Direct Line trials new brand safety features for YouTube

Direct Line Group is the first brand to use OpenSlate’s third-party verification technology, which it hopes will stop ads appearing in unsafe environments and improve overall brand effectiveness.

brand safety

Direct Line Group (DLG) has become the first brand to introduce new brand safety features for YouTube that it hopes will stop ads appearing in unsafe environments and improve overall ad effectiveness on the site.

Through a deal with its agency MediaCom, DLG will use OpenSlate’s technology with the aim of increasing controls and content safeguards around YouTube media buys. The analytics platform works by scoring ad-supported content on the video site based on brand safety and quality across more than 250 million videos every day. It then provides advertisers with contextual insights on where ads are appearing and if those environments are brand safe, allowing them to rectify these potential issues more swiftly.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Direct Line’s head of commercial marketing Sam Taylor says: “For us this is really important. We have to be clear on where our advertising is being seen or shown. It is more important than ever now that advertising is placed in the place where we want it to be.”

Taylor says DLG was already using verification tools and that its brand was not one of the ones impacted by The Times investigation. However, he admits that the high amount of coverage has ensured brand safety is now seen as a “bigger issue”.

READ MORE: UK advertisers split over ending YouTube boycott after brand safety scandal

Prior to the investigation, he says, there were very few tools that could be used to verify where content was being seen. And while Google is working to improve YouTube, he says “the wait [for improvements] is too long for us” and that it is up to the whole industry to raise brand safety standards by seeking out third-party verification tools.

“Our view is that, as a progressive brand business, we must make sure we do the best we can to ensure ads are seen in the right place,” he explains.

“The whole industry has to step up. Google is doing its bit by making changes it believes it needs to make and they are moving in the right direction. But agencies and advertisers also have to step up to make sure their ads are appearing where they want them to.”

While the OpenSlate technology should help reduce circumstances where DLG’s ads appear in unsafe environments, Taylor says he also sees it as a “brand care” play – ensuring its advertising is being seen in relevant places.

“Our strategy is to have the right ads appear in the right place at the right time, it is not acceptable for our ads to be placed where they are not relevant,” he explains.

“Ultimately, no brand wants their advertising to not be seen due to ad fraud, or not be viewable. We want it appearing in front of the right people at the right time and to pay for what is being shown. That is essential for any performance-based campaign – whether brand metrics or sales performance. This gives us more levers to pull and more opportunities to optimise.”

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