Thought Leadership

Four Reasons You Might Not Be Winning with Programmatic Video

May 14, 2018
By Tameka Kee, Director, Marketing & Content Strategy

As a recent premium media company’s trial showed, programmatic technology like header bidding can help publishers earn more revenue for their video views. But that’s only if the audience can actually view the ad.

Render rate, or the percentage of video impressions in which creative is actually displayed to the viewer (vs. the overall number of impressions that advertisers “won” in the auction), is one of a publisher’s most critical monetization stats. It’s also one of the simplest to equate to an increase or decrease in revenue.

Yet in the case of programmatic video — with all the different video players, monetization platforms, and even descriptions of what can go wrong — troubleshooting render rate issues can be a complicated process. That’s partly why we worked with the IAB to develop the VAST Error Code Troubleshooting Matrix.

After checking in with customers, reviewing data, and gathering insights from our  solutions engineering team, we’ve come up with four key questions publishers can ask as they start triaging low programmatic video render rates:

1.  Supply: What’s going on with my monetization setup?

Figuring out if there’s something wrong on the front- or back-end of the site is often the first step. Dig into the ad server and see if the line items for various slots are set up correctly, and in the case of header bidding integrations like Prebid, check to see if the code is installed correctly on the page.

Next, assess whether the percentage of inventory that’s allocated to programmatic vs. direct demand is adequate — particularly when gauged against the number of demand partners that will ultimately be competing for your available impressions. In the case of header bidding, how many impressions are available through that specific integration vs. tags?

2.  Demand: What’s keeping demand from getting in?

Can buyers access your video impressions, and are they actually bidding? If not, why not? What could be happening to the bid?

For some publishers, the issue may be on an advertiser level, in which case analyzing a block list might reveal that it’s a bit more aggressive than it needs to be. Others might find problems on a platform level, such as specific types of DSPs not being enabled as buyers.

There’s also the challenge of demand side partners not being able to recognize the bid stream information that publishers provide about their inventory. This can include factors like video player size or ad unit type — data that buyers need to determine whether an impression is worth bidding on.

“As programmatic evolves, buyers and sellers are still learning to speak the same language around video,” said Vanessa Farrar, Director of Revenue Solutions for Video at Rubicon Project. “That even comes down to how ad units and errors are identified on one site vs. another. It’s getting better, but there’s still lots of room for miscommunication when buying and selling platforms talk to each other. ”

3.  Is everything OK with the player?

The video player itself can often be the source of technical issues, and with at least 67 different video player types available (according to Datanyze) there are a dizzying amount of potential things that can go wrong.

Checking with the software manufacturer behind the player is one place to start. Information on their website (or through your account rep) might reveal that the company pushed through an update that now makes the player incompatible with specific types of creative, for example, or is even blocking ad calls from a specific exchange or demand partner.

4.  Are my deal rules too granular (or not granular enough)?

It’s a good idea to review your existing deal rules to ensure that they’re not somehow limiting demand from accessing all the inventory available.

This is especially crucial for video header bidding setups. “The granularity of the deals that publishers set up is really important, especially with Prebid,” said Rubicon Project Solutions Engineering Manager Neelan Nair.

That’s because default Prebid price granularities cap out at $20/CPM, and the “medium” granularity is ten-cent buckets that go up to that price. This simple segmentation is fine for display — where impressions rarely exceed the max — but it can cause render rate challenges with video when higher-priced deals come in through the header. Publishers should consider using a Prebid custom price granularity that covers both display and video.

Troubleshooting in the midst of monumental change  

Despite the massive growth, video is still a nascent format in programmatic, so the terms the industry uses to define how things work — and why they don’t, when they don’t — still aren’t standardized.

And while that means there are hundreds (and possibly thousands) of unique factors that could be dragging render rates down for a given publisher, asking these four questions is a good way to start the troubleshooting process.

For more info about Rubicon Project’s video solutions (header bidding or VAST tag-based), reach out to us at

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