Zefr, a contextual targeting software platform for YouTube, has appointed Toby Byrne as president.
Byrne, the former president of ad sales for Fox Networks Group, including its broadcast, sports and cable networks, vacated his post last September. During that time, there was a heavy transition in top sales talent at several linear TV networks as consumers increasingly cut the cord.
Over the past six months, Byrne served as an adviser to Zefr’s management team to help grow the company’s revenue as buyer demand for quality and brand safety accelerates.
“The more time we spent together, the more compelling the opportunity was to join the company,” Byrne told AdExchanger. “When you consider that I spent the majority of my career selling premium content in entertainment and sports, the ability to curate premium packages on YouTube for advertisers wasn’t a far leap from what I was doing.”
Byrne is responsible for growing Zefr’s relationship with agency holding companies and brand advertisers, and he will also lead international expansion.
When considering Zefr’s focus, which is targeting video ads against specific video content, the timing of Byrne’s hire is fortuitous.
Advertiser investment in YouTube waned after Google’s brand safety scare, but those still spending wanted ways to proactively target content, not just channels or audiences, on YouTube, said Zefr co-CEO Rich Raddon.
In the past, when Zefr pitched its ability to target ads to specific video content instead of just hitting the right on-target audience percentages, marketers would sometimes push back.
"The good news is the dialogue has moved not just to brand safety, but brand suitability and answering questions like, ‘Does it help or hurt your brand to have adjacency to certain content?’” Raddon said.
Byrne, who’s used to negotiating with big brand advertisers at the TV upfronts, said while he believes big media companies still have license to the most premium video content, broadcasters only have so many opportunities to add incremental reach on their own properties.
“You have to find ways to reach those audiences where they’re consuming media and that’s in digital channels like YouTube,” Byrne said. “When you look to the future of TV and where dollars will go, based on how consumption continues to evolve, that’s where buyer investment will go.”
Although Zefr’s main focus will remain YouTube, Raddon said the company’s contextual targeting tool could be expanded to other digital video platforms.