Not recommending its clients cut spend on Google in the wake of recent controversy, media investment agency GroupM has partnered with OpenSlate to increase brand safety on YouTube inventory for its clients. 

OpenSlate – a social video analytics company – is able to rank YouTube content for quality and brand safety and provide contextual insights to the agency’s advertisers. 

The deal follows a number of global brands, as well as media agency Havas, cutting spend altogether on YouTube advertising following the automatic placement of ads by extremist content. GroupM has instead urged clients to be “mindful of the implications” of working on the platform, encouraging them to work with Google to achieve acceptable brand safety standards. 

On March 17, CEO of parent company WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell, told Business Insider that Google and Facebook are accountable as “any other media company,” adding, “they cannot masquerade as technology companies, particularly when they place advertisements.”

“Powerful mediums”

However, WPP, which revealed in its third quarter earnings call in 2016 that it would spend at least £4.1 billion of its clients’ money on Google ads this year, has opted for a measured response to the widespread furore over YouTube’s brand safety crisis. 

In the same earnings report, Sorrell called both Google search and YouTube video “powerful mediums”, particularly in high-penetration TV markets, and its OpenSlate partnership shows it’s committed to exploiting the channel while a portion of the competition has at least momentarily peeled away. 

GroupM is looking to use the partnership, rolling out across the UK and US, to ramp up brand safety with reservation media, including Google Preferred and AdWords or DoubleClick Bid Manager auction-bought inventory. OpenSlate will use its own data to better inform clients which types of content should be barred.

“Although it is not possible to eliminate all risks in user-generated media, our clients’ hard-won brand reputations must be protected with the best efforts possible,” said Susan Schiekofer, chief digital investment officer of GroupM North America. 

“We appreciate that Google is enabling our work with OpenSlate to provide our clients with better brand safety controls, and we believe it’s essential that all digital platforms carrying ad-supported user-generated content do the same.