Will IAB Propel Vast 4.0 Into Mass Adoption?

Will mass deployment of VAST 4.0 edge us closer to broadcast standards?

  • Is this the ‘quantum leap’ we’ve been waiting for?
  • Will the complexities crippling video disappear?
  • And are we on the way to an improved eco-system?

Almost every ad techie or data scientist shares a multitude of horror stories about video tags implementation and operation. It seems, no matter how well you try to engineer fast-loading content and optimization, the whole process can reel out of control, leading to a daunting viewer experience.

Despite the VAST and VPAID dramas behind the scenes, video advertising is not dissipating; on the contrary; more viewers are spending more time viewing and engaging with video ads and conversion rates are increasing. If anything, digital video has been in hyper-growth mode with a projected 80% of all Internet traffic expected to be video by 2018 (IAB).

The pressure to meet demand and deliver on performance has led at times to the mishandling of VPAID and VAST standards, and brands and advertisers are increasingly aware of it. Although the ad-tech industry has been a major culprit, it is also part of the solution. Originally VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) was created by the IAB as a standard template for delivering ad tags to a site’s video player. It aimed to deliver a format for consistently serving and playing video content and ads across all sites. VAST in effect represented a set of instructions to the players on; how to handle an ad, which one to play, how it should show up, for how long and more…

Most importantly, VAST helped video players and ad servers to speak the same language. As a result advertisers, in theory, could allay their fears about running their video ads on a lot of players, and publishers could stress less about limited inventories.

VPAID (Video Player Ad Interface) is an API that makes it possible for video ad units and video content to interact and supply measurement without affecting delivery. It was designed to work as a common interface between players and video ads and to support a rich interactive ad experience. Together with VAST, it was supposed to create a video ad serving technology stack.
In its early days, VPAID worked quite well. It successfully facilitated video ad delivery on top of video content. But VPAID 2.0 updates, in an attempt to offer more creative flexibility, unleashed an ad-tech Pandora box. Security was compromised and a host of features, like verification services, opened a gateway for undesirable exploits such as ad blocking.

More problems surfaced with the excessive amounts of data streamed during the time an article was viewed online. The overflow was caused by ongoing loading and reloading of scripts containing data, images and trackers from a whole gamut of ad-tech sources. Validation of reported results also became an issue with the absence of checks and balances.

The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), fully aware of the mounting frustrations, released a complete overhaul of its VAST ad technology units over the past year then posted it for public comment. This month the IAB launched a compliance program to help kick-start industry-wide adoption.

“VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) 4.0 is helping to enable in the digital world what is possible in the broadcast world,” Alanna Gombert, General Manager, IAB Tech Lab.

Is VAST 4.0 the key to building a better video eco-system?

VAST 4.0 is considered a breakthrough compared to its previous versions. The updates introduced can possibly solve some ad blocking issues. VAST 4.0 specifications clarify how ad servers should deliver linear videos ads directly into streaming media to avoid detection by ad blocking software. It promises to improve the viewer experience, in particular, page loading times, by identifying conditional ads (ending up as black screens on the consumer side).

It offers support for mezzanine files to enable high-quality video streams and makes it possible to separate video files from interactive components, providing better execution. VAST 4.0 also features a designated space for verification codes, which has the potential to eliminate uncertainty in the deployment and measurement of non-VPAID environments.
So, an industry binding VAST 4.0 could lead to the transformation everyone was waiting for. If adopted across-the-board, publishers will be able to secure more control, advertisers will be able to benefit from the new creativity and verification opportunities and end-users will gain a better viewer experience.

Our very own VP of R&D Tomer Leicht is a member of the IAB VAST 4.0 and VPAID 3.0 committees. He is also involved in the IAB OVV (Open Video Viewability) project. We are proud to be part of this important journey and look forward to teaming up with our partners in deploying VAST 4.0.