BuzzFeed’s Taking Sponsored Content to Video

BuzzFeed’s sponsored video division is bumpin’ and grindin’ its way to the top.

Last February, the viral content juggernaut launched its first sponsored video with a spot for GE, “Why Inventors Are Awesome.” Over the course of the year, BuzzFeed has produced 12-13 of these videos in total — six of  them in the past month alone.

“Now we feel is the time to really do some great branded work,” said Jonathan Perelman, GM video and vp of agency strategy at BuzzFeed. After reaching more than 110 million views  since posting its first video a year and a half ago, the publisher decided it was time to push branded video content.

BuzzFeed has produced sponsored videos for GE (that first sponsored post has nearly 900,000 views and counting), Virgin Mobile, YouTube, Purina’s Tidy Cats and, more recently, Carl’s Jr and Intel. Its Purina video, “A Cat’s Guide To Taking Care Of Your Human,” in the two weeks since it’s been live, has more than 3.6 million YouTube views and 80,000 Facebook shares.

Comments on the videos are mostly positive, with statements such as, “If more commercials were made like this, I would watch them,” or “omg i didn’t even realize that was a commercial till the end.” This type of sentiment is exactly what BuzzFeed is aiming for. On the negative side, some viewers did realize that there’s an element of product testing at play. “Did they seriously change the thumbnail to a picture of a woman’s butt just to get more views?” one commenter asked.

“For a long time, people have been trained to not want ads and to not like ads,” said Perelman. “You have this passive agreement on television that there’s eight minutes of content and then two minutes of ads. Obviously, the Internet has interrupted a lot of that. There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be seeking it out and wanting to watch and share an ad.”

For brands, BuzzFeed’s understanding of its audience is the draw. Brandon LaChance, the director of advertising for the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurant brands, was looking to do something unique to promote its in-store baked buns. Though the restaurant group works with 72andSunny for consumer-facing marketing messages and 30-second ad spots on television, it wanted to see what BuzzFeed would do to capture the young-hungry-dude market, aged 18 to 34.

BuzzFeed’s answer? Its “Bunsfeed” campaign, complete with two sponsored videos, “How To Write An Old School Booty Jam” and a soon-to-be released “Great Buns” full of famous derrieres, as well as aggregated articles relating to the best bottoms around. The entire campaign is a throwback to ’80s-style rap lyrics glorifying big buns.

“BuzzFeed speaks to things that our target audience can relate to,” said LaChance. “For the booty-shaking jams, anyone that knows Sir Mix-A-Lot and similar hits, they know there’s a formula to those types of songs. BuzzFeed took a humorous spin on the genre and presented the realities around those lyrics. They started with a relatable truth and put a humorous twist on it. That’s the secret sauce to their content.”

“How To Write An Old School Booty Jam” starts out with a young guy proclaiming, “Man, I can’t stop thinking about the buns!” and then is punctuated with overhead-projector instructions telling the viewer to “GO WILD ON THE HI-HAT.” A choice verse: “Boney chicks wanna come flirt/And I don’t wanna be no jerk/But a flat, tootie booty/Really, really won’t do it/Cuz stale bunz just don’t twerk.”

Since its debut last week, “How To Write An Old School Booty Jam” has received more than 113,000 YouTube views. People apparently still like big tasty buns.

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