Auditor Asserts Google Sought To Control Its Reporting Of Some Ad Metrics

Video advertising auditor OpenSlate told agencies it refused to sign a Google contract that it says would have limited its ability to report to clients when ads run near sensitive subject matter, “including hate speech, adult content, children's content, profanity, violence and illegal substances,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

The auditor, used by clients including Pfizer, McDonald’s, Unilever and WPP to check that ads run near content considered “safe,” sent an email about the Google situation to ad agencies over this past weekend, reports WSJ, which reviewed the email.

Google’s proposal would have required OpenSlate to get its approval before sharing certain metrics about YouTube’s content, and the auditor hasn’t yet been able to reach an agreement with Google to be included in an updated version of YouTube’s ad-measurement program, according to WSJ sources.



OpenSlate’s email said the proposed contract would “severely limit” its “ability to deliver transparency to clients,” but it would consider an agreement without such restrictions.

Google parent Alphabet issued a statement saying its “brand safety partners are always able to share their independent reporting with clients,” and told WSJ that OpenSlate currently is not among those official brand-safety partners.

Alphabet didn’t comment on “whether it had proposed restrictions for OpenSlate in any categories of content, citing contractual confidentiality obligations during active negotiations.” 

Google said it’s increasing the number of brand-safety and other measurement firms it works with — likely to be announced today — and had invited OpenSlate to be a participant.

It’s unclear whether the expanded program will include the kinds of restrictions OpenSlate cited, but two of Google’s official brand-safety partners provided WSJ with statements confirming their independence.

“We are able to freely report across the suite of services we offer, including viewability and invalid traffic, as well as brand safety and brand suitability,” stated Integral Ad Science Inc.

DoubleVerify said it “delivers transparent, unrestricted reporting across the entirety of its measurement solutions.”

Brand-safety issues were a top priority for advertisers before COVID-19, and tension with publishers over content blacklisting has heightened as publishers struggle to survive amid slashed ad budgets and advertiser refusals to be positioned near pandemic coverage—even amid enormous consumer demand for such content.

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