Zefr is a data platform that enables brands and agencies to activate and measure brand suitability in video

Los Angeles, United States
Founded: 2012
human-reviewed machine learning
responsible marketing
Measurement and insight
video intelligence
Google Ads
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Omnicom, WPP, Havas,
Horizon Media
Dentsu Aegis

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Media Buying
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Beyond safety: How brand suitability can save a brand a fortune

by Suzy Ley

September 22, 2021

Despite the industry’s shift in focus over the past year, the lines between brand safety and brand suitability are still blurry to many marketers. Both are important considerations when it comes to avoiding risky content. But do they provide the same impact when it comes to getting the most value out of your ad investment? The answer is a resounding no.

While brand safety will always be necessary to define the baseline level of protection that all brands should expect from ad platforms, brand suitability requires an additional layer of protection from third parties that not only preserves brand equity, but also saves brands money.

Leveraging consistent standards can help eliminate investments in ad environments that don’t actually reach or appeal to a target audience. Brands have the opportunity to reinvest otherwise-wasted spend in environments that effectively reach and appeal to potential customers.

There’s just one catch: most brand suitability solutions are transferred from the open web and are ill-equipped to solve for video platforms. In fact, these legacy approaches just don’t work for video at all. Let’s break down the two main reasons why that’s the case:

Open web brand suitability doesn’t account for the complexity of modern video environments

The information available to identify the brand suitability of a webpage is very different from the information available to identify the suitability of a video.

Unlike webpages, video presents limited text, intricate sounds, and constant motion, making it impossible for keywords and text-based algorithms to accurately understand if a video actually matches your brand’s standards.

Without the right technology in place to properly vet the brand suitability of high-growth ad environments - including walled garden videos and CTV - the savings earned from your brand suitability strategy vanishes into thin air.

Open web brand suitability lacks consistency for walled gardens

Many brands have begun to enlist the services of third parties to help them address concerns with brand suitability. The problem: it’s common practice for third parties to create their own, one-size-fits-all definitions of brand suitability, with some category-level exclusions available. This means your third party’s definitions of brand suitability often won’t match up with your own definitions of brand suitability. And these misaligned expectations come with the costs of bid inflation and brand equity risk.

For example, your third party may tout the exclusion of arms and ammunition. To them, that means removing any video featuring a weapon from your campaign, regardless of the context in which that weapon is presented. But to your brand, the exclusion of arms and ammunition may mean removing high risk videos that feature weapons, while leaving room for your brand to align with the trailer for the newest, trending action movie. This constrains reach and drives up CPMs, without improving your brand suitability.

Or maybe the inverse is true. Your brand may consider the latest action movie to be unsuitable, but the one-size-fits-all definition considers it fine for your advertising investment. A more conservative brand may find this lack of control poses a risk to its brand’s equity.

How a major brand saved 30% of their ad spend

So what happens when a brand changes course, activates video-first technology, and sets their own definitions of brand suitability using an industry-defined framework? Plain and simple: they save money.

For example, a major multinational brand planned to spend €1m on YouTube. Their initial approach to brand suitability was to activate a keyword block list. While that approach helped them control brand suitability on the open web, when analysing their placements, they determined that 32% of its YouTube investment appeared on unsuitable video adjacencies. Without implementing a new approach for brand suitability in video, €320,000 of the brand’s yearly investment was projected to go to waste.

Armed with new knowledge, the brand took a proactive approach to improve its brand suitability. To do so, they turned to Zefr, the leading technology platform for brand suitability in video. Unlike traditional technology providers, Zefr’s data goes beyond keywords and uses cognition-powered machine learning and frame-by-frame computer vision to vet the sight, sound, and motion of videos for brand suitability. Furthermore, Zefr’s tools offered the brand the ability to customise its pre-flight inclusion list using the clearly-defined risk tolerances laid out by GARM’s industry-standardised framework for brand safety and suitability, and layer on transparent category exclusions, including children’s entertainment.

The result? The brand was able to take back control over its adjacencies on YouTube, and over the next year, it’s projected to reinvest €320,000 into hardworking media better suited to meet its KPIs.

For marketers today, an effective brand suitability strategy can pay dividends that go far beyond brand protection: it can help save a significant portion of a brand’s ad investment. And with the right technology solution in place to control brand suitability, and an actionable framework that allows brands to clearly define their standards for brand suitability, brands can reinvest those savings into more effective media strategies.

Click here to explore Zefr’s brand safety and suitability tools without a spend commitment and see how your brand can go beyond keywords for more effective control in video.


brand safety
walled gardens
brand suitability