The online video advertising ecosystem has advanced dramatically within recent years in terms of total streams, as well as capabilities to improve end user experience and to optimise ad delivery for publishers and advertisers. With this, there too has been increased complexity. The IAB Tech Lab has developed standards and measurement options to answer many of these complexities, yet there is a disconnect between capability and adoption that we as an industry need to address.
Vast (Video Ad Serving Template) 4.1 and more recently Vast 4.2 has been widely talked about in terms of its benefits, and discussions around adoption are prevalent. This was again highlighted in the IAB’s September blog post, where IAB, said “we must look now to standardise, enable and plan for the future as an industry with seamless, measurable video advertising running within all environments.”
Despite the protocols being released by the IAB some time ago (4.2 was released in April 2019 and 4.1 in November 2018), buyers and publishers are unable to update until tech vendors utilised across ad stacks have updated their capabilities to support this. As a buyer, a key benefit 4.X will bring is measurement of viewability across Vast, and without it, clients are missing out.
In 2017, GroupM introduced enhanced viewability standards with the aim of maximising the integrity of media investment on behalf of advertisers, with the intention that ads are actually viewed by people and data verifies this. The standards require pre roll and mid roll video to have 100% of pixels in view for 50% of video duration, with sound on. Ads must be user initiated and verified by an MRC accredited third party such as MOAT. A key factor within this is the third-party measurement.
At GroupM, the majority of programmatic video campaigns run across our third-party measurable inventory, allowing our agency and client partners to view campaign level, and publisher statistics in their own MOAT or vendor dashboards, via wrapping of the third-party ad server tags. In line with previous tech standards, viewability measurement has only been possible using elements of the VPAID standard, with the wrapped tags consequently only able to run on VPAID supported inventory. VPAID is not supported across app, deeming mobile app and OTT immeasurable as per GroupM standard.
Open Measurement SDK (OMSDK), as well as direct publisher integrations with viewability vendors are great for the industry and allow for measurement on app, however for GroupM clients to truly measure programmatic inventory from a viewability standpoint through a third party via tag wrapping and not directly through the publisher direct integration, 4.X is required.
Why is this so important now?
At the time when these standards were enforced in 2017, the inventory make up in Australia was different. Viewing habits have evolved, and now desktop and mobile web inventory (VPAID supply) makes up a smaller percentage of the overall pie with the monthly average desktop and mobile web broadcast VPAID inventory sitting at 10-20% of total broadcast supply compared with 30-40%+ in 2016 and 2017. This presents a significant gap between total available inventory, and third-party measurable inventory based on GroupM standard. For advertisers this means access to less inventory, or access without complete measurability.
What else will 4.X help with?
Outside viewability, 4.X will benefit users, publishers and advertisers through improvements to the operation and control of Server Side Ad Insertion, the unification of the Digital Audio Ad Serving Template (DAAST) into VAST, the deprecation of VPAID, a universal Ad serving ID, the introduction of SIMID and more.
What do we as an industry need to do?
For full roll out, the entire programmatic ecosystem must support the latest protocol. This includes client-side Ad servers, publisher Ad servers, DSPs, SSPs, Video Players as well as verification vendors.
Whilst certain players in this chain can already support this, due to the nature of programmatic ads, and the workflow throughout ad delivery, we require support and roll out throughout. If the tech vendors increase their capability to support the latest version, clients can start utilising 4.X creative tags, and publishers can prioritise the updates to integrations. With publishers and agencies equipped, DSPs and SSPs would follow if not already ready. The market feedback has been around each party waiting for the other, however the reality is, publishers and buyers can’t move forward until their primary Ad servers lead this.
To deliver the best, most effective and most measurable digital work for clients, as an industry we need to work together to get the most out of advancements to capabilities, particularly those directly correlated to increasing access for our brands to third party verified, measurable inventory, and a more advanced ecosystem.