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As Ad Dollars Flow into CTV, Brand Safety Considerations Follow

Zefr and Iris.TV are partnering to bring a more nuanced approach to blocking or allowing streaming content

As more people stream content, tech is entering the space to ensure brand safety. Getty Images

More nuanced brand safety tools are coming to connected television, a growing medium facing challenges of transparency and ad fraud.

Brands have become increasingly concerned about advertising next to what they consider unsafe online content, a concern that has been highlighted repeatedly in 2020 as the treatment of items on the news-cycle has grown ever more controversial.

In particular, media buyers’ concerns have centered on UGC forums, with advertisers pulling out of Facebook and YouTube over objectionable content like hate speech and pedophilia.

However, more reputable news sources have also suffered as marketers blocked automated media buys next to content related to coronavirus or protests. This has prompted accusations that brand safety vendors take all too blunt an approach to blunt, instead of considering the nuance of a given piece of content.

Although, as more ad dollars shift to CTV and more people stream content while they stay at home amid lockdowns, tech vendors are now bringing their tools to the growing medium. This time, with a little more discretion.

Zefr, a company that helps brands and agencies make contextual video buys on YouTube and Facebook, is partnering with Iris.TV, a contextual marketplace for the sell-side, to bring brand safety and suitability tools to CTV and online video.

Marketers will be able to use Zefr’s contextual targeting tools to buy ads in specific shows from media owners that work with Iris.TV, such as WarnerMedia, Fox, Verizon Media and Tastemade. The two companies have a revenue-sharing agreement when their data is used for contextual buying.

This ideally provides more transparency for buyers, since show-level data, like title or genre, aren’t always passed in CTV ad requests.

“We tap experts in the industry like Zefr … to categorize all that content that we have at our fingertips through the publishers, and then send that data out into the ecosystem,” said Richie Hyden, co-founder and COO of Iris.TV.

The partnership will initially be limited to direct buys and private marketplace deals, which account for the majority of CTV transaction types, but will eventually include open auction deals.

Zefr’s brand safety and suitability offerings are based on standards from the Global Alliance for Responsible Media and 4A’s Safety and Suitability framework, which helps bring consistency to defining unsafe content.

“Our goal is to remove all subjectivity,” said Jeremy Greenspan, evp of data partnerships at Zefr. “We can very clearly show with these definitions the type of content that falls under each of these buckets.”

Having more data and clearer definitions helps marketers make more savvy decisions on what content to block or allow. Mike Fisher, vp of advanced TV and audio at Essence, said brand suitability is “more qualitative than quantitative” than brand safety, which he views more as means of validating where an ad runs.

“I look at [brand suitability] for from a planning perspective, being able to find the right inventory mix, the right supply partners, the right show mix that matches up to the sentiment of what my brand is looking to accomplish,” Fisher said.

While CTV is a booming medium, it also faces challenges of ad fraud, specifically in the open auction with Iris.TV also hoping to address such concerns.

The CTV outfit essentially acts as a clearinghouse for contextual data, passing that information along in a way that demand-side platforms can understand. Media owners can work with the tech company to make their contextual data available directly to marketers, which helps bring more transparency to the ad buy.


@andrewblustein andrew.blustein@adweek.com Andrew Blustein is a programmatic reporter at Adweek.
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