Thought Leadership

5 Ways Programmatic Video Standards are Changing to Simplify Ad Delivery

July 31, 2019
By Sambit Patnaik, Product Management Director

This article is based on content developed for the TV of Tomorrow Show 2019, Simplifying Video Ad Delivery with the Next Generation of IAB Tech Lab Standards.

As traditional broadcast TV, connected TV, and digital converge, media providers are changing the way they manage and measure video ad performance. Here are five ways standards are shifting to facilitate seismic programmatic digital video growth.

1. SSAI Delivers an Improved User Experience

For streaming video content, repetitive ads, ad load, latency, and creative quality are ongoing challenges. The adoption of server-side-ad-insertion (SSAI) addresses some of these issues.

SSAI stitches ads directly into the content, delivering a single stream to the end-user, instead of assembling the ads on the client-side (via a device or webpage). In this way, SSAI addresses latency, poor resolution, and issues with video playback, ensuring the consumer receives a seamless video experience. It also defeats ad blockers, since the ad is pre-integrated into the stream. 

SSAI is especially ideal for OTT and mobile environments: mobile because there isn’t a consistent bandwidth to handle multiple ad calls, and OTT because of user experience. With ad insertion handled on the server-side, the pre-integrated content stream is agnostic to any video player and can perform across OTT or mobile platforms. 

Looking forward, SSAI adoption shows no signs of slowing down. According to Pixalate data from Q2 2019, 38% of all programmatic OTT/CTV ads were delivered on SSAI. This number is only expected to increase, helping publishers, providers, and broadcasters to achieve multi-platform video distribution at scale.

2. New Updates in VAST Upgrade Ad Performance Across Platforms

VAST, or “Video Ad Serving Template,” is a response standard which provides video players with essential metadata about the ad including the ad creative info, render info, duration, interactivity and whether it’s skippable. With publishers increasingly using VAST in audio and connected TV, the metadata included in the VAST response is currently being expanded upon to serve these formats. 

VAST 4.1 specifically supports SSAI and also introduces a Universal Ad ID, which can be used as a consistent creative identifier across systems. VAST 4.0 has also added new error codes to provide additional troubleshooting support. VAST 4.1 has support for Audio in-built and is replacing DAAST. 

3. A replacement for VPAID

While VPAID once promised to be a standard that measured user engagement and interactivity, it’s not compatible with mobile or OTT. Since the lion’s share of mobile’s growth will be driven by digital video, VPAID presents a monetization problem for publishers in mobile and emerging devices. 

Further, VPAID can cause latency and slow ad load. As subscription-based video apps are expected to compete with linear TV, VPAID’s tags and tracking codes aren’t worth the risk of creating ad failures and negative user experience. The VAST 4.1 standard gives a transition path out of VPAID while supporting the features of VPAID which the advertisers find useful. 

4. Open Measurement is the Future

To track ad performance in a mobile-first environment, IAB’s Open Measurement Standard was specifically designed to support third-party verification in mobile app environments and is replacing VPAID’s verification component.

The open measurement SDK includes viewability trackers from multiple vendors, allowing publishers to adopt a single standardized SDK instead of having to integrate SDKs from every vendor. For app publishers, adopting one SDK as opposed to many lessens infrastructure costs, and diminishes latency issues, buffering and load times. 

It’s likely the adoption of Open Measurement in OTT will happen right away, because there are no other viable options. Nineteen companies have gone through IAB’s SDK certification program. 

5. SIMID Ad Specs Support Interactive Media

As agencies and brands build more interactive media campaigns, Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition (SIMID) is stepping in to facilitate audience interaction with ad spots. The IAB Tech Lab is now replacing VPAID with SIMID specifications to support interactive video ads and give publishers more control over their ad offerings. The new SIMID specifications enable a “player-centric” model that gives playback control to the media player — providing publishers more control over the end-user experience. With SSAI support, SIMID will apply to all platforms, including mobile and OTT.

SIMID also opens up an array of possibilities for interactive programmatic ad inventory. For example, through the CBS Sports app, Pringles put an interactive overlay on their Superbowl spot, using IP addresses to determine viewers’ locations and personalizing the message. While some spots said, “Hey, New York,” others said, “Hey, Oklahoma.” While early days, initiatives like SIMID will make interactive inventory more available to brands who want to interact with audiences at scale. 

Ultimately, standards for digital video transactions are evolving rapidly, with a focus on mobile apps and connected TV. The IAB OTT Working Group is currently standardizing the app bundle identifier, and specs for emerging publishing platforms. Meanwhile, Rubicon Project is leading the way in supporting initiatives to standardize how video is bought and sold programmatically, as well as strengthening our video platform. Through adoption and education, we can move forward to an era of seamless measurement and improved video performance — all facilitating better monetization in programmatic video. 


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