Subaru Backs BuzzFeed's First Facebook Live Video for a Marketer

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A puppy tries peanut butter, streamed on Facebook Live.
A puppy tries peanut butter, streamed on Facebook Live. Credit: BuzzFeed
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BuzzFeed on Thursday will stream its first Facebook Live video developed in conjunction with a marketer.

Subaru, as part of a larger campaign, has underwritten a three-component video pegged to the brand's "Make a Dog's Day" philanthropy campaign. The video will stream for approximately 45 minutes, starting at 4 p.m. E.T., on BuzzFeed's Facebook page dedicated to animals. Viewers will watch puppies playing with bubbles, playing in the mud and swimming, all for the first time.

For the marketer, the puppies' new experiences are media experiments. Will they pay off? "If they do, we're happy to keep it going," said Jack Kelly, digital and social marketing manager for Subaru of America. "If they don't, we'll go back to the drawing board to do something that hopefully connects with people."

Live video is "just one of those things we need to know more about," Mr. Kelly said, "and you can't know more about until you actually dive deep and do it."

BuzzFeed's business model, meanwhile, relies on convincing major advertisers that the digital-native publisher is uniquely qualified to engage, englighten, and excite an audience of millennials and Gen Z'ers. Brand partnerships are a logical next stop for media companies like BuzzFeed that have displayed a knack for streaming content on Facebook that people actually want to watch.

"BuzzFeed knows their audience, so they're not going to steer us wrong in terms of what their audience is looking for," Mr. Kelly said.

But even BuzzFeed is moving cautiously as it tries to turn live Facebook video into an ad product.

"We're still very much in that learning state with Live," said BuzzFeed executive creative producer Summer Anne Burton.

It's been more than five months since BuzzFeed's hit video of two staffers trying to explode a watermelon with rubber bands, and Ms. Burton said that a lot more information and experimentation was needed before the publisher could start working with brands on Live videos.

"We don't want to overpromise on something that we're not confident about," she said.

Now that BuzzFeed has tested similar videos, like a May stream of puppies tasting peanut butter for the first time, the company has a better sense of what kind of numbers these branded videos could do. The peanut butter video attracted more than 950,000 views.

"We want to be able to confidently measure whether something was successful or not," Ms. Burton said.

The idea for the live "Make a Dog's Day" video came up through conversations with Subaru's agency, Carmichael Lynch. As part of the campaign, Subaru is also partnering with BuzzFeed on videos for the company's DIY-focused sub-brand, Nifty.

Business Insider, another publisher that has been extremely successful at getting big audiences on Facebook Live, has "dipped our toe in this water," said president Julie Hansen. The Axel Springer-owned publisher's coverage of the Cannes Lions advertising festival in June was sponsored by Adobe. For example, an interview with the singer Usher was broadcast on Facebook Live and tagged as "with Adobe Marketing Cloud."

A spokesman said Business Insider will be doing more branded Facebook Live videos in the future as part of larger advertising campaigns.

In an interview with Ad Age in August, Martha Stewart said that brand integrations would work well on Facebook Live vides. She also had nice things to say about BuzzFeed's video prowess. "BuzzFeed's doing lovely things," she said, giving a special shoutout to the company's Tasty food videos.