Everyone close to Google's YouTube video has had a rough year as a string of controversies. Everyone but Mike Henry.
Henry runs OpenSlate, a company that screens and grades YouTube videos for marketers. Several advertisers halted the cost of YouTube after flare-ups. Marketers are returning now, but they are still worried their ads may mistakenly endorse an offensive video.
That concern has placed OpenSlate at the center of a booming cottage industry for policing the billions of ad dollars. Starting last year, Alphabet Inc's Google bowed to the advertiser pressure and opened up more of its inner workings to outside monitors. That created a rare opportunity for companies like OpenSlate, DoubleVerify Inc. and Oracle Corp's Moat, which sell software that scans online videos for trouble.
“It seems so obvious, but sixteen months ago, the brands were not thinking about where their ads were running,” Henry said in an interview at OpenSlate's New York headquarters. “So, yeah, it's kept us very busy.”
Formed in 2012, OpenSlate began by providing advertisers with a kind of channel guide for the almost endless stream of videos on YouTube. As YouTube's content problems installed, OpenSlate turned its offering into a vetting service. The company's software scans some 400 million YouTube videos a day, analysing descriptions, views, likes, comments and shares. It then ranks each clip on a scale, deducting points for risqué topics like politics, religion, sex and even twerking.
This year, Henry expects US $ 2bil (RM7.88bil) worth of YouTube ads will be filtered through OpenSlate's software, up 150% from last year. OpenSlate gets a small percentage of the money advertisers spend on YouTube campaigns. For some deals, it's about 2-3%, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Other advertisers pay a different, fixed amount for a year or a month, Henry said. The privately held company does not disclose revenue.
“It's really proven its worth,” said John Montgomery, head of brand safety for GroupM, a unit of ad giant WPP Plc. Last month, CNN flagged several ads that ran on YouTube videos touting white supremacy and North Korean propaganda, another round of embarrassing press for Google. When that story hit, Montgomery said he could assure.
Procter & Gamble Co recently returned to YouTube after a yearlong hiatus – but the largest US advertiser is running spots only on select videos, and OpenSlate is scoring some of the clips.
Henry said OpenSlate is an offering for Facebook Inc, which is expanding its video service. Long-term, he wants the software to become as successful as Nielsen Holdings Plc, an US $ 11bil (RM43.37bil) public company that rates TV audiences for advertisers.
Standing in the way are the internet companies themselves, which are developing their own ways of checking videos.
Google is hiring thousands of employees to moderate YouTube videos, and Facebook Inc is making a similar push. “It's an army of people who can hire the most people,” said Joshua Lowcock, brand safety officer for media buyer. UM Worldwide.
At an industry event in New York on Thursday night, YouTube presents a new slate of programming for advertisers, and emphasizes the steps it takes to clean up the site. For example, YouTube is now screening every clip that goes into Google Preferred, a selection of popular videos that command higher ad prices.
Still, many ad buyers are not ready to drop.
“Just because the city is safe,” said GroupM's Montgomery, “you would not fire the police force.” – Bloomberg