Mondelez Is Looking Beyond Ad Agencies to Find Partners for the Era of Digital Content

BuzzFeed and others to produce games, apps and recipe videos

Earlier this week, multinational food conglomerate Mondelez International announced that it would be launching "a first-of-its-kind advertising model" in collaboration with various media partners.

In short, one of the world's largest advertisers has made a decisive move away from traditional advertising.

The company plans to work with partners like BuzzFeed and Fox to produce more apps, games and "sponsored content" instead of launching its own in-house production studio.

"We continue to focus on building ROI for our power brands across the media mix," said Mondelez global head of content and media monetization Laura Henderson. She told Adweek that this announcement does not signal the end of the company's work with the many agencies on its roster, adding, "This new approach will see us forming new models to build muscle memory and allow us to future-proof against the changing landscape. We are pushing our agency partners; creative and media, to think differently about how we develop content that engages our consumers, and ultimately how we rethink the advertising model to create more value for everyone."

BuzzFeed global chief revenue officer Lee Brown told Adweek that this partnership is different than previous "native advertising" efforts, which have earned quite a bit of press coverage as the overlapping worlds of media and marketing look for more secure ways to sell their respective products.

"Our global partnership with Mondelez fits into two major buckets: branded content as well as the co-creation of unbranded content," Brown said. "We've been a long-term partner of Mondelez, and our recent pilot program with Mondelez and BuzzFeed's Tasty [a food-related vertical] yielded some great results—so we're here together with something more global and more cross-platform."

Neither party has determined exactly what form this content will take or where consumers may encounter it. Henderson noted, "We are very much looking to be audience-led," while Brown said, "It's still early days for us right now, but one specific thing we'll be doing is a continuation of our work with Mondelez on Tasty."

The goal, then, is for much of the work to be indistinguishable from editorial content. One model involves recipe videos like this how-to on turning Triscuits into "cheddar and sour cream cheese bites," which has received more than 23 million views on Facebook.

Should agencies that work with Mondelez brands worry about the security of their accounts?

"The goal is for our agencies to collaborate in new ways with these partners," said Henderson, and Lee confirmed, "We will definitely be collaborating and working with their agency partners as well."

BuzzFeed will not be the only partner in this new media equation. Mondelez has already announced an activation in which professional skydiver Luke Aikins will perform live to promote Stride gum on Fox and various streaming outlets.

"The goal is to develop a model that pushes the industry forward and allows brands like ours to invest more behind marketing efforts," said Henderson. So while Mondelez will ideally end up spending more on its total marketing budget, its agency partners will almost certainly have less influence on the creative directions of its work moving forward. Henderson referenced "incremental revenue streams" with which Mondelez hopes to turn at least 10 percent of its global media investments profitable by 2020.

The company is looking ahead, and it clearly has little interest in going back.