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VAST 4.0 Arrives, Championing the Technology Behind the Growth of Digital Video Advertising

Over the last few years, digital video has been in hyper growth mode, with a projected 80% of all internet traffic expected to be video by 2018. This is because of improvements in video technology, wider viewing device options, and an increase in content made available online both from television broadcasters and from other video services. But this growth is also due to video content publishers finding ways to better monetize their content. Digital video ad spend has been growing as well, to the tune of 66% over the last two years according to an IAB study, and according to eMarketer, will grow from $7.46B in 2015 to $9.59B in 2016.

A brief history of VAST and IAB Video Advertising standards:
The Digital Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) was originally introduced in 2008 in response to a growing online video advertising trend. The goal has always been to grow the marketplace by standardizing video ad responses to help publishers, ad tech vendors, ad networks, and exchanges – everyone in the video ecosystem – more easily communicate with each other. As technology and consumption models change, we have made updates to VAST in order to continually improve this ecosystem. In 2009, VAST 2.0 standardized some of the ad formats and added support for interactive media files. In 2012, VAST 3.0 introduced skippable ads, ad pods, in-ad privacy notices, and better tracking. In addition, IAB has been working with the industry to roll out other standards such as VPAID and VMAP as well as guidelines for measurement and ad formats.

VAST 4.0:
The proliferation of devices and screen sizes, along with the varied connection speeds has resulted in a new set of challenges to provide users a seamless experience. Many devices are not capable of running advanced scripts and have limitations on supporting good tracking and measurement. Bandwidth issues result in suboptimal experiences when switching between content and ads. To improve this experience, the use of ad-stitching services has grown where ads are dynamically inserted into the stream of content sent to the player. VAST 4.0 includes support for server-side ad stitching features around tracking, viewability, verification, and performance.

VAST 4.0 has been developed by the members of the IAB Digital Video Technical Standards Working Group to focus on these problems. The group has taken pains to ensure that current business needs are not impacted by this update, while setting a path to grow the ecosystem by simplifying the technical requirements and introducing some very important concepts.

Some of the highlights of VAST 4.0 are:

1. Server-side Support – VAST 4.0 supports “ad-stitching” or providing linear video ads in a stream to players with limited capabilities using server-to-server methods
2. Mezzanine File and Creative ID – Enabling advertising across video platforms that include long-form content, high-resolution screens, and advertiser requirements for tracking ad creative, VAST 4.0 includes support for raw, high-quality mezzanine files, and international creative ID programs (such as Ad-ID in the U.S.)
3. Ad Verification and Viewability Execution – VAST 4.0 contains a light script object to simplify ad verification using VAST instead of complicating VPAID use and interfering with the video viewing experience
4. Category Support – The introduction of ad categories will allow video publishers to separate competing ad creatives and to improve brand safety
5. Conditional Ad Declaration – A declaration in VAST for a conditional ad helps publishers prevent and reclaim any potentially lost inventory revenue in programmatic ad delivery

More details can be found on the VAST 4.0 guideline page. Another important document that should be looked at along with VAST 4.0 is the Digital Video In-Stream Ad Format Guidelines.

For comments and questions, please email [email protected].

Download VAST 4.0 Template

Webinar: Understanding and Adopting VAST 4.0

Digital Video In-Stream Ad Format Guidelines (DVAFG)