Demand for video impressions is going up, and the market is short on quality supply. Last year, eMarketer’s 2014-18 estimates showed that 60% of all video ad spend is going into programmatic. The trend continues this year: The money being poured into programmatic video is expected to grow by 40%, reaching an unprecedented $9 billion for the channel.
Ad tech vendors are scrambling to provide. GDN recently began trading TV ads programmatically via DoubleClick Bid Manager. YouTube opened its gates for MRC-accredited viewability measurement. Index Exchange and AppNexus entered the fray by bringing ‘header’ bidding to video impression trading.
And then Integral Ad Science brought even more glad tidings to video content publishers everywhere: IAS reported that across the globe, video ads surpassed desktop display ads in viewability.
With growing advertiser interest in video, increasing awareness of fraud, and glowing viewability reports, 2017 seems like a good time to take a serious look at programmatic video. Let’s recap.
What is Programmatic Video?
Essentially, ad impressions of all sorts can be traded via algorithms (aka machines/computers). Video ads are no different.
Automated, real-time buying and selling of video ads is programmatic video. That’s all.
What’s good (and bad) about it?
Programmatic enables data-rich, targetable, and scalable inventory trading. It makes buyers compete (in open or private auctions) to win every impression, which drives up yields for sell-side.
However, implementation needs technical resources to keep errors and page load times (especially with heavier video content) in check. Scarce supply of impressions and high-CPMs at which they’re sold makes programmatic video an irresistible target for fraudsters, as we all learned last year from WhiteOps’ Methbot report.
Types of video ads
Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) categorizes video impressions as:
- Instream: These are linear video ads with various starting points that disrupt video content to play. Further classified as pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll.
- Outstream: These don’t interrupt video content, but are displayed on top of the content.
- In-display (rich media/in-banner/in-feed/etc): Video creative served in display ad unit. Not included in IAB’s Digital Video Ad Format Guidelines.
What are VAST and VPAID?
VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) is a standardized way to serve ads to a variety of (compliant) video players on publishers’ pages.
VPAID (Video Player-Ad Interface Definition) is a set of definitions layered upon VAST that help ad units (not servers) communicate with the video player. It’s an interface (application) that’s part of the ad and offers interactive elements to users on the front-end (skip/jump ads, clickable banners/coupons, close buttons, etc.), while collecting data on these interactions for advertisers.
There was a time when VPAID came with its own host of troubles: “false positives” with a loaded VPAID without a creative from a winner. Gavin Dunaway (AdMonsters) put the problem into words:
In the programmatic display world, the winning bidder would return a creative and the transaction would be complete. However, there’s no application like VPAID in the display world – many buyers use VPAID as a decisioning engine when hosting a marketplace on their end. That means when a video SSP picks the winning bidder (be it a DSP, network or trading desk), that buy source may be throwing its own nested auction.
The buy source may load a VPAID into the publisher player only to find it does not have an actual campaign to run. The potential buyers in the nested, buy-side auction may turn down the impression – perhaps a closer inspection of the metadata left their unpleasing algorithms. When an empty VPAID is all that remains, this is (rather misleadingly) chalked up as a VPAID error and the SSP’s auction continues.
The problem can be avoided entirely if the buyer has an integration with the ad server or SSP, commonly referred to as server-side integration or decision process. This way the video player no longer relies on the VPAID application to load and enable the decision process on the client side.