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The Marketer’s Conundrum: Following The Audience Without Sacrificing Quality

"The following is not a new concept: advertisers need to follow the audience. At the heart of advertiser resistance to following the audience has been the challenge of buying quality online video inventory that builds reach." -Toby Byrne, Zefr

With the NFL in full swing, the gravity defying franchise is as popular as ever, and seeing YOY growth in ratings. But don’t be fooled: the NFL is the biggest outlier on television -- programming that delivers consistent, massive reach. The league has shown incredible resiliency in driving scaled audiences for marketers, while the current Fall entertainment slate will likely continue to suffer from viewership decline. For marketers looking for premium reach beyond the NFL, television no longer represents the obvious investment choice as primetime programming has consistently seen eroding audiences while still garnering annual price increases.

To be clear, I am not railing against television.

Television remains a powerful medium and central to brands looking for a premium content environment. As someone who has first-hand seen the power of the medium, having previously spent over 20 years at Fox and serving as the president of ad sales from 2011-2016, I truly respect the scale, production value and storytelling that TV’s premium content offers. However, the reality today is television is effective in building reach to a point and then turns into an expensive frequency tool for advertisers. In order to continue to build reach efficiently, other scaled video platforms need to be utilized. The challenges lie in the lack of scaled platforms for advertisers. Most of the streaming platforms, principally Netflix, are ad free and others, like Hulu, deliver limited incremental reach and lots of frequency for their advertisers .

The following is not a new concept: advertisers need to follow the audience. At the heart of advertiser resistance to following the audience has been the challenge of buying quality online video inventory that builds reach. YouTube, with its massive scale and young audience, presents an incredible opportunity for marketers to build reach while linear TV audiences are aging and contracting. With the right technology solutions in place, YouTube can be harnessed by advertisers to achieve mass reach without compromising quality.

The Opportunity: Scaling Investment in Quality Video Environments

The challenge for marketers is finding “traditional premium content” on YouTube, as defined by television standards. But as consumer behavior has changed, it’s time for us as an industry to evolve our definition of “premium” to align with consumer engagement. It’s no longer just about production value; it’s about “quality” content in the eyes of the consumer. So how do you define “quality” video content? Videos that are brand safe, searched for, engaging and drive relevant ad experiences for brands is a good place to start. By expanding our definition of “premium” to include these “quality” videos, building reach becomes a much easier task.

YouTube is simply the largest video platform in the world with the most compelling reach in the marketplace. The stats are staggering, with ComScore measuring over 230 million monthly users in the U.S. and essentially unlimited content being added to the platform at a rate of 500 hours a minute. Can advertisers take advantage of this massive scale and utilize YouTube as a pillar to build reach in a quality content environment for their brands? The answer is a resounding yes - by taking advantage of the advances made by YouTube and the tools available in the third party ecosystem to curate YouTube on behalf of brands.

With the right tools in place, brands can not only align with quality content, but build incremental reach in relevant content environments. For example, brands that are seeking to extend reach against their HGTV spend can tap into the hundreds of thousands of DIY videos on the platform that are engaging large audiences every day. Brands looking to amplify sponsorships in tentpoles, like award shows and music festivals, can find relevant content that hard-to-reach consumers are watching. The opportunity is there, and brands with a content targeting strategy are primed for success as audiences continue their migration to YouTube.

To take advantage of these tools requires a deep dive, as there is a wide range of capabilities and all technology is certainly not created equal. But with that scrutiny, brands no longer need to choose between quality and reach. With the right YouTube strategy, brands can build mass reach in trusted, quality environments that are worthy of their brands.

Zefr is a contextual technology company that delivers precise and effective contextual solutions for brands and agencies.