Making Mobile VPAID Ads Mainstream

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Video-advertising

Video Ads are swiftly moving to mobile, but programmatic buying of video ads hasn’t fully caught up yet.  All players in the mobile ad ecosystem need to continue pushing for VPAID writesRoni Anavi Fass, VP Product at Inneractive, a Fyber Company

Video ads are known to provide higher levels of engagement, so it’s no surprise they are attracting more advertising dollars. US marketers anticipate spending more than $9 million on their brand’s desktop and mobile video advertising in 2017—a 67% increase from 2015, according to e-Marketer.  

Yet there are still several challenges around mobile video, especially when transacted programmatically, that has to do with video formats, viewability and ad quality.

VAST vs. VPAID

The two video ad standards that are currently vying for first place are VAST and VPAID.

VAST (Video Ad Serving Template), a specification released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), provides a common protocol that enables ad servers to use a single ad response format across multiple publishers and video players. The first version of VAST released in 2008 enables the scalable distribution of video ads, but is limited in that it supports only relatively simple in-stream video ad formats.    

VPAID (Video Player Ad Interface Definition), a specification also developed by the IAB, supports a rich interactive ad experience that is directly associated with increased user engagement and improved ad performance. VPAID is essentially a format that is built on top of a VAST tag and in many ways, can be viewed as an ‘upgraded’ VAST.

Beyond the support for interactivity, what VPAID also enables is for advertisers to directly and independently track metrics like viewability, completion rate and click-through rate. These measurements enable advertisers to see how individual ads are performing and devise improved ways of engaging with their audiences and increasing the level of interaction with their ads, without having to rely on the measurement of the publisher or the exchange.

With the rise of the urgency around viewability and performance data, VPAID, in many ways, enables all the things that advertisers hold dearest . With clear advantages for advertisers over VAST, why has VPAID adoption on mobile been slow to pick up?

Little to no incentive for publishers

In many instances, VPAID ads run over VAST templates. However, for VPAID ads to run properly, the publisher’s video player and every ad mediator along the way need to support the VPAID format. This means that in order to make VPAID work, you need buy-in from more than just the advertisers.

With VAST already in place, and demand for mobile video being high, there has not been a strong incentive for publishers to make the necessary updates in technology and programming to properly support VPAID, especially as most of the advantages provided by VPAID benefit advertisers. Furthermore, many mobile networks that support mobile video, have seen financial success with VAST, which allowed them to carry on ‘ruling’ with a simple VAST implementation, without needing to invest time, money, and technological resources in developing a VPAID solution.

Publishers’ reluctance to push VPAID has been especially true of the in-app mobile environment. VPAID ads must be delivered via JavaScript. While in mobile web and desktop the environment is already JavaScript based, supporting JavaScript in-app requires additional modifications from the publishers. That means that generally, in order to make VPAID render well (or at all) on mobile, the publisher has to proactively choose to support it. There seems to be quite a lot of confusion and lack of education around VPAID, with many publishers not even being aware that VPAID can indeed be rendered in an in-app environment, with the right tech support. This makes mobile VPAID inventory scarce.

In addition to the lack of incentive, some publishers claim there is a disincentive to support VPAID due to the fact that VPAID essentially ‘launches’ its own video player. This makes some publishers nervous as they feel that they are losing control over ad quality – especially if there are not enough tech vendors that validate the video files.

As a result, some large publishers (such as Hulu and CBS) are actually actively advocating for VAST and leading the effort to make VAST 4.0 more widely accepted.

Viewability as the key to unlocking VPAID

Viewability has been one of the hottest buzzwords of our industry for the last couple of years and has become table stakes, especially for brand advertisers . Advertisers are tired of paying for ads that nobody actually sees and many won’t pay for their ads unless there are accurate and objective measurements that verify that the ad was rendered properly and viewed by real users (for example, GroupM has openly claimed to only buy viewable traffic).

There are several different standards that rely on metrics about viewer interactions.  For example, Media Ratings Council defines video viewability as 50 percent of an ad’s pixels in view for a minimum of two seconds. GroupM’s more stringent standard is 100 percent of the player in view, while Facebook counts three seconds as a view. All of these standards require reliable measurements from third parties to verify compliance.

Technically, collecting viewability measurements on specific traffic requires that publishers integrate directly with the third party viewability vendor’s SDK, for example, MOAT. This means that it is very hard for the viewability vendors to scale fast enough to support the rapidly growing demand for viewable traffic.

The VPAID format enables the viewability tracking and measurement to be available to third-party verification companies directly without requiring a direct integration to their SDK by each publisher. As the demand for viewable inventory continues to grow, so will the pressure from advertisers (and the viewability vendors) for publishers to support VPAID on mobile. We see more and more publishers who already understand this market trend and move to support VPAID to increase video demand.

So what’s next?

Video viewing is moving to mobile, but the technology that gives brands and agencies the confidence to buy mobile video inventory hasn’t caught up yet . All players in the mobile ad ecosystem need to continue pushing for VPAID on mobile so that tech vendors can create solutions that ensure that interactive, measurable mobile video ads are rendered and measured consistently at scale without sacrificing ad quality.

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