Man's best friend just got smaller (and cuter) in Buzzfeed viral

Social video expert Unruly reviews the latest viral by Purina and Buzzfeed.

‘Puppyhood’ succeeds because it doesn’t feel like a typical ad, it just feels like a funny video you’d send to a particularly puppy-happy friend. 9/10

BuzzFeed certainly isn’t sitting still. Not content with filling the social web with their annoyingly addictive ‘listicles’, the popular website is now topping the Unruly Video Chart with 'Puppyhood' - a video created for pet food brand Purina.  

The partnership makes a lot of sense. BuzzFeed’s unique brand of video content (titles include ‘Here’s A New Way To Take Photos That Look Like Magic’ and ‘The One Way You Should Be Eating Bananas’) regularly receives shares that number in the millions. And ‘Puppyhood’ is no exception, racking up more than 2.2 million shares in a week.

BuzzFeed’s alternate title for the spot is ‘This Man Found His Soulmate In A Puppy And It’s Adorable’ - and that gives a pretty succinct explanation of what happens.

Shot inexpensively with the improv-heavy style of a Will Ferrell film, the spot finds our mustachioed protagonist learning to love his new ward: a legitimately adorable puppy that he finds at the pet shop.

While the names King Charles (and then Queen Charles once he realises his mistake) are bandied around, he eventually settles on calling his new friend Chloe.

With Chloe at his side, our hero sets about showing her the ropes. This primarily involves lazing about on the sofa, scratching behind her ears and getting her potty-trained.

Puppy emotions

If the main attraction of BuzzFeed’s videos is their ability to convey experiences and emotions we’ve all been through, there’s a lot for pet owners to recognise and laugh at here. For example, anyone’s who’s had a puppy will recall in horror at the scene where the man tries to determine just what precious item his new pet has torn to shreds.

It’s this sense of relatability that has made ‘Puppyhood’ such a sharing hit. It’s also why Purina felt comfortable hitching themselves to BuzzFeed’s wagon, allowing for a relatively subtle spate of product placement that doesn’t feel out of place.

‘Puppyhood’ succeeds because it doesn’t feel like a typical ad, it just feels like a funny video you’d send to a particularly puppy-happy friend.

And it is funny. Besides the base appeal of a cute little dog bumbling around a condo, the casting of the main character is perfect. Placing a genuinely funny improviser in the centre of the film (no, I don’t mean the dog) does wonders, especially in more surreal moments.

Puppy love

There’s an unpolished charm to scenes in which the man gets his vinyl collection out and explains the history of pop music in the 80s, or when he tries to engage the puppy in a piano duet. BuzzFeed know their audience well, and are willing to go to stranger places for them.

‘Puppyhood’ has been a roaring success for Purina, and we shouldn’t be surprised if we see brands trying to imitate this model in the near future.

In fact, the genre of ‘clickbait’ videos has already been infiltrated by advertising, mostly from the charitable PSA sector.

Wildly successful ads like ‘Slap her ’ and ‘Love Has No Labels brilliantly deployed BuzzFeed and Upworthy’s ‘can’t-help-but-click’ techniques to produce two of the most widely shared ads of the year so far.

It’s only natural that commercial brands should eventually follow this lead. Sponsored content may not be a new invention, but this ad shows how with the right implementation, branding can be unobtrusive to a viral video’s online success.

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