JoAnna Foyle is getting pretty good at playing whack-a-mole. As soon as a brand safety problem emerges on a new digital media platform, Foyle‘s company helps improve the situation.

OpenSlate, of which Foyle is chief operating officer, had already rolled out a service helping bring brand safety to YouTube and Facebook.

Earlier this month, it also struck a partnership with TikTok to provide a brand safety verification and filter tool that weeds out inappropriate content and categories for advertisers.

In this video interview, Foyle explains how the brand safety game is all about responsiveness.

Fast-changing content

“The minute you come up with what you think are a standard set of categories or models that you’re trying to manage for brand safety or brand suitability, the world of content changes,” Foyle explains.

“Think about what news today looks like versus five years ago. Think about what politics looks today versus five years ago. Sensitive social issues are more sensitive than they’ve ever been.”

OpenSlate launched a decade ago to measure content as people began watching more than just linear TV. Two years later, it built out brand safety tools for YouTube. Last year, it added them for Facebook.

The goal is to ensure brand ad dollars are supporting good actors, rather than shady content.

The new bad actors

But, though “brand safety” first arose on platforms like YouTube a couple of years ago, the 2020 problem poses particular challenges, Foyle says.

“Conspiracy theories and misinformation are now very publicly running rampant on our systems,” she says. “So we just released recently a conspiracy model that’s going to help control for some of those kinds of conversations that are happening on these social platforms that our clients are concerned about.”

Foyle says content advertisers don’t want to be exposed to includes “aliens and Flat Earthers and things that are more controversial like anti-vaxxers and some of the QAnon type publications that are going on now”.

She says the industry has done well at improving brand safety until now. “But those standards can’t stay flat,” she says. “They’ve got to continue to evolve as the content for which they’re meant evolves as well.”

Scaling up

TikTok has become a digital media behemoth. Comscore says US unique users grew by nearly 50% between January and March.

EMarketer believes TikTok’s UK user base will grow by 75% this year to 12.7% of the UK population.

OpenSlate offers brand safety solutions in 13 languages with more to come. It is investing in Asia-Pacific.

Last year, Nielsen invested to acquire a minority stake in OpenSlate. The deal puts the valuation of OpenSlate at $100 million, the Wall Street Journal reported based on its sources.

US TikTok Metrics, Oct 2019-March 2020