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Omnicom Will Sort Through YouTube Videos to Make Sure They're Appropriate for Brands

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Omnicom has developed a safety program for YouTube that could reassure some of the major advertisers currently on hiatus from the video site.

The media holding company said the program could review hundreds of thousands of videos daily and ensure that they are appropriate for brands to advertise near. Machines and in some cases people will review YouTube content and score it for brand safety before putting it on the whitelist. Omnicom said it would also make more data available to brands regarding videos on YouTube.

Omnicom Media Group represents clients like AT&T, Pepsi and Procter & Gamble, which were among hundreds of advertisers that froze spending on YouTube because of concerns about the type of content.

"We're building this from the ground up," said Jon Anselmo, Omnicom's chief digital officer. "These are whitelisted pools of inventory that we can say with extremely high confidence are safe for clients."

"Scores will be determined by utilizing AI and will be built upon public and non-public meta data that had previously been unavailable to advertisers," Omnicom said in an e-mailed statement.

The program was just released, so Mr. Anselmo couldn't say what if any advertisers would return to YouTube through it.

The process inverts the way that YouTube has typically handled content: letting users post oceans of video inventory and punishing bad content as it is detected.

"When you're talking about almost infinite pools of inventory, the historic approach has been the elimination of bad seeds," Mr. Anselmo said. "That's never going to be sufficient."

Earlier this week, Omnicom rival WPP said it would work with OpenSlate, the video ad tech firm, to whitelist YouTube channels for its advertiser clients.

OpenSlate scores videos and helps brands decide which channels are worth their money. The company says it sorts through hundreds of millions of videos, and millions of channels, to come up with a select group of 850,000 channels that advertisers should even consider.

"If you're running ads on YouTube and you're only targeting audience without consideration for content, you can run across any one of 320 million videos," said Mike Henry, OpenSlate's CEO. "Advertisers didn't realize that the responsibility largely rest on their shoulders."

YouTube's ad problems stemmed from advertisers that were looking for the cheapest ad space without regard for content. Its ecoystem was called out in March for allowing some ads to run on terrorist videos. Then more advertisers were alerted to content that wasn't violent or criminal, but was still not desirable.

YouTube is coming up with its own solutions, with stricter policies regarding its community of creators and which videos can be made available for ads. It's also giving more tools to brands to control where their ads run.

Ad agencies and tech firms are taking advantage of the spotlight, finding new purpose for their services as advisors to the brands.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article erroneously said Omnicom was basing its brand safety program on newly available data from YouTube, but it actually makes new use of data that was already available from YouTube.