Well of course a movie studio – in this case Universal Pictures to promote Sisters – was the first to experiment with Buzzfeed’s new “Swarm” ad unit.
Swarm is Buzzfeed selling ad placement across platforms. Not just on-domain but on Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere. From a media point of view this is pretty interesting since it’s basically the site future-proofing revenue. In an increasingly-distributed world fewer and fewer people are (at least for the moment) clicking through from the social platforms that make up the majority of their online experience, especially on mobile. While Buzzfeed in particular hasn’t (at least to my knowledge) been impacted negatively by this trend many sites are. So being able to sell ads on distributed content is going to continue to be important. That’s also what’s behind reports Apple is going to start letting publishers sell native ad posts within the News app.
Notable in the Adweek story is that Buzzfeed pieces constituted three of the top 10 pieces of content about the movie. That’s both great because if someone was looking for information they were going to find officially-sanctioned messaging at least one-third of the time. But if you have to pay for that kind of placement it may not be the best sign for the product being promoted. It should be noted, though, that this isn’t the best case study for that since it was coming out the same weekend as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so it was never going to be the dominant word-of-mouth movie.
From a movie marketing point of view this is very much in line with other first-mover experiments that have been run by Universal and other studios. These have been the early users of Twitter Promoted Moments, Snapchat’s sponsored geofilters and other ad units as soon as they’ve been introduced.