Media BuzzFeed Ben & Jerry's

BuzzFeed hunts for week-long brand partnerships after Ben & Jerry's Vegan Week success


By John McCarthy | Media editor

November 5, 2018 | 6 min read

BuzzFeed has wrapped up its first ever week-long sponsored content package with Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry's, telling The Drum to expect more of the same as it looks to carve out longer-term partnerships pinned around cultural moments.

BuzzFeed vegan week

BuzzFeed partners longer-term brand partners

BuzzFeed campaigns manager, Ailbhe Malone said this strategy allows everyone involved to create a "meaningful impact", following on from a successful tie-up with Ben & Jerry's themed around World Vegan day ending Wednesday 7 November.

As such, the BuzzFeed sales team is developing a pitch to brands relaying the benefit of week-long takeovers. leveraging its scale, some 113.6m visits in September according to Similar Web.

With the first effort in the bag, its renewed pitch will point to how it positioned Ben & Jerry's Dairy Free ice cream for the vegan market using 'badges' on relevant videos, posts and quizzes, in addition to pre-roll video promos that ran on Twitter against BuzzFeed content.

On the editorial side, particularly driving impressions to the campaign was BuzzFeed News' breaking the story around Waitrose Food magazine editor William Sitwell telling a pitching, vegan freelance journalist that he would rather commission a "series on killing vegans". He later stood down after the remarks.

Malone said Ben & Jerry's integrated campaign was initiated to drive awareness of its vegan ice cream line. It was commissioned off the back of the successes that editorial has had connecting with audiences through vegan content.

“We decided to develop this into a vegan-themed week which allows us to do a deeper dive into the topic and provide a wealth of articles and videos.”

Following the conclusion of the partnership with the Unilever brand, Malone is looking at new opportunities for brands to get involved around friendship week or adulting week (a big editorial focus for BuzzFeed). In these spaces, it can naturally operate and integrate relevant brands.

Brant McLean, senior vice-president of strategy at BuzzFeed, said each of these projects are developed with an “audience-first led approach” and that the title looks to not just connect with audiences, but “represent them”.

Opportunities for 'meaningful conversation'

BuzzFeed has built numerous niche-groups like food vertical Tasty on this philosophy. It has looked to build communities around hobbies and lifestyles, having scaled up 1 million-plus followers on Facebook around bespoke science, celeb, parents, nerd culture, fitness and communities pages.

A sign of greater ambition, it recently rebranded the travel title Bring Me to prepare it for an upscaling after it drew more than 2bn views across its website and on Facebook over the last year and a half.

This was months after BuzzFeed News was given a new, more serious look to differentiate it from entertainment-focused sister brand BuzzFeed. It adopted a new black serif logo and the tagline 'reporting to you' – a distinct departure from BuzzFeed's vivid 'lol', 'wtf' and 'omg' designs.

Across these refined entities, new week-long opportunities will open up to help brands seize a greater share of conversation around cultural moments.

“We are offering brands the opportunity to own meaningful conversations around relevant topics and will continue to identify more white space,” explained McLean.

As BuzzFeed's income lagged in 2017 by up to 20%, the brand embraced programmatic banner ads, an indicator it could not only rely on the native sponsored posts it had built a reputation upon. Despite the U-turn, BuzzFeed has previously claimed that the click-through rates on its story units are 10 times higher than the industry standard for banners.

These new partnerships will help it offer more to partners through native solutions.

Despite making major step-changes, it is still looking to diversify its income particularly by opening up its ad revenue to third-party sites.

McLean pointed in particular to its Twitter-hosted show #What2Watch. This UK "show about television, on the platform which is home to those conversations” will be hosted by BuzzFeed's TV editor Scott Bryan and social media editor Dionne Grant.

On how the brand will compete against others top publishers also pursuing partnerships, McLean said: “BuzzFeed comes to you as a trusted friend serving the whole person, not just an audience segment.”

He also outlined the vast scope of the media outlet's output, from serious investigations to light-hearted quizzes.

“We work with a plethora of brands and categories and each partnership’s outcome is bespoke. We see Tasty is helping us to sell products off shelves, whereas Bring Me is driving audiences to events or experiences.

McLean concluded: “We invite brands to come to us with their toughest challenges and together we will create meaningful impact.”

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