Open up your Facebook newsfeed. In scrolling down the page, the amount of BuzzFeed articles, quizzes, and news stories shared by your friends may often cover your entire newsfeed. Yes, it is true the articles are fun and entertaining, but a majority have a different sponsor than you may have in mind. According to Adweek, “If it’s a great piece of content, not only will it not matter if it’s an advertisement, they’ll appreciate it as a brand.” In this way, BuzzFeed has taken product placement and native advertising to a new level in the social media sphere.
By positioning brands and products as organic, everyday content instead of advertisements, BuzzFeed masters blurring the line between entertainment and advertisement. According to Walter Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm Theory, “People are storytelling animals; almost all forms of human communication are fundamentally narrative. Listeners judge a story by whether it hangs together and rings true with the values of an ideal audience.” This can be seen in BuzzFeed’s partnership with Purina in their “Dear Kitten” video. Not considered a commercial, BuzzFeed and Purina outline a narrative between the senior “cat of the house” and a newly acquired kitten. With the simplicity of embedding Purina’s Friskies can and mealtime within the bond of the two felines, a heart-warming story unfolds around the product. This use of a narrative and values through product placement, cat owners and pet lovers alike have fallen in love with the journey of a new kitten.
In addition to Purina, brands such as Tide, Target, Dove, and Michael Kors have caught on to the positive benefits of subtle product placement through BuzzFeed articles and videos. In the ever-changing digital landscape, a “brand-lift” without blatantly obvious logos and advertising is being seen as a timely way for companies to reach multiple online audiences without over-stepping their boundaries. With BuzzFeed being the second most viral hit factory on the web, corporations are beginning to understand the sheer importance of catching and maintaining an audience’s interest through the community site, especially when they least expect it.
– Angelica DiPaolo and Rachel White