An August leak, that Gawker managed to get its hands on, revealed that BuzzFeed is booming with an increase in revenue from $4 million in 2011 to $64 million in 2013 to $46 million in the first six months of 2015.
BuzzFeed feasts on a business model that relies on native advertising. The website has deselected any use of banner or display advertising in favour of promoted posts, stories told on behalf of so-called Brand Publishers.
In its own way, BuzzFeed has pioneered native advertising. While many media companies struggle to survive, BuzzFeed is prospering by means of sponsored content.
So, in the spirit of BuzzFeed, let’s take a look at some of that sponsored content by making a list! Here are our top ten examples of BuzzFeed’s native advertising:
10. 9 Things That Have Changed In The Last 20 Years
Brand: Motorola Published: April 1st, 2014
Aaaah yes time flies. So does this promoted post by Motorola. Extremely simplistic and edible, you can digest this article in no time while musing the visual evidence that some things have changed A LOT over the past 20 years. Including the appearance of boy bands.
Very much in line with BuzzFeed’s standard editorial content, 9 Things That Have Changed In The Last 20 Years includes obvious but harmless product placement on behalf of the sponsor. Harmless in the sense that it doesn’t work as a detriment to the entertainment value of the content, but fits in rather nicely.
9. Sunbathing: Expectation Vs. Reality
Brand: Cancer Research UK Published: June 4th, 2015
This is a nice example of a charity employing native advertising. More importantly, at the least in a broader sense, it is also 11 humorous reminders of the illusion that is sunbathing.
The brand is omnipresent, but in this case, it doesn’t matter as the brand itself is more or less unobjectionable. When you’re Cancer Research UK, you don’t have to make people like you, you just have to make people remember your message.
8. 13 Things You’ll Miss Most From Your Twenties
Brand: TV Land Published: March 16th 2015
TV Land’s comedy-drama Younger takes us on a rendezvous through the wonders of being in your twenties. The list includes “Constantly living on the edge, financially. AKA blowing your paycheck on all of the shoes” and “Being able to stay out ’til 2 a.m. on a weeknight and then being able to function at work the next day…”.
Whether or not you can relate to these perceptions, this piece has all the characteristics of a BuzzFeed listicle. And the brand message is subtle and doesn’t impose itself on the content.
7. Which Donut Are You?
Brand: Dunkin’ Donuts Published: June 1st 2014
This one is so incredibly stupid, but it’s also kinda great because BuzzFeed and Dunkin’ Donuts recognize the stupidity and make a joke out of it. The subheading reads You HAVE to know, which must be an admission that there is absolutely no reason why you would want or should know what kind of donut you are.
Self-deprecation is a great way to approach native advertising. It undermines the kind of uncomfortable self-importance that might occur when brands make content about themselves. So good job, Dunkin’.
6. 10 Feelings All NYC Girls Have At Least Once
Brand: HBO Published: January 6th 2014
In promotion of comedy-drama Girls, HBO and BuzzFeed made a listicle of signature moments for women living in New York City. Includes: “Extraordinary anger when your friend tells you her job pays for her MetroCard” and “Unbelievable disdain for girls who go to clubs in the winter in bandage dresses, stacked heels, and no tights”. The post concludes: “Undeniable acceptance that your life is an episode of Girls”.
I’m not sure that I like the actual wording in this piece, but I think I like the premise. Everybody wants to know if they can relate to the experiences of a girl living in New York. At the least, some people want to know if the article identifies the right experiences. Anyway, a lot of interests are at stake here. That’s good for traffic!
5. 15 Bands That Probably Wouldn’t Exist Without Led Zeppelin
Brand: Spotify Published: December 30th, 2013
Would Queens Of The Stone Age, Jack White, Radiohead and Tame Impala be here today were it not for Led Zeppelin? The answer is no according to this listicle promoted by Spotify.
This is one of those subjects that work well when people are intoxicated. There is no way of making a sound argument, but the discussion itself is all worth it. The headline dares any rock fan to become infuriated with how wrong the selections are, which is great. And very unnoticeably, Spotify gets to mention some of the music you can listen to through its streaming service. Shrewd.
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4. 19 Mindblowing Historical Doppelgangers
Brand: Virgin Mobile Published: January 9th 2013
Roman Emperor Alexander Severus looks like Eminem. Some guy from 1860 looks like Nicolas Cage. Phillip IV looks like Mark Zuckerberg. In conclusion: This is good fun.
Part of what makes BuzzFeed so popular is the ability to come up with ideas like this. And apparently that ability translates to promoted content as well. Interestingly, it’s quite difficult to find the correlation between brand and subject that we have come to expect from native advertising. There is no product placement or any other reference to Virgin Mobile. In this case, the brand value seems to rely solely on association. Ergo, the brand that sponsors something cool is cool.
3. Places That Look Not Normal, But Are Actually Real
Brand: MINI USA Published: October 17th 2012
“We tip our hats to those who see things differently”. With those words, car company MINI USA takes the viewer on a picturesque ride through places and locations that look, well, unreal but are real.
The thinking here, presumably, is that MINI represents a different type of car so there is a connection between the brand and different type of places. Whether that connection is vague or not, the idea is to showcase stunning photographs, something that almost always works well. The simplicity is applaudable.
2. 11 Jokes Only “Call Of Duty” Fans Will Get
Brand: Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare Published: October 31st, 2013
Do I get the joke? Absolutely not. And that is what’s so great about this promoted post. There is an element of exclusivity to it. You need to be a Call Of Duty fan to get it. A sense of community is established for those who are privileged enough to be part of it.
It’s a great example of a promoted post with a clearly defined target audience. Conceptually, “X Jokes Only X Fans Will Get” is something that all brands can imitate. Solid work.
1. 15 Things We Did At School That Future Students Will Never Understand
Brand: Intel Published: August 11th, 2014
Funny. Intelligent. Fascinating. Shareable. Man oh man, this piece of native advertising has got it all. Including a natural crossover between brand and subject.
There is nothing much to add. If you can make a great piece of content and simultaneously remind people of your products, that is brilliant. Good job, Intel. Good job, BuzzFeed.