  • Define ad groups and choose specific ad placements, configure audience targeting, track perfomance



  • Recent controversy surrounding the security of data collected and shared on TikTok has caused many to reconsider using the platform, potentially diminishing ad reach.

How TikTok Ads Manager Differs from the Others:

  • TikTok promotes a “Back-to-Business ad credit program”, including $100 million in ad credits for small businesses facing financial strain due to COVID-19.
  • TikTok’s viral nature makes this platform extremely attractive.

Spotify Ad Studio

 Spotify Ads is currently the largest digital audio advertising platform, with 90 million ad-supported listeners. With the addition of video advertising to its Ad Studio self-serve advertising platform, marketers now have a way to place video ads in streaming content.

What it is

  • A self-serve video advertising platform where users can upload or create video assets, set targeting and define budget.
  • Ad Studio provides both audio and streaming video ads managed on one single platform.

What you can do with it

  • Set an objective, pick a format, target audience and set reporting options for your campaign.
  • Create an ad from scratch using the voiceover tool or upload your own pre-produced video ad.
  • Options to choose horizontal video that runs across the desktop and mobile platforms or vertical video—optimized for iOS and Android.
  • Target by age, gender, location and platform, (plus one from genre, interest or real time context targeting).
  • Track campaign performance in real time within dashboard.


  • Real time reporting on Ad Studio dashboard, with the ability to make real time changes to ads.
  • Audio plays on video ads as they run—rather than playing with no sound, on mute.
  • Real time performance data—stats start populating 24 hours after starting your campaign.
  • Low entry—minimum campaign budget is $250.00.
  • Target with specificity—metrics: ad served, reach, frequency, completion rate, click through rate.


  • Only available in the U.S., U.K. and Canada
  • video ads are limited to 30 seconds and must allow viewers to click through to a website address.

How Spotify Differs from the Others:

  • Running video and audio ads together produces significant benefits— ad recall is 1.9 times higher than video ads, brand awareness is 2.2 times greater (Nielsen data cited by Spotify).

The Last Word

Media consumption today is up, with video experiencing the highest increase in use year over year. With easy access and convenience, streaming video is here to stay. And, it’s only going to get bigger. eMarketer predicts that by 2023, a quarter of all U.S. households will drop their set-top televisions, switching completely to subscription-based viewing. With some of the biggest names in streaming video offering self-serve ad platforms, there’s never been a better time to get your business in the game.

At Dash Two, we can help you navigate the streaming video ad market like a pro. From developing the best creative to targeting the right audience and making sense of performance metrics, our team can help your team build a campaign that delivers the win.

Ready to shore up your video advertising game?

Give us a call, we’re here to help.

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