User-Friendly Ad Formats, Support for Mobile and Connected TV, and Complete Interoperability to Minimize the Complexity of Executing Video Advertising Campaigns
To promote the continued growth of in-stream digital video advertising, the Digital Video Committee of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has published the ‘IAB Video Suite’; a set of technical specifications and protocols for in-stream video ad formats that allow compliant ads to seamlessly play across multiple compliant publisher sites.
The IAB Video Suite’s three specifications are devised to work together, as part of a thorough in-stream video advertising offering:
- Video Ad-Serving Template (VAST) — a universal protocol for serving in-stream video ads, permitting ad servers to use a single ad response format across multiple compliant publishers/video players
- Video Player-Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) — a common communication protocol between ad units and video players that enables rich ad experiences and detailed event reporting back to advertisers
- Video Multiple Ad Playlist (VMAP) — a protocol that allows content owners to describe where ad breaks should be placed in their content when they do not control the video player or the content distribution outlet
Historically, technical complexities related to the fragmentation of the online video marketplace have artificially limited the reach of digital video advertising campaigns. Interoperability of video ads with disparate proprietary video players, across many publisher sites, served as a key technical barrier to market scale. The IAB Video Suite provides a common technical solution for interoperability, allowing for increased reach and market scale in digital video advertising.
The VAST and VPAID specifications, first released in 2008 and 2009, facilitated interoperability and considerable growth for digital video ad spend, but certain technical limitations remained. In 2011 the IAB’s Digital Video Committee commissioned a full review and update to these protocols. Working in an open forum with digital video domain experts from over 45 member companies, the Technical Standards Working Group spent over a year crafting the Suite, which includes critical updates to its key specifications—VAST and VPAID—and the establishment of a new protocol, VMAP. The full Suite was released in April 2012.
The IAB Video Suite provides important updates to VAST (now VAST 4.x) and VPAID (now VPAID 2.0) that improve clarity around format and expected interpretations of each specification. New features and capabilities have been added to address past technical limitations, to increase interoperability across players/devices/platforms, and to introduce support for new ad formats like ‘Skippable Ads’ and multi-ad groups called ‘Ad Pods’. Additionally, the Video Multiple Ad Playlist (VMAP) protocol was introduced, which allows content owners to pre-define ad breaks in their content.
The various tools available through the IAB Video Suite empower creative shops to produce in-stream interactive ads that are more engaging and relevant for consumers. Advertisers should expect increased interoperability across video publisher sites and devices, with uniformity of returned interaction data from disparate players. And compliant publishers and content owners should find it easier to monetize their video content. However, the benefits offered by the IAB Video Suite cannot fully materialize without wide industry adoption.