Today, at Mashable's SXSW MashShow event, CEO and founder Pete Cashmore presented the company's newest native ad unit to the Austin, Texas, crowd.
Called Social Lift, the product is a natural extension for the company, which adopted a new responsive design across its desktop and mobile sites in November. According to the company, the native unit will allow brands to embed social updates on the Mashable homepage that look and feel like Mashable posts.
In a conversation after the event, Cashmore told Adweek that recent examples like Oreo's Super Bowl tweet have only helped to drive excitement for a social-based native ad unit. "We're doing this because we see brands are already creating a lot of compelling content that they want to share on social networks, and if a brand can create things people find truly engaging on social, that's an opportunity for us to be involved and relevant to our audience," he said.
While the format is similar to many of the native ads already floating around the Web, Cashmore unveiled integration with Twitter's recently released Vine app, allowing quick, easily sharable, six-second videos that fit the Mashable standard of social and sharable news. The site has partnered with Friskies' "Grumpy Cat" ad campaign (more on that below) as its guinea pig, which is currently running a native Vine on Mashable's homepage.
While Vine is the first social platform to be included, Cashmore noted that Mashable has no specific partnerships for these units with the social networks. He said, "Essentially we can embed any content in this unit as long as it's compelling." As a result, brands will be able to embed Facebook, YouTube and any other social or video content. Cashmore also noted that any retweets, shares or likes of the sponsored material will be translated back to the actual source (a like on an embedded Facebook image will be recorded as a like on Facebook). "It'll allow brands to get the lift they're looking for on social," he said.
The presentation caps off a week of high visibility for Mashable in Austin. During this year's festival, which has been largely bereft of big news, the company's tent exhibit has managed to manufacture a fair amount of buzz and even some lighthearted controversy for its display of Internet cat sensation, Grumpy Cat. Mashable's chance to let SXSW badge holders grab a photo op with with the famous scowling feline drew long lines and a slew of tweets, which quickly spun off into its own #freegrumpy cat meme. The resulting articles have led to a near general consensus that Grumpy Cat is the unlikely winner of SXSW, a title usually reserved for the next big app or piece of hardware.
For Mashable, which likes to tout its fluency with Internet culture, the company seems to have used Internet memes and viral techniques in the physical world to keep themselves in the conversation throughout the bloated festival experience where it's all too easy to be drowned out. "The first message we wanted to get across here is that we get the Internet and Internet culture. I think we were hugely successful in that," Cashmore said.