Facebook enables Zefr’s Dynamic Video-Level Whitelists for In-Stream Advertising

For the first time ever, Zefr’s dynamic video-level whitelist targeting is available on in-stream advertising campaigns on Facebook. This first-of-kind product will feature dynamic video whitelist refreshes for brand-safe, scaled targeting. The introduction of Dynamic Content Sets for in-stream advertising on Facebook creates a new tool in the programmatic video landscape.

“Brands are seeking scaled and safe alternatives to effectively reach their consumers. Facebook has created a new tool for programmatic platforms by enabling a container solution for in-stream advertising, which allows for dynamic whitelisting at the video level. Now brands can activate on their nuanced and suitable content preferences while reaching a scaled audience. It’s no longer just television and where brands can get safety and suitability.”

– Rich Raddon, co-CEO and co-Founder.

This utilization of Zefr’s Dynamic Content Set by Facebook represents a significant step forward in advancing brand safety control. Prior to this integration, advertisers with brand safety sensitivities on Facebook managed static publisher block lists, manually excluding publishers. Brands can now consolidate their existing block lists for brand safety with Zefr’s video-level targeting whitelists that are created according to an individual brand’s particular preferences.

This partnership comes on the heels of Zefr’s announcement of the first-ever Contextual DMP, which was built to help brands activate scaled targeting campaigns without the use of Personally Identifiable Information.

By combining Facebook’s scaled audience with Zefr’s expertise, advertisers now have more control while expanding their reach.

Traditionally, contextual targeting solutions were built for display advertising via keyword analysis to help marketers improve alignment with webpages. But on scaled video platforms, keywords alone are insufficient indicators of the nuances of context. Zefr’s platform leverages proprietary patent-pending Human-in-the-Loop technology to empower brands to align with suitable content.

To learn more about how to activate Zefr’s video-level whitelisting on Facebook, reach out to fb@zefr.com.

DMEXCO 2018 Discussion Panel Highlight

Zefr addresses the technology of storytelling

This year’s Digital Marketing and Expo Conference (DMEXCO) brought together key players in business and online marketing to discuss the needs and opportunities of today and tomorrow and the ways in which technology is the driving force behind it all.

Our CTO, Oded Noy, was invited to speak on a panel specifically focusing on how technology is affecting storytelling. “The Technology of Storytelling” panel gave Noy an opportunity to discuss ad tech and how Zefr is approaching widespread challenges like brand safety, artificial intelligence and GDPR compliance.

Here’s what Noy had to say –

Question: How has Zefr evolved over the past year? Have you seen more advertisers take direct control? 

Noy: Over the past year, Zefr has evolved in the industry by understanding the value of listening to brands and helping them target their video ads based on what they uniquely consider brand safety.  For example, for clients like P&G who have been voluntarily absent from YouTube, Zefr has solely focused on providing them with control and the resulting precision needed.

To what extent are artificial intelligence, etc., already starting to transform the ad industry? Are they leading to more relevant personalized content being delivered through the right channels?

Noy: Artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain have transformed the online ad industry, but these aren’t terms to be feared; these are all fancy names for math!

At Zefr we see it as less about the evolution through technology and more about the harnessing of human-nuanced comprehension of video with the scale only a machine can provide. We call this human cognition.

For some brands personalization is key, for others it’s about the implicit endorsement that an ad provides to the content it runs next to. For the latter, we provide a way to bridge that gap.

While it’s still early, have you seen the impact of GDPR on brand and publisher behavior? Will it lead to significant change, for example, in the use of third-party data? 

Noy: There has definitely been a significant shift in the market conversation since GDPR, particularly around targeting advertising. With GDPR, and the rise of individuals concerns around privacy , we have seen a renewed interest in the type of targeting we provide. This targeting is free of personal identifiable information. Instead of thinking about consumers PII, we think about consumers behaviors and how viewing creates mindsets in order to help brands target. Our goal is to get the right ads in front of the right people at the right time.he need and desire for this type of targeting has been the most significant change.

What does the future hold?

Noy: In 5 simple words, “Brands in the driver’s seat.”

Trending Opportunities: Kids Entertainment

The Power of the Pester

In the vast video-sphere of YouTube, there is nothing small about kids entertainment, including the opinions of its pint-size viewers. They are an audience who knows what they want and how to influence the buying decisions of their parents. The power of their pester presents an enormous opportunity for brand advertisers to plug into this powerful demographic.

So, what are they watching? Amongst other things—live action, tv shows and toys & games. Take a closer look at our infographic below!

If you’d like to learn more about how to use these trends to better align your messaging with the right content in your next campaign, we’re here to help.

Winning the Game with Content Targeting on YouTube

4 ways brands can take advantage of the intersection of video streaming and gaming

To talk about the convergence of video streaming and gaming as the catalyst for a new culture of creation would seem like a bit like a no-brainer to many. After all, both encourage similar content consumption behaviors and drive an almost fanatical level of engagement. However, what kind of magic happens when the two collide?

That’s precisely what we set out to explore. And it should come as no surprise that the combination of the two are a marketer’s match-made-in-heaven, opening up a wealth of new opportunities for brands to reach, engage, and communicate with gaming enthusiasts in ways that could not be achieved independently through each channel alone. Through content targeting, marketers can now reach and engage the coveted gaming audience like never before. This is a pretty big deal, if we’d say so ourselves!

What Exactly Are Gamers Doing on YouTube?

YouTube Gaming and Twitch are the two online video platforms leading the pack around building gaming-oriented communities. In 2017, Zefr decided to take a deep dive into this somewhat uncharted territory, monitoring the trend of watching gaming video content on YouTube. This has not only helped us understand the different kinds of conversations and communities forming around this kind of content, but it’s also helped uncover the unique types of content, formats, and trends emerging in real-time around the gaming space. In our analysis, we’ve found that this content resides across 24K channels, representing 189K video uploads and a whopping 94B views!

We also wanted to understand what makes a platform like YouTube so unique and important in the creation of gaming communities, so we sifted through YouTube’s data to wrap our heads around the content consumption patterns most prevalent within the gaming community. To our surprise (and delight), the data didn’t just skew in the direction of millennial men. Both men and women consider watching gaming content on YouTube an “active sport.” Here are some of the most interesting stats we stumbled upon:

  • 74 percent of YouTube gamers said they enjoy watching others play games on YouTube.
  • 66 percent of women go to YouTube to hear from other gamers they can “relate to”
  • 56 percent go to YouTube to connect with their gaming community

And while this is only scratching the surface, the data is proof that YouTube has become a go-to hub for community-building around gaming that many marketers may not have ever realized.

But our analysis didn’t stop there. We dove head-first into the content itself to see what drives community and sparks engagement among one of the most passionate and diverse audiences ever. So, what gaming content is most popular on YouTube, you ask? Among total video views – you know, that big 94 billion number mentioned above – the top 3 most-viewed content types are: Live or Recorded Gameplay (52 percent), Comedic Narratives by Gaming Enthusiasts (15.7 percent), and Compilations and/or Gaming Highlights (9.6 percent).

How Brands Can Engage Gamers

Reviewing the gaming ecosystem in this way on YouTube has helped us identify a few unique “whitespaces” for brands to more deeply engage with gaming communities. 


This whitespace integrates seamlessly into the massive community of people watching other people play games. This type of content is generated by both professional (46 percent) and casual (54 percent) gamers – and because there is a low barrier of entry, we are seeing more and more of these kinds of videos emerging that cater to a specific niche or community.

The two most popular video formats in this whitespace are: One Shot (one particular feature of a game in a single video) and Series (the entirety of a game over a series of videos). The top three genres among these formats are Builder Games (i.e. Minecraft and Roblox) – by a 43 percent longshot –followed Open World Games (i.e. Monster Hunter World) and Battle Royale Games (i.e. Fortnite) at 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively.


This whitespace is characterized by gaming-oriented content layered with a unique sense of humor or an engaging point of view. The gaming audience loves to be entertained. Whether or not a specific game is humorous by nature, this kind of video content shines a spotlight on the personalities of gamers and reviewers. The most engaging content tends to have a slightly comedic undertone. This comes as no surprise as humor helps to break up the stress, anxiety, and emotions that results from intense game play.

The most popular video formats are: Animated Comedies (mini “soap operas” that use characters from popular games to create new narratives); CosPlay Comedies (creative interpretations or scenes from popular games, via live action or 3D modeling); and Real World Comedies (memes that blur the lines between real life and video games, turning everyday scenarios into a more game-like experience with digital overlays and other gaming features). Whether produced by YouTube creators or niche production companies, the content tends to be high quality and, as a result, highly engaging.


This whitespace leverages the community-building zeitgeist fueled by popular or trending video game titles. In other words, it’s an opportunity for brands to create content or engage in conversations around the games that players are talking about most, which currently revolves around top Battle Royale Games (i.e. Fortnite, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds) and Open World Genre Games (i.e. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Marvel’s Spiderman).


This whitespace explores the communities forming around real-time e-Sports coverage – and is a sub-category of the YouTube Gaming ecosystem all onto its own. With 52K channels, 242K videos, 2.9B views, 45.5M engagements, YouTube has challenged the once dominant position of rivals Twitch and Smashcast (formely, Azubu) in the e-Sports domain – with League of Legends commanding more than half (56 percent to be exact) of all e-Sports viewership.

Of the 2.9 billion e-Sports views on YouTube, Live Competition Coverage (46 percent), Highlights (15 percent), Semi-Pro (13 percent), and Opinions (12 percent) capture the most attention of gamers all around the world.

Content Targeting is the Answer

At Zefr, we know just how important it is for brands to harness the mindshare and loyalty of truly engaged communities – like the gaming community. Now, you can target this incredibly tuned-in community via the content they are watching daily. To make this easy for you, we’ve built a unique Gaming Package, comprised of 3M videos and 487K channels across e-Sports, PC, and mobile as well as across the brands generating the bulk of this gaming content (i.e. X-Box, PlayStation, Nintendo). Through content targeting, we provide a new – and better – way for brands to tap into gaming communities in more relevant, authentic, and impactful ways.

Learn more about how Zefr can help you align your brand’s message with the right content on YouTube through content targeting.

Data Science at Zefr

We have always known at Zefr that whenever a video ad is placed around relevant content the viewer will have a more engaging experience. We have largely delivered on this promise by offering our customers content “packages” which provide an assortment of well-defined online video content targeting solutions around specific themes, trends, or categories beside which our customers can choose to place their digital ads.  

Some clients, however, are less interested in “packages” and simply want to run their campaigns against all YouTube content that is suitable to their brand (or campaign).  This requires a higher level of customization wherein we must identify subtle, yet important, nuances among brand preferences at the video level which means we end up making a unique list of videos for each customer.  The challenge for us then is to make these brand-customized content targeting solutions scalable across campaigns. This is all made possible by data science.

Data Science

We have always relied heavily on data science to generate business growth in a variety of ways. However, as we begin shifting our approach to curation more and more towards these highly customized solutions for every campaign, data science has innervated more of our processes.  Our customers lean on us to provide detailed insights around every online video on YouTube; we use data science to create unique video lists that would be most appropriate for each customer.

To do this, three components must work seamlessly together.  First, we must create campaign-level labeled data to identify videos either as “relevant” or “irrelevant” for each campaign.  Second, we must extract key bits of knowledge about videos to allow machines to “learn” and “understand” what a specific video is all about. This allows us to create context logs.  Finally, we then must leverage machine learning to detect patterns in all this data, helping to more accurately distinguish relevant from irrelevant videos for each customer and every campaign.

Human Review

The most critical step in this process is human review.  Humans must watch every video to determine which videos are “good” or “bad” for any given campaign.  Video-level review is the fuel for the data science engine. At Zefr, our video reviewers are the account executives, account managers, and ad operations experts working on every campaign. They know our customer’s preferences inside and out.  Here’s a great example. Our team has the knowledge to help a major makeup brand ensure their ads are only seen adjacent to videos about “daily makeup application” (and not videos about “Halloween makeup”). This is because, in data science, when humans make decisions holistically, the discoverable patterns in the data are much richer. Combining this with our deep understand of YouTube allows us to make customer- and campaign-level decisions that take all elements of a video into account appropriately.

Information Extraction

The data science team springs into action once the human review of videos is complete. This begins with featurization: the process of taking a complex piece of data, in our case a YouTube video, and breaking it down into its component parts.

No machine learning algorithm that we know of currently exists that can natively “understand” a YouTube video.  Each video consists of numerous pieces of information (i.e. thumbnails, title, description, number of views, publish date, etc.).  During featurization our data scientists extract this information from a video and organize it to be ingested by pattern recognition algorithms.  This is known as multi-modal learning because we are consuming many different kinds of data –  image, audio, text, and numerical. Multi-modal learning allows us to find patterns in the different components of a video. This helps give Zefr a competitive advantage over other solutions that analyze only a single component of the data (i.e.text).

Machine Learning

Machine learning boils down to this: algorithms that find patterns in data.  In Zefr’s case, our objective is to find patterns that distinguish “relevant” videos from “irrelevant” videos for every campaign we run. Human review and featurization are the first steps in this process; machine learning comes next.  

Our data scientists use state-of-the-art algorithms – including random forests, gradient boosting machines, and deep neural networks – to find distinct patterns in our data.  We also tap into some of the best machine learning platforms like Vowpal Wabbit, H2O, MxNet, and scikit-learn to ensure we find every pattern present in our data. Using a variety of machine learning platforms allows us to select the best algorithm to suit both our data and the desired customer outcome.

There are billions videos in the YouTube ecosystem – and we know a lot about them. Because of this, we need both a rapid experimental environment to test new ideas as well as a robust production environment to deploy successful experiments.  We are able to accomplish both using high-quality open source tools as part of our process. In fact, we’ve also contributed to the ecosystem with a paper about our production environment, Aloha.


Our customers get the best outcomes when their ads are aligned with relevant content. Improving our machine learning capabilities is one of the ways we achieve this at the campaign-level.  We start with human review, watching videos on YouTube with our customers’ brand guidelines in mind to create a new data source that is wholly unique to and deeply aligned with our customers’ needs.  Data science allows us to derive actionable insight using the learnings from our own human review of the videos with our customer’s needs in mind. We can then predict, for every video on YouTube, whether or not it will be suitable for every customer.

Video Visionaries | Michael Kassan, MediaLink

The Importance of Content Adjacency

Regardless of who you speak to, one thing is clear: the concept of relevance is more important now than ever before. Whether it’s relevance of message or relevance of context – or anything in between – the world of digital advertising is now about getting the right message paired up with the right content on the right platform in front of the most relevant and engaged audience. Zefr probably understands this better than anyone else. Content targeting is what we do. It’s all about driving relevance for brands – and their target audiences – through online video content in the most effective, engaging, and brand-safe ways possible.

Video Visionary, Michael Kassan  

But there’s someone else who knows a thing or two about the notion of relevance – and that’s MediaLink Chairman and CEO, Michael Kassan. An industry veteran and an expert on all things digital media, Kassan reiterated the importance of content adjacency as well as why it’s become such a hot topic of conversation among brands, content creators, digital media companies, and tech platforms today – especially at a time when consumers are less trusting of digital advertising, overall. Here’s a sneak peek at our conversation with him.

ZEFR: What is the importance of content adjacency for brands?

Michael Kassan: There’s never been a time when the combination of a strong marketing message paired with great content has mattered so much. In fact, the filter for what’s acceptable versus what’s not acceptable has changed dramatically over the last few years. Brands can no longer risk putting their marketing messages next to content that doesn’t embody the same message or convey the same brand values. This is why the notion of content adjacency has become top of mind for marketers today. Digital advertising has evolved. Our approach to digital advertising must evolve, too. Brands have to be aware and think strategically about where they put their marketing messages now. One slip up could be a disaster.

ZEFR: What are some of the positive developments of online video?

MK: We’re in the “golden age” of content right now. The Internet, from its very beginnings, was a promise of the democratization of content creation. The proliferation of online video content alone proves that to be true. There’s more content out there than we even know what to do with – and this has posed a challenge to the platforms that make it available to consumers today. It’s important for these platforms to understand the responsibility they have when they move from simply being a platform into a bonafide media company. And as they do, content adjacency will become even more important for them.

“Content targeting in online video is more than simple the future of targeting; it’s quickly becoming the best way brands can pair their marketing messages with relevant and engaging content that their target consumers are already viewing. And Zefr is leading the charge here.”

ZEFR: What’s your take on content targeting for online video?

MK: That’s easy – it’s more important today than ever before. Audience targeting is becoming harder and harder to come by given the issues around privacy and data collection affecting the entire industry. Therefore, content targeting in online video is more than simple the future of targeting; it’s quickly becoming the best way brands can pair their marketing messages with relevant and engaging content that their target consumers are already viewing. And Zefr is leading the charge here. The team saw the writing on the wall and realized that a better, more relevant targeting option was critical in order for brands to succeed in their digital advertising efforts in the future. Content targeting is the answer.

ZEFR: How would you define a successful brand partnership?

MK: I like to say that for a deal to be successful, there must be equal parts pleasure and equal parts pain. If you don’t strike the right balance, you won’t have a good deal, when all is said and done, and whatever deal you do have will likely not be a solid long-term solution. Today, we’re seeing brands, publishers, and tech companies (platforms) working together more and more to satisfy each other’s needs. The combination of all three is the recipe for success in today’s rapidly evolving digital media landscape. They all need each other to succeed. The unique role that MediaLink plays in all of this is that we help connect the dots to make these partnerships much more successful. It’s not always easy to navigate. We’re here to help.

ZEFR: How important is a channel like YouTube for marketers today?

MK: There’s no question about it. YouTube is one of the most effective marketing channels today. It’s been proven time and time again. The team there has done an incredible job of creating a better experience for marketers, especially around brand adjacency. They are focused on doing the right thing: creating a safe environment for marketers to communicate their messages linked with content.