Will Hayward Philip Byrne Branded Content

‘Media companies today aren’t working hard enough for advertisers’, says Buzzfeed advertising VP Will Hayward on content distribution

By Angela Haggerty, Reporter

July 9, 2014 | 4 min read

Media companies are not doing enough for advertisers to distribute and share content amid the content marketing boom, according to Buzzfeed’s VP of advertising Will Hayward.

The Drum Live: Will Hayward (left) and Philip Byrne

Speaking at The Drum Live on a branded content panel with Buzzfeed’s creative director Philip Byrne, Hayward said the distribution of branded content was “vital” and media agencies would suffer if they don’t keep up.

“You can do great things online and no one will see them,” he said. “You could do the best stand up routine in the world and no one will see it. Media companies today need to work harder to deliver value for advertisers; part of that is creating content and part of that is distribution.

“I believe very strongly that media companies today aren’t working hard enough for the advertisers.”

Hayward told delegates that people seek out shareable content that they can connect to their identity, opening up a valuable channel for brands to tap into, and said that the key elements such as nostalgia, identity and humour were important in branded content.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve identified the values that drive content,” he said. “Nostalgia is a huge driver; there are dozens of communities on Facebook like ‘I remember the 90s’ or ‘I remember the 80s’ – things that give people a perspective on their own past drive sharing.

“Things that reflect the person you are and the person you want to be seen to be, the story you’re telling of yourself through your social presence are the phenomena behind Buzzfeed’s quizzes. Expressing identity through content is a huge thing.”

He added that the “human factor” was another big element of branded content in the US but UK users were more resistant to it.

“The other big one is the human factor, tugging on heartstrings, which is more popular in the US, in the UK people are slightly resistant.”

Hayward said that users now use social media as a content curation tool that they express their identity with, and Buzzfeed lists and quizzes were particularly shareable and popular because they helped people tell the story of who they are.

“’What’s your inner dog breed?’ for Volkswagen is a good example of branded content,” added Byrne. “It’s lightly branded, gives clear value to the person and says something about identity.

“Buzzfeed branded quizzes have a 96 per cent completion rate – they tell you something about yourself, your identity, the piece of social collateral is very clear. They can be cute, can be funny, can be visually arresting, but above all are delivering a message from a brand that isn’t offensive. You can see this in action when people are sharing it.”

Buzzfeed now attracts 130 million monthly unique visitors – a figure which has tripled in the last year – and three-quarters of its traffic is driven by social media.

Find out more tips from Buzzfeed on the key to good branded content in our highlights of the session.

Will Hayward Philip Byrne Branded Content

More from Will Hayward

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +