Hulu wants viewers to turn up the volume for a good cause this year and stream its two new ASMR-inspired scenics, the latest in the streaming service’s slow-TV answer to the famed Yule log after last year’s “Puppies Crash Christmas.”
For the uninitiated, ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response,” a perceptual phenomenon in which a person experiences a physical tingling around the scalp, neck, and shoulders upon being exposed to sensory stimuli – usually auditory. The ASMR trend has inspired countless YouTube videos in which influencers whisper or manufacture noises intended to evoke the response.
“What ASMR really triggers is when you cue those visuals images in that moment with something that’s very audio-driven. It adds a level of sensory,” said Hulu’s VP of brand marketing and culture, Nick Tran.
“That interaction gives you that tingle in the back of your neck, which in our mind was really interesting because that emotional feeling, the connection that you see that people are basically craving from ASMR videos, the holidays tend to also give you that same feeling of emotion and spirit. So we were just thinking it would be fun to bridge the gap between that and the scenics and see if there was something that could be made out of it.”
The scenic “Library Cheer” features a table in a library around which various people can be seen creating a unified art project. As part of Hulu’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) platform, it launched Stream for a Cause, and its first partner is the American Library Association. Throughout December, the streaming service will donate to ALA whenever viewers stream any of Hulu’s 10 holiday scenics. That includes watching the ASMR videos, a literal meltdown in “The Snowman,” partygoers consuming a centerpiece in “Gingerbread Home Remodel,” and canine destruction in “Puppies Crash Christmas,” among others.
“We really wanted to just find a scenic, at least one in this batch of 10, to nod to how we feel libraries can impact communities of all ages,” said Tran. “We have a young kid in there, we have adults of different ages, and we just feel like that was a good representation to show our commitment to helping people live a great story, which is sort of what’s anchoring our CSR platform. The connection with stories and libraries was just obvious.”
Last year’s scenic “Puppies Crash Christmas” began development around May and shot that summer. This year’s ASMR videos were produced faster. Discussions began in the fall, and both shot in November.
“It was a two-day period in November in L.A., a local studio. It was basically a boom mic that was right above the person that you saw in the scenic. The sensitivity of these mics today are incredible,” said Tran. “The fun thing is you don’t need people to have dialogue or they don’t have to memorize lines or anything. You just tell them where to place their hands or things, and have them just do things over and over again — like the ripping of the paper and actually truly creating a craft from scratch with a group of people.”
Hulu researched ASMR to determine the specific sound content of each video and also consulted experts.
“We also tapped into some of the more well-known influencers,” said Tran. “I can’t reveal them yet ‘cause we’re gonna reveal them when they share some of the scenics on their channels and also do a voiceover version of it. That’s going to happen at some point this month.”
The influencers clued Hulu in on some of the top ASMR triggers. “One of the ones that’s very popular is the finger tapping against something that’s either a cup, or an ornament, that light tapping,” he said. “Another one that was a Top 10 trigger was if you take a specific object and you just run your fingers through it. We had one where there was a pine cone and we had another one where there was a sweater.”
Some of those triggers can be experienced in “The Gathering,” which walks the viewer through preparations for and the activities during a holiday party.
“It’s any feeling that people can look at that and just know what that feeling is because they’ve done it before,” said Tran. “When you pair that with a sound, people automatically have that trigger response where it’s just like, ‘Oh my gosh. I totally feel like I’m in that moment doing the exact same thing that they’re doing, and it’s coming to life for me in a profound way.”