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BuzzFeed hits the big leagues with global advertising partnership

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The logo of news website Buzzfeed.Photograph by Nicholas Kamm — AFP/Getty Images

It may once have been just a research project by founder Jonah Peretti into why people like sharing pictures of cats, but it’s clear that BuzzFeed has become a major media player. Not only did it just get a $200-million investment from NBCUniversal that valued the company at more than $1.5 billion, but it has proven that it is growing rapidly and is also profitable. And now, the company has signed the kind of deal that only a select few media companies get: Namely, a partnership with global ad giant WPP Group.

WPP, which is run by British advertising legend Sir Martin Sorrell, is a holding company that owns dozens of ad agencies, marketing firms and related entities around the world. The unit that did the deal with BuzzFeed is called Group M (in part because most of the subsidiaries within it have names that start with M).

Group M places approximately $75 billion worth of advertising and marketing money for its clients every year, according to the company. About three billion of that goes to Google, for example, while $2 billion or so goes to News Corp., $1 billion to Facebook, and so on. The company didn’t say what it has committed to spend with BuzzFeed, but GroupM’s chief digital officer Rob Norman told Ad Age that he expects the new deal will boost what the group currently spends with BuzzFeed by 50% or more year-over-year.

 

One aspect of the deal that makes it unlike most of the other arrangements that WPP has with media partners is access to BuzzFeed’s data about what content gets shared and when, which could provide crucial insights for advertisers. This includes info from the company’s proprietary data platform, known as Pound.

The deal also promises WPP member agencies a “creative residency” at the company, which will allow them to see BuzzFeed’s production process at work, including the creation of native advertising. A dedicated team will also be set up at the company’s video unit — which is known as BuzzFeed Motion Pictures — where it will help create branded content for advertising clients using BuzzFeed’s knowledge about social content.

“We do not have a deal with other media companies that combines media, production and data all in one go,” Norman told Ad Age. “They’re data-driven in terms of understanding data and applying it to media, but also in applying data to creativity and understanding how creativity performs.”