YouTube’s brand-safety headache has led to good business for digital verification and measurement companies from marketers concerned about where their ads are running.
In March, WPP-owned GroupM began working with OpenSlate—a firm that analyzes social analytics—to test a new auditing tool that shows exactly which videos and channels ads ran against after a campaign has finished.
Since then, OpenSlate has inked similar deals with Publicis Media, Omnicom Media Group, Dentsu Aegis Network, Horizon Media and Magna Global. The tool is now being rolled out to all advertisers and the New York-based company reports that it has run 152 audits for 65 brands since March, quadrupling advertisers’ demand in audits. After hundreds of brands pulled their ads this spring, OpenSlate claims to have brought more than 70 brands back to the platform.
Mike Henry, CEO of OpenSlate, predicts that OpenSlate’s business will be five to six times bigger in the fourth quarter than it was in the second quarter, suggesting that brands are increasingly putting more money into brand safety even after YouTube has put new policies and technology into place. OpenSlate declined to share specific revenue numbers.
Here’s how the new auditing tool works: OpenSlate is plugged into YouTube’s API and collects data on 350 million ad-supported YouTube videos. Up until now, advertisers have primarily used OpenSlate’s data to target ads towards specific clips and channels. Now advertisers can dig into stats that show which videos their ads actually ran against, which in theory can be used to create more context around media buys.
“If you’re a marketer and you’re spending money on YouTube, you get a list of 200,000 URLs that you can run against and how many impressions you served on each of them,” said Henry. “What we’ve been doing for the last five or six years is aggregating every piece of data about every ad-supported video on YouTube. For every one of those 200,000 lines, we can effectively append all of our data about that video, all of our proprietary brand-safety data, subject-matter data, whatever else we know about it.”
Before advertisers run campaigns, they can create whitelists of specific keywords or channels of videos that they want to avoid. Henry named entertainment and direct-response advertisers as two categories of brands that the auditing tool is aimed at.
As Adweek reported earlier in this week’s cover story, brand safety varies drastically from marketer to marketer. While Johnson & Johnson resumed its YouTube buys within 10 days of freezing spend over YouTube’s brand safety concerns this spring, Bank of America only began running ads in full force two weeks ago. While brands in categories like consumer-packaged goods, finance and automotive were quick to police content and create whitelists of where content should and should not run, categories like entertainment and direct-response advertisers were not as quick to respond because whitelisting limits the reach of a media buy, Henry said.
“The more extreme stuff—the stuff that is universally not brand safe and stuff that any advertiser would uniformly describe as objectionable—that’s not the concern,” Henry said. “What [advertisers] found was that it’s not about the ISIS video—it’s about if this is a suitable place for my brand.”
Henry added, “Ultimately I think this is going to be far less to do about brand safety as it is to do about context.”
GroupM has worked with OpenSlate for both targeting and auditing.
“We always want third-party verification,” said Joe Barone, managing partner of brand safety Americas at GroupM. “We always want someone who doesn’t have any skin in the game. As a buyer, you don’t want a seller telling you that what they sold you was good, which is why this third-party verification business has flourished.”
For targeting, the agency has worked to create whitelists for skippable, pre-roll TrueView ads and Google Preferred—YouTube’s program that limits an ad buy to the top 5 percent of popular content. While Google Preferred does offer advertisers a more brand-safe environment because ads run on a limited amount of channels, “OpenSlate used their technology to identify a few hundred channels that were deemed not brand safe for our clients,” Barone said.