ZEFR's BrandID should make YouTube a smarter bet for brands than TV

By Michael Carney , written on June 14, 2013

From The News Desk

Brands are increasingly looking to YouTube as a channel for delivering messages to consumers. Often, this is less about paid advertising around other content, but about becoming content creators themselves. To do so effectively, brands and their agencies must be able to identify their true fans on the video platform and measure content performance at the granular level.

ZEFR, which is known for its SaaS-based ContentID and rights management product for YouTube, is extending its focus to brands with the announcement of BrandID, a complementary software product that will address this challenge head on. The platform allows brands to identifying their most valuable fans, discover fan-uploaded content, monitor real-time brand sentiment and engagement across YouTube, and compare this data against that of its competition.

“This is the most lightning in a bottle we’ve ever caught,” says ZEFR co-founder Zach James. “It really feels like this is the right product at the right time.”

BrandID was first announced on stage at the NewFronts in May by YouTube global head of content Robert Kyncl. The company is beginning a pilot program today with initial partnerships with P&G’s COVERGIRL and Pantene brands, after which it will offer product demos to additional brand and agency partners at Cannes (the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity) next week. A commercial launch is planned for the third quarter of this year.

According to ZEFR, a brand’s most valuable YouTube fan is the one that uploads the most brand-related content, engages with and shares the contend that the brand uploads directly, and drives the most overall engagement from her following on the platform. BrandID makes it possible to identify these fans and to measure behavior and sentiment across YouTube in real time and based on geography. The platform also measures return on investment for content campaigns, something that has always been more opaque than transparent.

In addition to delivering granular insight into fan behavior and engagement, BrandID utilizes ZEFR’s Inception technology to discover fan-uploaded content which can be enormously valuable if promoted properly. In many cases, fan-uploaded content can outnumber official content by a 10 to one ratio. For example, it is not uncommon for a single superfan to upload over 100 brand-related pieces of content and drive tens of millions of earned views for the brand without any prompting or without the brand even being aware. But if brands can discover these influencers, they have the opportunity to target them directly with content and offers as a means of amplifying their message through earned, rather than paid media.

ZEFR has raised a total of $28.5 million across three rounds of financing from investors including U.S. Venture Partners, MK Capital, Shasta Ventures, SoftTech VC, First Round Capital, Richmond Park Partners, and other angels. The company recently announced partnerships with multiple leading sports and music publishers, in addition to its long-standing hollywood studio relationships formed under its early brand MovieClips. Across the ecosystem, ZEFR is becoming the dominant enterprise SaaS platform for the YouTube ecosystem.

For years now, YouTube and its content creators have been predicting that advertising dollars would eventually shift away from television and toward online video. But until now, the level of transparency needed to measure the reach and impact of content and ad campaigns simply wasn’t there. With the addition of BrandID, YouTube now offers dramatically more data and insights than has ever been available to brands or their agencies on any platform, including TV.

As Kyncl said at the NewFronts, "I want to talk about what I got wrong. I thought YouTube was like TV. I was wrong. It isn’t. YouTube talks back. It's interactive. And YouTube is everywhere."