Zefr talks content targeting at AW Europe

“Content Targeting is Going to Be Its Own Industry”

Zefr’s Co-Founder underscores the importance of content targeting at AW Europe

In March, Zefr’s own Rich Raddon hopped across the pond – with a ton of other leaders and visionaries from the marketing, advertising, tech, and media industries – to attend Advertising Week Europe 2018. As part of this trip, he was invited to speak on a Programmatic Video panel to discuss everything from content quality to brand safety to ad fraud with a handful of thought leaders from the likes of TapJoy, Adobe, and OpenX (just to name a few).

At the end of the conversation, each panelist was asked to quickly state how the companies they represented should be known by all in the programmatic video space. Without any hesitation whatsoever, Rich said: “Content targeting is going to be its own industry.” Obviously, hinting at the fact that Zefr is uniquely poised to create that industry.

And while starting at the end of the panel discussion may seem like an unorthodox way to start a blog post, it’s actually the perfect way to underscore the biggest takeaway of the conversation: that content targeting is the future of online video advertising. And there was never a moment when Rich failed to remind the audience just how much of a reality this is, even more so with the implementation of the GDPR just weeks away (which, as we all know, will fundamentally change how all businesses around the world approach data privacy).


Content Quality

When discussing the concept of “content quality,” the panelists seemed to agree that, with online video, a high-quality,  full-screen experience, with non-intrusive advertising is the ideal. As a counterpoint, Rich asked an important question to all of the panelists: “What do we consider quality?” His goal in asking this question was to highlight the fact that viewership of highly produced content is declining on TV, while low-budget and even UGC online video content is capturing more of the time and mindshare of today’s consumers. As a quip he mentioned that “many kids don’t watch high production content, they prefer watching YouTube videos” likely produced on a $50 (or less) budget.

The big point here is that, in Rich’s words, “quality [online video content] is in the eye of the eye of the beholder as long as it’s engaging.” Therefore, as an industry, when we talk about quality, we have to look at it from a number of different angles: the quality of the content itself, the quality of the context in which it lives, and the quality of the brand(s) associated with it. This is the reality of the rapidly growing online video ecosystem around us, making “quality” no longer a byproduct of production alone.

Platforms vs. Publishers

Who has all the control? The panel was divided between platforms and publishers. What we know is that the priority for advertisers today is to get their messages in front of as many of the right consumers as humanly possible. This puts publishers automatically in a position of control. They have a huge amount of content that people want to consume. However, because so much content is being uploaded every minute – and, in the case of YouTube, covering virtually any topic imaginable – the problem publishers ultimately face is that they aren’t necessarily equipped to drill down and understand their content at a more granular video level.  


Quote from Zefr Co-Founder, Rich Raddon about the value in content targeting and how it allows platforms like Zefr to address massive scale of digital video content

The Challenge of Scale

“The reason there is this dynamic shift in leverage is because platforms are the only bodies who can address scale,” chimed in Rich. Publishers give us a wealth of content to work with. Platforms like Zefr have the power to make sense of that content, so that it’s actually useful to brands and advertisers in a more targeted way. That’s why content targeting is so critical; it allows us to extract and create value from online video content that publishers just can’t do on their own. And we do this at massive scale.

But with massive scale can come massive headaches for human curation. Citing YouTube CEO, Susan Wojcicki’s comment about the online video platform being a “library” (which ruffled quite a few feathers across the industry) – a reference to the fact that 500 hours of content are uploaded to the platform every minute – Rich said, “there’s no way humans can curate this; in a world of platforms, content targeting is the only solution.” Then suggesting that YouTube is really more of a “repository” and less of a “library,” he made it clear that making sense of the vast inventory of online video content on YouTube – and making it relevant for advertisers – can’t be managed or achieved with scalable precision without humans and technology working closely in tandem.

Brand Safety

This ended up being the perfect transition for talking about what seems to be the topic du jour in the ad industry: fraud. Rich encouraged the panelists to get to the root issue: “We believe machine learning can do anything, but the truth is, humans train the machines to learn,” which helps ensure greater transparency and reduce fraud. Rich continued, “fraudulent activity happens when people step out of the process.” What makes Zefr unique is the way it combines the intelligence of machine learning with the quality control and curation know-how of skilled humans. The two together are absolutely essential for taking YouTube’s massive scale and packaging it into a content targeting solutions that’s both relevant and brand safe for advertisers.

In Search of a Single Standard of Measurement

As the discussion started to wind down, Rich took a moment to level set with the audience. “The reason broadcast worked is because there was only one standard, it was uniform, and it was the same for everyone,” hinting at the fact that, in spite of how much brands love data, there’s just too much of it and it’s being sliced and diced in different ways. Marketers need uniformity. The data-driven world we live in today doesn’t lend itself to uniformity. It’s all about personalization and customization. Unfortunately, while good in theory, it also forces advertisers to constantly compares apples-to-oranges. “Today, there’s fragmentation of audiences and different standards; everyone wants to own the space, but nobody wants to give in” and agree on a single standard. In fact, quite to the contrary, it seems like everyone’s determined to make their standard the standard. What this means is that, as an industry, we’re constantly competing with each other instead of working together to create standards that make brands smarters, advertisers effective, and the entire industry stronger.

Now, there’s a lot more that happened in the spirited 30 minutes of this panel discussion. So, we won’t give it all away.  Listen in on the entire discussion to learn a little more about why content targeting is going to become its own industry – and likely, very soon!

Programmatic Video from AdvertisingWeek on Vimeo.