More than half of BuzzFeed's monthly visitors come via mobile devices.
"With the 2014 Corolla, we know that we have a new kind of consumer -- they're hyper social digital natives connected to everything they care about from friends, to entertainment, to researching for their first new car," wrote Dionne Colvin-Lovely, Toyota's national marketing media manager, in an e-mail Q&A. "Connecting with them meant meeting them where they already were."
Automakers are enticed by the shareability of BuzzFeed content.
BuzzFeed's 1.3 social lift benchmark indicates that for every 10 people who come across a given post on the site, an additional three will follow via social media referrals, said Jonathan Perelman, BuzzFeed's vice president of agency strategy and industry development.
Toyota's "11 dances" post garnered a social lift 3.6 times higher than the BuzzFeed benchmark.
Automotive marketers are eager to tap into this viral potential with lighthearted features that are often centered on humor rather than the horsepower and fuel economy of the latest hot hatches and small crossovers.
The selling part comes later once the branding seed sprouts.
In one case, a Mini BuzzFeed campaign tied to its "Not Normal" marketing pitch last year showed a 33 percent boost in purchase intent among those exposed to content through social sharing. Perelman said 30 percent of content advertising traffic comes through social media.
"The power for auto brands, really any brand, but really for automotive brands is you can tell a really compelling, sometimes funny story that's adding value to the consumer so that they're not only going to want to engage with that ad, but also share it with their friends," Perelman said in an interview.
"There's an implied endorsement that you as my friend understand what I like. You're going to have a significant lift in your feelings toward the brand. That's the power today in social content marketing. Being able to be in the conversation, adding value to the consumer and tapping into the networks where people are already communicating."
Automakers collaborate with BuzzFeed's 30 member ad creative team to come up with the most attention-grabbing content.
Each side bounces ideas off the other until settling on a concept that the BuzzFeed ad team brings to life. Automakers pay for individual campaigns, each one including several posts centered on a common theme, on a one-off basis.
But Perelman said BuzzFeed is in talks with auto companies to create more consistent content in an "always on" approach.
The content is housed on dedicated pages for each brand that are flanked by the Facebook or Twitter feeds of the companies in addition to banner ads across the top.
"The unique content that is created on BuzzFeed directly helps us engage with millennials in a humorous way to bring them something that interests them yet ties back to our brand guidelines and messaging that we would like to share in order to grow favorable opinion," wrote Erica Bigley, Ford's digital media manager, in an email Q&A.
'Real time' marketing
Volkswagen capitalized on this year's Super Bowl hype with a twist, honoring the losing San Francisco 49ers instead of the champion Baltimore Ravens.
Right after the game, BuzzFeed posted, "So Your Team Lost, But Here Are 10 Reasons Why It's Still Awesome To Be A San Francisco Fan" to tie into the "Happiness" angle. VW and BuzzFeed had content prepared for whoever lost.
Reasons included, "Nic Cage Filmed his greatest movie ever, The Rock, in your town," and "You have the coolest Chinatown outside of China."
"It was a great way to tap into one of the real powers of social media right now, which is this notion of real time," Perelman said.
"There's an idea to expand upon real-time marketing as planned spontaneity. We knew a team was going to lose. It sucks for them, but we knew a team was going to lose. Working with VW on what mattered to them, which was happiness, let's celebrate the team that lost. It was unexpected [and] it was in real time."