Ad tech firms are using Google’s ad scandal to sell their own products

One company’s scandal is another company’s pitch material.

Even though objectionable content has been on Google-owned YouTube for many years, opportunism and the political climate have driven brands to pull their ads from the video platform out of concern of appearing next to objectionable content. The pullouts started in the U.K. after the Times of London published an exposé about YouTube ads appearing against racist videos, and furor extended into the U.S. when brands like AT&T and Verizon smelled blood in the water and pulled their YouTube campaigns.

Since the YouTube saga is a hot topic right now, ad tech vendors are using it as a hook when they pitch clients their products.

“A few different tech platforms reached out and indicated it may be a good time to reconsider them in light of the Google situation,” said an anonymous ad buyer.

David Lee, programmatic lead at The Richards Group, said that over the past two weeks, he has received “at least 10 pitches” from various ad tech vendors who lead their pitch with stories about brands pulling out of YouTube before delving into the product they’re selling. For comparison sake, a few months ago, Lee got two to three pitches about brand safety every few weeks. Rob Griffin, chief innovation officer at Almighty, added that the brand-safety pitches he receives have recently changed their tone “by taking advantage of current negative news.”

The vendors sending buyers these pitches range from demand-side platforms and exchanges who say their inventory is cleaner than Google’s to brand-safety vendors who claim their tools will help advertisers avoid extreme content on Google’s platforms.

“With this conversation elevated to the forefront, it is creating the right environment for us to educate brands and agencies on how to protect their interests,” said Mike Caprio, general manager of programmatic of Sizmek, an ad tech company that sells brand-safety tools. “It is not like we say, ‘Oh my God, look at YouTube! You need to use [Sizmek-owned] Peer39.’ It is more to elevate the discussion to say, ‘Hey, you want to use the tools that you can best protect yourself with.’”

Capitalizing on a buzzy snafu is nothing new for ad tech. As measurement errors plagued Facebook last year, measurement vendors became more in demand. And when fake news became news in its own right, vendors responded by developing new products that blocked ads from fake-news websites.

Although one source described capitalizing on YouTube’s misfortunes as “vultureish,” others said that these vendors are simply making smart pitches in an environment where advertisers are anxious about appearing next to extreme content and brand-safety products are in demand.

“It is not a slimy tactic,” Lee said. “It is a well-timed sales tactic.”

An ad tech exec speaking on the condition of anonymity said that is in the best interests of vendors to highlight their products while a dominant player like Google is getting beat up in the press.

“Google is the best in the business, and if they can’t get it right, there’s no way these other smaller companies are anywhere close,” he said. “But it is a great opportunity to take advantage of. Why would any business selling brand-safety protection not do so? It’s silly to think of it as anything but a good business move.”

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