Buzzfeed's TV move - nothing but a “punchline joke”

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 27 January 2015

Buzzfeed's Super Bowl TV ad debut got the internet buzzing, and according to native publishers and media agencies, that is what is all it was primarily supposed to do.

Ad intelligence and digital provider Exponential's head of strategy APAC Tyler Greer said that the ad was clearly part of a broader strategy to “elicit some sort of online buzz” but also showed that commericals and branded video content are not exclusively the domain of ad agencies any more.

“That has always been the preserve of million dollar budgets and creative agencies and that is clearly changing thanks to technology and the distribution methods that are around,” Greer said.

“While the traditional model will be with us before because I don't think premium brands are about to start sourcing cheaper creative work, but that centralised model of creativity is gone as it's not the only option that brands have.”

“The question becomes, who can do it better and who has better insight into what is likely to be shared and distributed around the world now?”

The ad, produced by Buzzfeed's in-house production studio, Buzzfeed Motion Pictures, is the fifth instalment of its native content series for Friskies 'Dear Kitten' but its first foray into TV.

The ad shows cats trying to cope with humans over taking their house to watch the game and will be distributed through a limited regional Super Bowl ad-spot buy in cat-themed US areas Pawnee City, Kitty Hawk and Los Gatos only. It is also available online.

King Content head of video strategy Christie Poulos said the media placement is really just “the punchline to a joke”.

“Friskies are not seriously trying to use the ad to reach an audience, they’re actually using that to tell a great joke through TV,” Poulos said.

“I don’t think this is a serious sign that Buzzfeed want to move into TV advertising.”

“Taking an audience on a journey to a different format, such as the Super Bowl feels like a natural shift to me and I just think Buzzfeed want to create content for the audience they know so well.”

MediaCom executive creative director Gemma Hunter agrees that the move from online to TV isn't as novel as it might seem. She pointed to work that MediaCom recently launched for the Queensland Govnerment's HIV awareness campaign that begun as a short-form online documentary and was eventually cut into cinema ads because it was so effective.

“For great content to to work it has to have a story at its heart so it's natural,” Hunter said. “If it's a great idea with an interesting story that can live, and continue to evolve, that's what every brand wants. If you can tell that story in lots of different media that's brilliant because 'one size fits all' just absolutely, fundamentally doesn't work any more.”

Hunter believes examples like Buzzfeed's Super Bowl ad will become more common in the future from specialist media owners such as Vice.

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