Driving Buzzfeed’s native advertising juggernaut

Will Hayward, VP advertising, Europe, at Buzzfeed, will be a speaker at FIPP’s Innovation Forum from 26-27 June 2014 in London. Here, Hayward explains what native really means to him and how the relationship between brands and consumers is changing.
The emergence of native advertising has obviously fuelled innovation across the industry. But what does native really mean to you?
I think native has two interpretations. There’s one that really focuses on the execution and the contextual advertising and that’s useful. It’s helpful to have as a definition. But I think as a trend native is more about media companies realising they are going to have to work a lot harder for their advertisers and, actually, the old model of putting a ton of effort into creating this wonderful editorial resource and then monetising it by adding loads of logos actually isn’t doing enough for advertisers – because consumers don’t recognise that, they don’t care about it and it’s not interesting to them. What media companies need to do now is work out a way of working with advertisers to create one-off executions that are bespoke to their site and of value to their audience. And it’s not a case of trying to deceive the audience. You need to let them know it’s advertising. If it’s from Pepsi, but they miss that it’s from Pepsi, then it’s not going to be of any use to Pepsi. But you also want it to be good enough and of enough value that they will appreciate it, consume it and share it.
How is Buzzfeed making native advertising work?
We launched a campaign for Foster’s a few weeks ago. Foster’s wants people to realise its beer is enjoyable and that as a brand it’s really fun and signifies positivity and happiness. Now they could have elected to run a million banners across the web, which no one would really have noticed. But instead they elected to work with us to create really uplifting, fun and inspirational content on Buzzfeed, which is delivered in partnership between the two brands. That goes out through Buzzfeed but also through social channels and is shared to create a stronger affinity with their brand and a better understanding of what it means. Of course, by being a partnership it is benefitting from the two brands – our audience sees the Buzzfeed logo and has expectations of a certain quality. That helps ensure we are creating stuff that’s of a sufficient standard, because it has to meet our audience’s expectations. That’s a shift in itself. It used to be that advertorial was seen as something that dragged down the quality of the editorial. Now it has to be of a sufficiently high standard that it can exist as content in it’s own right and be shareable.
How is the relationship between brands and consumers changing?
Clearly we are going through a period of mass disruption, and those that think that period is over are wrong. It’s accelerating and its up to media companies to work out how they can continue every week and every month to be relevant to their audience. I suspect that means that the traditional role of PR, advertising and social media will continue to be shaken up, will continue to be more blurred – and who knows where we might end up. But the media companies, the ad agencies and the PR businesses who can focus on delivering really great work that consumers enjoy are the ones who will win in the long term. 
What are the really exciting innovations on the horizon for you? 
We’re really excited about video – which sounds obvious because everyone is saying that at the moment. But we are not so much interested in pre-roll ads. We are interested in creating great branded video content that is good enough that people are willing to share it. The way the industry has reacted to Facebook is to say let’s take our TV spend and push out video through Facebook. Actually, TV ads have no right to be there – people want to see social video in their timeline. So you have to think about humour or identity or nostalgia – and that’s what really excites us right now.

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Those attending FIPP’s Innovation Forum will have a front-row seat to a world of innovation, an opportunity to disseminate case studies and engage with and question experts, to network with colleagues from a range of international markets, and among the innovation cases and examples presented by international experts look for ideas and opportunities for their own markets.
The Forum opens with an overview of the most successful innovations in magazine media worldwide in the past year, across eleven categories: smartphones, tablet, print, video, e-commerce, native advertising, programmatic advertising, e-newsletters and mobile-focused publishing, big (smart) data, events and conferences, and social media and video advertising.
Deep-dive sessions into each category follows, with real-life, successful case studies presented by experts from businesses and brands such as Applix, Blippar, Buzzfeed, Elle (Hearst UK), EMAP, Flow (Sanoma), Forbes, Google, Hubert Burda Media, IMC, Meredith, Quartz, Time Out Group, Unruly and Vice, and with more to come. The closing session on day two focuses on building a culture of innovation, which is a pre-requisite for innovation success.
For more information on the Innovation Forum, contact FIPP’s Claire Jones.

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