How BuzzFeed and Mondelez Brought Healthy Food Videos to the Masses

Goodful, a Facebook-centric brand primarily focused on quick, healthy food videos, has developed a surprisingly strong following since it was launched in September.

The property has amassed over 14 million likes on Facebook and regularly churns out clips like " 4 Ways to Make Healthy Pancakes" and "Lemon Chicken & Spaghetti Squash," which rack up millions, if not tens of millions of views.

But many fans may not realize the property's unusual origins -- or the lessons it has to offer for major marketers. Goodful is simultaneously a success story of how brands can work with publishers on new content ventures and an example of the limitations of such partnerships.

A year ago, Mondelez International, the snack-food giant that makes brands like Wheat Thins and Chips Ahoy, declared it was teaming up with media companies to make content that would reach consumers who it said were increasingly dodging advertising.

One of the fruits of that effort turned out to be Goodful, a joint venture quietly launched by BuzzFeed and Mondelez.

The collaboration was hatched in mid-2016 when BuzzFeed started to see videos about healthy foods overperform and began considering the prospects of rolling out a stand-alone property, said Ashley McCollum, general manager of Tasty, who also oversees Goodful.

At the same time, Mondelez, which, like many food companies, is facing shifting consumer tastes regarding healthy snacks, had expressed interest in sponsoring content. "We said, 'Why not do this with them in a deeper way?'" Ms. McCollum said.

Goodful then scaled more quickly than both parties expected.

From the start, Goodful videos didn't carry traditional ads. Instead, at the beginning of a video showcasing how to make "Easy Avocado Hummus," the camera would hold for a second on a box of Good Thins, a Mondelez-owned product. BuzzFeed and Mondelez declined to share specific financial terms of the deal.

Now, about seven months after launch, Mondelez is handing over the reins to BuzzFeed. The marketing giant will continue to sponsor Goodful and other BuzzFeed videos, but it will no longer have a role in running Goodful.

In other words, as more advertisers look to become publishers, Mondelez in this case is taking a step back to just being an advertiser.

Mondelez said that the Goodful experiment was worth the effort and that it will continue to invest in content.

"As audiences become more empowered to control their viewing experience, the old model of interruptive advertising is rapidly becoming irrelevant, " said a Mondelez spokeswoman. "And the implications for us advertisers are clear. We need to get a better understanding of what good content looks like and ultimately create content that earns attention. This pilot gave us key learnings in terms of how consumers connect to content, enabling us to accelerate our content marketing capabilities."

Over time, the two companies realized that BuzzFeed is better suited to managing the content operations, Ms. McCollum said. And now BuzzFeed will be able to push more ad integrations from other marketers on Goodful, including in regions outside of the U.S., she said.

Mondelez "will be one of our strongest sponsors," she said. "Content is not their core business. I think the worst kind of partnerships are when two sides go in with big hopes, it doesn't work out, and then you kill it and pretend it never happened. This blew the expectations away."

BuzzFeed has a track record of developing sub-brands on Facebook, many of which have built large followings rapidly. The food video-staple Tasty is perhaps the most potent example of this strategy with 84 million likes and counting since launching in 2015. But the list also includes other micro-brands like Nifty, which does DIY videos and has garnered 27.6 million likes since last year, and Top Knot, a maker of beauty videos with 4 million-plus likes.

Mondelez's move away from co-managing Goodful may not be a shocking development. Laura Henderson, global head of content and media monetization at Mondelez, had been a driving force behind the snack company's media partnerships and investment effort. But in December, she was hired by BuzzFeed as its top marketing executive.

Mondelez has experienced other changes atop its marketing organization recently, as well. Earlier this week, it was announced that Dana Anderson, Mondelez's chief marketing officer, was headed to the ad consulting firm MediaLink.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 28, 2017 06:14 ET (10:14 GMT)