Former art worlder and Buzzfeed co-founder Jonah Peretti takes the cover of this week’s New York Magazine for his work on the world’s Buzziest site, Buzzfeed. It’s a site made up of animal listicles, poop jokes, reaction GIFs, and now, political writing and even long form journalism. This conversation isn’t about any of that stuff though; it’s about ads. I guess this makes sense, since Buzzfeed doesn’t bother making much distinction between the two, and they are pioneers of what is called, “Native Advertising”, posts that are written by site editors, and are about the advertiser.
There’s not a lot of new information in this piece, but read through the first 7 pages you eventually get to the fact that many advertisers question the effectiveness of this model.
But ad-world veterans point out a more immediately obvious drawback: Most advertising produced by publishers just looks amateurish. “Ninety percent of it is really bad, and it makes creative agencies cringe,” says Jason Clement of TBWA\Chiat\Day, who oversaw the digital portion of the successful Old Spice campaign when he was with a previous firm. “I’ve never seen anything on BuzzFeed that felt ownable by the brand. That didn’t feel like LOL, OMG.”
In my conversations with agency executives, I heard this observation many times. BuzzFeed’s advertisements may draw traffic, but are they really selling anything? After all, even Faris admits that he uses BuzzFeed to introduce Virgin Mobile to an audience—only to hit them with a banner ad elsewhere. “It’s not enough to get someone’s time with a bunch of cats,” Gerry Graf says. “It’s not enough to entertain somebody, if you’re actually trying to do marketing.”
Wait a minute…you mean that Quiznos cat video isn’t effectively selling anything? (Note, that 5,4,3 never has a dollar sign in front of it, so viewers have no idea that those numbers refer to specific items on its value menu.)
Unsurprisingly, Peretti’s work as Eyebeam’s head of Research and Development didn’t get much more than passing attention, probably because that work had relatively little do with what seems to be the meat of the story, advertising. That’s a shame, because as Tom Moody points out on his blog, tumblr borrowed the concept for their reblog from Eyebeam, which produced the first reblog.