In addition to branded video, the Onion’s in-house marketing team posts or links to content produced by the brands themselves, like this video for Adobe.
Millennials don’t seem to mind if content is branded, as long as it’s good and resonates with their worldview. BuzzFeed, College Humor, Flavorpill Media and The Onion use humor, nostalgia and uplifting content to create branded messages in line with their own editorial guidelines. Lifestyle brands, however, can often get away with blurring the lines between editorial and branded content.
College Humor’s Susanna Wolff said at an AdWeek panel that Vitaminwater approached them and asked if they could work with the brand’s “Make Boring Brilliant” slogan. The subway prank video is one of four “stunt-y, relatable videos” that put a spin on familiar situations. “It’s a happy, uplifting video, and people are very into that right now,” she said.
“Lists are just a simple way to do it,” added Wolff. “We do a lot of opinion-driven things.” Wolff created 8 Fictional Girls You Were Supposed to Like but Who Actually Suck as a “fun way for [Wolff] to rant about how Andie MacDowell is unpleasant.” The response was overwhelming and highly shared by people who either agreed that Andie MacDowell was detestable and were just waiting for someone to say so, or who “love her and want to argue about how she was so good in Groundhog Day. Wrong!”
Wolff said the site’s content philosophy is a mix between what’s funny and what pisses people off, a lot. “There are a lot of millennials who completely lack all irony or ability to get a joke at all. And they can get so angry, and we laugh and laugh about it.”
Also speaking at the panel, Elizabeth Spiers, former Mediabistro editor-in-chief and current editorial director of Flavorpill, said people respond to any content that reaches a nostalgia-based emotional touch point. Spiers pointed to an example of nostalgic content with a Flavorwire photo feature called “Photographic Proof That Your Awkward Phase Won’t Last Forever.”
“Our audience has a lot of nostalgia for certain time periods — primarily, for when they were between the ages of 12 and 18, which is when I think is when a lot of your big cultural milestones happen,” Spiers said. BuzzFeed has its own nostalgia vertical called Rewind.