Thought Leadership

Adopting Error Codes Can Save Publishers’ Revenue From Going Down the Drain

May 16, 2019
By Thinh Pham Cong, Senior Integrations Analyst - Video

Digital video’s share of ad spend has swelled, and with it, the demand for standards that facilitate monetization. VAST is such a standard. This specification, developed by the IAB, ensures all video players and ad servers speak the same language when transacting programmatically, improving video render rates. VAST 3.0 and its more recent versions also provide granular insights into video errors (via VAST Error codes) which takes troubleshooting to a whole new level.

The rub is, publishers and buyers worldwide have been slow to implement support for error code tracking. While the industry has widely adopted VAST, media providers have been late to adopt error codes, which hinders effective troubleshooting. With the surge in digital video, it’s crucial publishers upgrade their technology, observe the minimal compliance for VAST 3.0, and support error codes to optimize their stack. It’s not only a matter of revenue, but user experience that’s at stake.

Saving Publishers’ Sanity

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, error codes let publishers avoid lunacy by providing them with the insights necessary to fix recurring video errors.

With VAST Errors, publishers can clearly see whether they’re dealing with a missing media file (code 401), or a wrapper problem (code 303) and address the problem at its source. Video players often trigger multiple video errors, so being able to understand these codes and how they affect the request funnel is critical to resolving chronic issues.  

Troubleshooting Across the Supply Path

As a private exchange that works with partners at various points along the supply path, Rubicon Project gets a macro-view of the struggles both buyers and publishers face. Here are some of our top recommendations on how to optimize video performance and use error codes to work in your favor, regardless of where you fall in the supply chain.

For Sellers

  • Support the latest version of VAST, which includes better support for error reporting.
  • Know the timeout limit set within the player and integration configuration to help troubleshoot timeout errors.
  • Remember that the video player should be able to choose the best compatible media file within the creative response.
  • Be especially careful to ensure sites are optimized for mobile environment to avoid rendering problems.
  • Make sure your inventory setup reflects what your video player supports so that buyers only bid on creative that can render (VAST protocols, VPAID support, supported media files, etc.)

For Buyers

  • Ensure the creative includes multiple media files, transcoded into numerous profiles so that the publisher’s video player can pick the optimal media file to render for a user, based on the user’s device and connection speed.
  • Double check to make sure elements are not missing from the XML response and the VAST response is correctly formatted.
  • Reduce the number of wrappers. VAST creative should work inside a VAST tag tester such as the IAB VAST Tester, Google VAST Inspector or JW Player Ad Tester.

For DSPs

  • Be able to support and read as many limitation fields as possible.
  • Always make sure there’s a campaign ready to be served when winning the auction.

Increasing Revenue with More Accurate Reporting

Ultimately, the hesitancy of publishers to adopt error code tracking hurts their own wallets. Video errors may also result in latency issues. This directly affects publisher revenue, since unlike display, the publisher only gets paid when the video renders.

Meanwhile, on the buy side, when a video doesn’t load, the brand never reaches its intended audience, which is a missed opportunity for potential sale or engagement. This results in a loss for all parties: the publisher loses revenue, and the buyer’s creative never gets seen.

Looking forward, digital video is poised to continue to surge, and common standards will be necessary to achieve scale. US digital video ad spend alone is projected to reach $58.39 billion in 2023. To fully monetize the promise of programmatic video, publishers must widely adopt error code tracking. If they fail to, it will be a lost opportunity for both ad quality and revenue.

For more info about VAST or Rubicon Project’s Video Performance Analytics, reach out to us at

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