Upworthy Sought Brand Partners. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

Upworthy Sought Brand Partners. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

Last year US-based curation site Upworthy started thinking about brand partnerships.

Launched in 2012, the site was not created with advertisers in mind.

“It didn’t have anything to do with clients ever,” said Upworthy’s chief revenue officer James Marcus at a presentation about the Upworthy content model to STW agency, The White Agency yesterday.

Due to the nature of Upworthy’s emotive content, the site had to be careful how it handled advertising partners.

“What we didn’t want to was introduce partners in a way that was interruptive,” said Upworthy’s director of revenue Josh Luger. “What we wanted to really do was find a way to leverage the exact same tool set that allows us to create the experience and find a way to put our partners in the midst of that and actually add value to the user experience through very high value partnerships.”

Marcus added: “It would have been very easy to slap some banner ads on the site and monetize this amazing amount of traffic, but that was wrong in every way.”

This saw Upworthy introduce strategic bundles of content for brand partnerships.

“That bundle of content is uniquely suited to speaking to the messengers of our partners but it’s also squarely with Upworthy’s editorial sensibility,” explained Luger. “It means that every piece of content that’s part of that bundle is going to have one of the same types of emotions and experiences we would organically have on Upworthy.”

Gesturing to the audience, Luger said they’ve had numerous adlanders come up to them and “begrudgingly” ask how to make something go viral.

“I know a lot of your clients have probably asked you that and then you’re forced to come to folks like us and say ‘can you make this video go viral?’,” he said, adding it’s important to have some thought of what’s next in terms of brand recognition or organisation awareness after something has gone viral.

“What we do at Upworthy, we can make viral hits, but when we work with partners we talk about long term campaigns. That very much is the opposite model of a viral hit,” he said.

“To make a video go viral, what happens the week after, what happens the week after that? It kind of disappears when someone else has that viral hit.

“So what we try to do is create those strategic bundles of content that over the long term can inject the message into the blood stream of the social consciousness and social newsfeeds and keep it there every single week.”

Pantene’s #ShineStrong video below, created by Pantene in the Phillipenes and curated by Upworthy, is one example where the video was seen around the world, however there wasn’t a next step.


Marcus said: “That’s a really great video for what we’re trying to accomplish. What’s amazing, and at the same time disappointing, is that this piece of content was able to show this really really important issue…we’re so proud that we got 50 million people to watch this video.

“The disappointing side is that there was no next step, because this was not part of a relationship. This happened before Josh and I…so we took these kinds of learnings and we said ‘what we need to do is with this video, there has to be a next step’.”

The Upworthy guys are currently in Australia to promote the competition #ReefReels, a partnership between GetUp and Tropfest. The competition encourages budding filmakers and environmentalists to create a film under three minutes that focuses on the issues the Great Barrier Reef faces.


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