Last week, Cannes Lions brought the global advertising industry together in the French Riviera. Conversations that had been taking place around the world came to a head as the most important minds in media and marketing joined together to discuss the convergence of technology and creativity to create and distribute the world’s best work. Here, we share our key takeaways from the event, rounding up what mattered most on and off the Croisette.

Innovation Matters

Communication and innovative thinking are key when it comes to maintaining relationships and seeing results in brand marketing, and both clients and agencies benefit when a commitment to both is applied. Our co-CEO Rich Raddon shared his thoughts alongside executives from FourSquare, OMD and more in a discussion onsite.

Brand Authenticity Matters

Brands now, more than ever, are seeking ways to relate to their fans and involve themselves in the conversations happening around them on all platforms. Social video allows them to so that in a way that feels honest and involved. Zefr’s Trygve Jensen joined client Kingsford Charcoal and top Snapchatter Shonduras to discuss how to integrate influencers into brand campaigns while maintaining authenticity in message, for both the influencer, and the brand. Read a recap in the Lions Daily News on pg. 16.

Context Matters

The content an ad runs against impacts the way it is perceived. As advertising investments shift from TV to digital, brands are looking for ways to maintain the traditional content alignment they’re used to via contextual targeting, like that offered by Zefr and its BrandID technology. For more on the way TV viewing behavior is changing,what brands need to know, and why context matters, download our original research on TV 3.0.

For more on Zefr and our contextual targeting solutions for brands, request a demo here.








Moms are a core audience on YouTube. The platform solves almost all of their digital needs – from entertainment to crafts for the kids to problem-solving and advice. In fact, a recent Google study found that 83% of mothers search for answers to their questions online – and 60% of them turn to online videos in particular.

YouTube plays an important role in Mom’s life, and to better understand her interests ahead of Mother’s Day, we looked into what she’s watching on YouTube.

356 Million Total Views of Mother’s Day Content on YouTube

Much of the Mother’s Day content on YouTube is about love, heartfelt messages, and praise for Moms. People share Mother’s Day moments, gift ideas, and surprises that can help others think of ways to make their moms feel special. We found 365 million views on Mother’s Day content on YouTube, presenting an opportunity for brands to reach moms around the day that’s all about them.

Mother’s Day Topics and Trends

Inspirational / Happy Moments

Moms do so much for their families, but Mother’s Day is the day to give back to them. Kids young and old turn to YouTube to share their love for Mom, whether they’re reading a poem, giving mom praise, or simply saying, “I love you.” For example, “Moms Are Magic” is a heartwarming video featuring young children sharing their favorite things about their moms.


Not all Mother’s Day content is sentimental. Entertaining videos, like music and kids content, makes up a large portion of what’s being viewed around Mother’s Day. Many musicians have created songs especially for their moms and children’s programs, like this clip from Angry Birds, educate kids about the meaning of Mother’s Day.


Of moms who watch videos on YouTube, 81% watch how-to content. In fact, moms are significantly more likely to watch how-to content than the average viewer. How-to and DIY videos that feature Mother’s Day are also popular on YouTube – from DIY Mother’s Day gift ideas to how to put together the best surprise party for mom.


Although practical, informational videos are popular amongst moms, that’s not all they’re watching. Moms also go to YouTube to watch funny content and have a good laugh!


Influencer Moms on YouTube

When families are searching for the perfect gift for mom on Mother’s Day, they turn to mom influencers on YouTube for ideas. 68% of consumers say recommendations influence their Mother’s Day gift purchases. Working with the right influencers can help a brand amplify its message to an audience that is seeking advice.

We used our technology to identify influencers creating content that resonates with moms on YouTube:

Five Fun Mom Influencers To Follow On YouTube

1. What’s Up Moms

2. Daily Bumps

3. Ellie and Jared

4. Rachel Talbott

5. Brittani Louise Taylor

Align with the Best Mother’s Day Content on YouTube

Mother’s Day videos on YouTube provide an opportunity for contextual alignment, allowing brands to reach consumers at a moment when their message is an extension of the content moms are watching.

Zefr provides brands with the opportunity to target the most relevant Mother’s Day topics and trends and amplify that messaging with custom influencer activations.

Sign up for a demo to find out how our technology can help you align your message where and when it matters most.

Register for a demo now!

Thought Leadership

Brands are increasing their investment in YouTube advertising, as the largest video platform in the world continues its rapid growth. Marketers know they need to advertise on YouTube to reach their audience, an insight that is well supported by audience viewership data. But today, most brands lack the control or visibility into the specific inventory they are buying, which raises critical issues regarding the brand safety of the content they are running against.

Recent news has thrown into focus the issue of brand safety as marketers are running ads against content that can be created by anyone. PewDiePie, arguably the world’s most successful influencer, lost his standing with Disney’s Maker Studios and with YouTube due to anti-Semetic stunts. Super Bowl ads have been seen running in front of terrorist recruitment videos. These stories are trending, but the issue isn’t new – and it’s only going to grow as more content is created and brands continue to increase their investment on the platform.

How does it happen?

Most advertisers target their intended consumers  on YouTube based on keywords, audience (demographic) and channel (typically via Google Preferred, the most popular influencer and creator channels). But each of these approaches assume that all of the content isolated by one of these targeting options is similar and therefore safe. ZEFR has found that this isn’t the case.

Let’s take Michelle Phan’s channel for example. She’s known as a beauty influencer, but only 52% of her content is related to beauty. The other 48% is better categorized as lifestyle content, including career advice and current events. A beauty brand may only want to align with that  52% of videos, but if they’re buying her channel in Google Preferred, they don’t know which videos within the channel they’re aligning with.

Michelle Phan channel audit conducted Summer 2016
Michelle Phan channel audit conducted Summer 2016

The same theory applies to brand safety. Not all content within a creator’s channel will be considered safe or on target for every brand.

There is another way

ZEFR’s technology delivers TV-like contextual relevance and brand safety on YouTube, allowing brands to leverage the incredible potential of the platform at the individual video-level. There’s a tremendous amount of great content on YouTube for brands, and video-level targeting allows for marketers to exclude specific videos from their YouTube buys, ensuring that they’re never running ads against content that is not relevant. It requires an understanding of each discrete video that only ZEFR is able to provide.

ZEFR’s solution

Here’s how it works. A video is uploaded to YouTube. ZEFR analyzes the video for:

  • Relevance – Is the video content aligned with the brand’s media strategy? What is this video actually about? If a video is of a father and son tossing a football and it’s called, “My Son is the next Tom Brady,” the video isn’t about Tom Brady. It’s about a father and son moment.
  • Brand safety – Is this video appropriate for a brand to align with? Does it have profanity, negative imagery, violence, or controversial opinions? Is it promoting negative activity, or hate speech?
  • Forecasting – Is this a video that’s generating views, or trending upwards? Will it deliver enough impressions so that an ad is seen by a real human audience at scale?
  • Performance – Is this a video that can carry an ad? Is it meaningful enough content to justify placing an ad before it? Will it help you reach your key performance KPIs?

If each of these indicators are met, the video is organized into a content segment with thousands of other videos that are all contextually related. Every day, ZEFR evaluates over 8 million videos, while only qualifying 250,000 of those videos for inclusion in premium, brand safe campaigns that deliver performance.

Video-level targeting is the future

So, should brands be afraid to align with influencer content on YouTube? The answer is no. Brand safety is an easily mitigated risk when video-level targeting is employed. “It’s so important to target ads at individual videos on YouTube, so brands can ensure that they’re aligned with the most relevant content at any given time,” said Rich Raddon, co-CEO, ZEFR. “The content within channels varies, and not every video is right for every brand. ZEFR’s technology and review process ensures that an ad will never run against a video that is not considered safe.”

For more on ZEFR’s video-targeting solutions, contact us at

Oded Noy is the Chief Technology Officer at ZEFR


The link between content alignment and success on YouTube

The kind of content an ad runs against has a huge impact on the way a person reacts to it. It’s true on television, in magazines, and now – more than ever – online.

With more than 400 hours of video added to YouTube every minute, there’s an incredible breadth of content for brands to advertise against. But how are they to know what to advertise against? With so many videos to choose from, how does anyone know who’s watching what? Historically, there’s been no way to determine what types of video content brands should align with – until now.

At ZEFR, we have unique video technology that allows us to understand the content of every video uploaded to YouTube. We organize YouTube by content segments – over 13,000. This allows brands to align their ads with the specific type of content a person is seeking out. Pairing ads with relevant content delivers a better experience for users and brands, and for the first time, we’ve mined the data to discover what content works best for various brand verticals to advertise against. The idea is to align ads with the right content, hence the name of the project – The Alignment Effect.

What we discovered was an interesting blend of results of what works. Some content area/brand matches you might expect, and some that were surprising. For example, segments like food challenges and 4th of July Parties worked well for CPG brands. That was expected.  But premium entertainment content – like Aziz Ansari and Swedish House Mafia – also delivered strong results. Within the entertainment vertical, we saw both traditional entertainment content and content unique to YouTube perform equally well. Traditional stars like George Clooney and Adam Sandler appear alongside personalities that were born on YouTube – Miranda Sings and Sam Tsui. The traditional definition of “entertainment” has broadened, and brands can (and should) take advantage of the content emerging in the category.

CPG example

Great content is everywhere on YouTube, and audiences go where the content is. By showcasing what types of content work best for brands, we can create better outcomes for advertisers and a better experience for consumers – helping to drive optimum success on the platform.

Click here to download The Alignment Effect for a deeper look at what kind of content works for brands.

Danielle DePalma, Lionsgate


stopping ad blockers dave rosner zefr
Thought Leadership

This piece originally appeared in MediaPost.

The ad industry is facing a Hollywood-style potential apocalypse—and the only question is will it turn out like Armageddon or The Day After Tomorrow?

The growing and real threat is that software and hardware being developed and used today can cut out ads altogether. And like our machine nemesis from The Matrix—the machines don’t care if they are good ads or bad ads, helpful or annoying. Once they are in charge it’s simply Ad-mageddon.

It should come as no surprise that people are using technology to cut down on ads. According to various studies, we are exposed to between 3,000 to 6,000 advertising messages a day. Considering how many of these messages, paid to grab our attention, are completely irrelevant to us, it’s more surprising we aren’t more outraged.

According to Nielsen, we will spend two years of our lives watching TV commercials. Compare that to the mere 48 days, on average, we will spend kissing during our lifetimes and the issue becomes very clear: our lives are being wasted as we wait through completely irrelevant ads. This general disdain is not new—but the tools and technology to mobilize those feelings into action are.

By the way, it’s not just consumers who should be outraged. Advertisers should be outraged as well. It does them no good when they pay for ads that reach the wrong people.

It seems that as soon as there were mass media to advertise in, there were people complaining about the ads. “Many of the claims made for products were excessive and often mendacious, bringing advertising into disrepute well before the turn of the [19th] century,” wrote Jeremiah O’Sullivan Jr. in The Social And Cultural Effects of Advertising.

So why is today’s impending doom any more real than last year’s, or when the VHS became fashionable?

There are two reasons that this time the threats are not idle—they come in the form of hardware and software.

There are machines that let consumers skip TV ads. DVR penetration in the U.S. now stands at 63%. And if ads people see during their favorite shows remain mostly irrelevant, the number of people using their DVRs to skip ads will continue to climb. Once people have decided to skip ads it will be very difficult to convince them to go back to the old ad-filled ways.

The latest and most telling development is the release of software that simply helps people “turn off” ads on digital platforms. Two weeks ago, three of the top ten iPhone apps in the App Store were ad-blocking apps. Yes, people have been grumbling about ads forever, but the tech landscape has now provided an outlet to turn those feelings into actions that have a very real and very deep impact.

Back to our central question: is the industry facing an Armageddon or The Day After Tomorrow scenario? Otherwise stated, is this a story that can have a happy ending?

The good news is that just as technology has empowered a potentially cataclysmic industry event, it also has the power to fix the problem. Search advertising has proven that the information typed into the search bar provides a rich indication of what the perfect accompanying ads should be. Today, people, through things like search terms, are constantly sending out signals about what brand message they are most open to. On YouTube, that little search box has the power to make sure the ads are finding the right people at the right time.

Mobile opens new worlds of data that can use location to provide even more accuracy in the game of matchmaking the right ad messages to the right consumer at the right time. The digital world has the data to save the day. But the clock is running out. Many of the digital giants are holding onto the data that might be the cure for the entire industry.

Time is the factor. We have to improve the accuracy of connecting the right ads to the right people at the right time before the ad industry self-destructs. We have the tools, and the need—now all we have to do is realize the asteroid is hurtling towards us. Moving slowly is the same as doing nothing at all.

Modified image via Ryan Hyde

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Thought Leadership

For a long time now, there has been talk about TV dollars moving to digital, especially digital video. YouTube’s growth in its first 10 years has been monumental, and with the more recent addition of online giants such as Facebook and Twitter to the digital video landscape, we are seeing a kind of momentum that the industry has never faced at this scale before. Add in the rise of the “digital influencer,” where names like PewDiePie and Smosh have greater reach to millennials than anyone starring in a recent blockbuster, and the shift to digital seems well underway.

Most importantly, social platforms now allow for hyper-personalized video campaigns at scale, and that’s a game changer. To understand why, it requires a deep understanding of mindsets and contextual targeting.

The magic of placing the right ad in the perfect contextual setting has always been the sweet spot for advertisers. It’s how the commercial was born. That sweet spot was elusive in digital, but now with the breadth of content available online, advertisers finally have the opportunity to place the right ads in front of the right piece of content. Plus, knowing what kind of content someone is watching reveals what is perhaps the most important targeting value to consider—that person’s mindset.

Think about it. One of the reasons that brands buy TV is for scale, safety, and association. “As seen on TV’ delivers credibility. TV audience measurement has never been perfect, but Budweiser has a pretty good idea of who is watching NFL games and that’s why they spend massively against it. Moreover, they also have an idea of what mindset that audience is in when they are watching football on a Sunday from the couch at home versus those same people watching at their desk in an office on a Tuesday.

Thus, the driver for all of this is “mindset.” Let’s use my own mindset as an example. I’m not only an executive at ZEFR, I’m also a husband, a proud new father, a surfer and an avid traveler. Knowing my name, my zip code and my friends doesn’t necessarily tell you where my head is at. However, if I’m watching a video of Kelly Slater tear up Teahupo’o, or a video about life as a new dad, you get a lot closer to what mindset I’m in and that can help brands reach me in the right place at the right time. I’d much rather see an ad for Hurley when I’m watching that Kelly Slater video than an ad for Pampers.

And, taking it a step further, if I’m watching one of the thousands of user-uploaded video reviews on the new BMW 5 series, seeing an ad for BMW, or perhaps for the competing Audi, might actually be welcomed by me. That also means I’m much more likely to engage, recall, and even act on that ad and its message—three major goals of every brand marketer I’ve ever met.

Platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and more increasingly Snapchat, have a big opportunity here. They know a lot about their users and the content they are consuming. They also have scale. And at least one of them, YouTube, has done a good initial job of creating a safe and premium environment with their Google Preferred offering which is poised to sell out for a second year in a row. Facebook’s “Anthology” will likely have similar results. But then what? The key is to make all of your inventory contextual, as mindset-based viewing doesn’t just happen on the most popular content, it happens on all of it. As we like to say at ZEFR, even a dog-on-a-skateboard video is premium, if you’re a dog lover or a marketer at PetSmart. The key is to shift your perspective and align with the right mindset at the right time, all by rethinking how we analyze and leverage this new era of digital content.

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Thought Leadership

This piece originally appeared on AdWeek.

At Newfronts this year, presenters on every stage in Manhattan have declared that the golden age of digital video has arrived. The numbers are clear: Viewership is up by more than 53 percent, and global ad-supported video platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are all experiencing massive growth.

Out of these options (and more that are emerging seemingly every other day), only one — yes, one of these platforms — is poised to become what I am calling the Global Everything Network.

The fact that viewers are flocking to digital video platforms for content is not — as the most optimistic television executive might have hoped — an addition to the traditional “broadcast” viewing habits of a new generation, but a replacement. According to Nielsen, TV viewership among millennials dropped by nearly 11 percent between last September and this past January alone. It would appear that a choice is being made and traditional TV is quite simply losing viewers to digital video.

Of course, within the field of digital video itself, competition among the platforms is growing, too. Many of the platforms offer the same type of video content from media companies such as Vice Media, Tastemade, Warner Music and BuzzFeed, to name a few. But again, even with an overlap in programming, only one of these platforms will merit the title of the Global Everything Network.

Facebook video, along with Twitter’s recently launched Periscope video product, offers the power of “news feed viewing,” which is an experience that most resembles scrolling through the old TV channel guide with your remote, only better.

In Facebook’s feed, the video auto-plays without sound, and with a simple click (or thumb swipe on mobile), the full video plays with sound. Voila: Programming brought to you without interruption right to your News Feed. Is it any wonder that Facebook’s 1.4 billion users are watching 3.5 billion videos per day?

Of course, Twitter has followed suit, testing an auto-play video feature of its own.

Snapchat’s new Discovery product brings the “tune-in” TV experience to a younger generation with the platform’s ability to hyper-engage with viewers who know the content they are watching will soon disappear. To an older generation, this recalls the time before digital-video recorders, when you actually had to be home in time to watch your favorite show, or hit record on your VCR. To the on-demand generation, Snapchat’s unique viewing experience is flat-out addictive. Currently, Snapchat offers content from 11 media companies, including CNN, Yahoo and Warner Music.

And then there’s YouTube. Following its inception, YouTube became most famous for its videos featuring dogs on skateboards and all varieties of cat videos. Over the past few years, YouTube has successfully begun to market itself beyond this outdated, narrow view of the platform.

This time last year at the Newfronts, a campaign was launched in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to showcase to advertisers some of the new stars who have emerged on YouTube, including Bethany Mota, Michelle Phan and chef vlogger Rosanna Pansino. These personalities were already well-established stars within the millennial crowd.

At this year’s YouTube Brandcast event, attendees were reminded of a recent Variety study reporting that among teenagers (aged 13 through 18), YouTube stars were far more famous than mainstream celebrities.

So much attention has been showered on these new video stars and their massive audiences that Vessel (a potential YouTube competitor with a subscription model) has been attempting to woo (with large advances in exchange for temporary exclusivity) some of the biggest YouTube creators over to its newly launched venture.

However, YouTube is the only digital video service poised to become the Global Everything Network because it’s not about big stars — it’s about breadth and depth of content.

The single-most-telling statistic that speaks to the real power of YouTube is that every 60 seconds, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. Think about that for more than just a moment. Google’s Neal Mohan put it best: “There is more content being created and uploaded to YouTube in one day than has been created by the three major networks (CBS, NBC, ABC) over the past five years combined.”

And the variety of content on the platform is unparalleled to anything we’ve seen on any medium in history. When you add in the fact that about 60 percent of a creator’s views comes from outside of their home country (or that YouTube is localized in 73 countries and available in 61 languages), the “global” part of this network I’m describing begins to reveal itself.

One clear signal that consumers already understand the enormous breadth of content on YouTube is that the platform is the second-largest search engine in the world. Practically every topic or category you can imagine is suddenly available to watch after a few keystrokes, and that is the way a majority of the site’s billion viewers have navigated content on the platform. This robust search technology — along with an improved “related videos” algorithm that offers up a post video wall of relevant videos from anywhere on the platform (not just the channel a viewer was watching) — speaks to the fact that no one channel can really be called a network when compared to the platform itself. YouTube is the network.

For instance, look at Discovery Channel and its automotive programming — with shows like Fast N Loud, Rods N Wheels and Street Outlaws — and compare that to the tens of thousands of on-demand hours of auto content on YouTube. Because the content is so vast, I’ve grouped a small sampling of the Automotive BrandID Choice content under a few select categories below.

    • Car Vlogs (5,410 videos)*
    • Car Collections (186)
    • Classic Cars (230,577)
    • Mods, DIY, Car Care Tips and How-To’s (69,917)
    • Road Trips (3,900)
    • Racing Cars (28,181)
    • Monster Trucks (34,371)
    • Motocross (47,331)
    • Drifting (20,196)
    • Drag Racing (11,962)
    • Driving Fails (3,563)

*Zefr’s BrandID technology categorizes all of YouTube’s content to make it possible to navigate this enormous, expanding universe of digital video content for brands and advertisers. This content, which represents the best content for brands amidst the breadth and depth of YouTube, is called Zefr’s BrandID Choice.

Some argue that the oversupply of video content will eventually be the downfall of YouTube. How could the expenses surrounding this massive amount of content being hosted and streamed to every corner of the world ever become fully profitable from advertising alone? If the video content was all similar in nature, that might be true, but YouTube’s vastness is actually its saving grace, not its death knell. It’s the content equivalent of every channel on cable in this country multiplied by every channel on cable in every other country multiplied by 10.

The worldwide advertising television market is $160 billion annually. A portion of that spend would make YouTube more than just profitable — it would make it a growth business for Google, leaving every other online video business in the dust. That is the power of the Global Everything Network.

Featured image via Mark Sebastian.

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