3 Digital Ad Players Cashing In on YouTube’s Brand Safety Issues

Each previously laid the groundwork to reap rewards now

OpenSlate, SheKnows and Channel Factory have seen upticks in sales.
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An opportunity lies in every crisis, as the oft-used saying goes, and the modern world of advertising technology is no exception. With YouTube’s ongoing troubles over advertisers like AT&T, Verizon and Johnson & Johnson pulling their ads from the platform because of its sometimes racist, sexist, homophobic and extremist videos, some digital players offering solutions are reaping rewards.

“I’ve been busier than I have been in a long time,” said Michael Henry, CEO of OpenSlate. “I haven’t slept in a few days.”

On Wednesday, GroupM announced a partnership with OpenSlate to improve brand safety for the WPP-owned media agency’s YouTube ad buys. OpenSlate was in prime position to gain the business, having developed software for this kind of situation over the past six years. Which probably deserves another old adage: Success is where preparation meets opportunity.

“We’ve picked up new clients,” Henry said, without naming brands. “There are a lot of brands that are dark on YouTube right now, maybe a couple hundred. And they don’t want to be. Most of them were relying on YouTube because it might have been 30 percent of their YouTube budget. We are trying to get those brands that are dark back up and running. … And there’s been a massive increase in both strategic and tactical [ways] at the agency level.”

Other marketers like SheKnows and Channel Factory said that the beginning of their spring seasons are going unexpectedly well thanks to C-suite-level decisions to pull ads from YouTube.

“Branded content, preroll, outstream and adjacent-to-relevant content … we are seeing significantly bigger commitment from brands to video,” said Samantha Skey, chief revenue officer at niche lifestyle publisher SheKnows, which launched in 1999. “We are predictable, clean content that’s consistently evergreen in focus. There’s no user-generated content [like on YouTube].”

The Channel Factory, which buys social video ads and says it utilizes human judgment to ensure brand safety, also made good-fortune claims.

“Since the recent concerns on YouTube, we have definitely seen a large uptick in in-bound inquiries, not only from brands looking for a third-party brand safety solutions, but from agency holding companies looking to build their own customized content scoring of YouTube,” said Channel Factory CEO Tony Chen.

What’s more, GroupM is now using OpenSlate for all YouTube’s channels, including the seemingly safe haven of Google Preferred, which entails only the top-performing clips. PewDiePie, the viral video creator, was recently banned from Google Preferred for making content that offended many people, but that case seemed to be the exception rather than the rule.

So why would OpenSlate need to monitor Google Preferred videos for ad placements?

“[GroupM is] taking a comprehensive approach to defining brand safety in a way that will give their advertisers the comfort of being in the right places,” Henry explained. “We are involved because we are an independent third party with a lot of data to do that.”

The CEO also contended that his team will be able to better target its video spending on Google Preferred, offering the example of how marketers for Gerber and Axe, respectively, want to appear with different kinds of content.

“We have a set of tools that measure brand safety and quality with video data and deliver it in a way that they can target media accordingly,” Henry said.

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