Video advertising is the process of displaying ads either inside online video content – usually before, during or after a video stream, known as pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll – or as standalone ads. A majority of video ads are bought, sold and displayed programmatically using various targeting methods and may also include interactive elements.
What Are the Different Video Ad Formats?
The IAB envisions three main video ad formats:
- Linear video ads are displayed before, during or after the video content, much like commercials on TV.
- Non-linear video ads run concurrently with video content so users see the ad while viewing the content.
- Companion ads include text, images or rich media that don’t interrupt video experience.
Where Are Video Ads Shown?
Video ads can be displayed across a number of advertising channels and mediums, including:
– In web browsers on laptops and mobile devices
– In mobile apps (in-app video ads)
– On over-the-top (OTT) devices
What AdTech Platforms Are Involved in Serving Video Ads?
Video demand-side platforms (DSP): A piece of software used by media buyers (brands, advertisers and agencies) to purchase video inventory from publishers via real-time bidding (RTB) auctions.
These video DSPs work in a very similar way to those used to serve display ads.
The main functions of a video DSP usually include bidding- and campaign-optimization algorithms, behavioral targeting based on third- and first-party data, measurement and attribution, and campaign reporting and analytics.
Video supply-side platforms (SSP): A piece of software used by publishers to aggregate, manage and sell video inventory to media buyers via RTB auctions.
Many video SSPs include analytics and reporting, yield management and optimization, and inventory management.
Video ad servers: An AdTech platform that provides advertisers with centralized storage, tracking and delivery of video ads.
Ad servers also help publishers manage campaign tags from advertisers and make decisions about which video ads to show.
Video ad networks: A piece of software that aggregates advertising space from various publishers and sells it to advertisers. Most ad networks don’t own the media, they just facilitate the buying and selling process between publishers and advertisers.
The Video Ad Serving Process
At the core, video advertising is not much different from display advertising, except for what is displayed on the screen.
Video ad serving can be a complex process depending on the number of AdTech platforms involved, as each will need to send and receive ad and bid requests.
The user visits a site with a video player, which sends a request to the publisher’s web server to retrieve the video content.
The server responds with code that tells the browser where to get the main video content from and how to format it in the player window.
The video player should support HTML5 video and VAST tags for communication with ad servers.
After the video content is fetched, the video player sends a request to the publisher’s ad server to retrieve a video ad (or at least the advertiser’s ad markup). This process requires sending a VAST request. The publisher’s ad server would also count an impression.
The publisher’s ad server programmatically decides which ad to display in the ad space and sends back the chosen ad markup.
The ad markup loads in the video player and sends a request to the advertiser’s ad server to retrieve the video ad.
The advertiser’s ad server counts an impression and sends back a link that directs to the video ad’s location so it can be displayed to the user in the video player. Most of the time, the video ad would be hosted on a content delivery network (CDN).
The video player sends a request to the CDN. The CDN returns the video ad file and the video ad is shown to the user.
There will often be other AdTech platforms involved in the ad serving process, depending on how the video ad space is sold (e.g. via RTB or direct deals).
The central element of video advertising is the player, which serves as an interface between the video and the user.
In order to display video ads, the player must be able to communicate with ad servers, as well with the page or device.
Video Ad Serving Template (VAST)
VAST is a common video ad serving template proposed by the IAB.
The key benefits of industry-wide adoption of VAST include:
- Faster implementation due to standardized macro-based ad requests, enabling all video players to more efficiently display video ads
- Improved support for mobile and OTT platforms
- Combined audio and video standards, with the inclusion of Digital Audio Ad Serving Template (DAAST)
VAST controls the delivery of video ads. It is used to describe the ad, beacons, and determines the location of various assets of the ad – media files, verification scripts and interactive scripts.
How Does a VAST Request Work?
In order to play a video ad, the video player must send a VAST request to an ad server for information about:
- The ad that should be played
- How the ad should be played
- What should be tracked as the ad is played
The VAST request is an HTTP address with a query string like:
The VAST inline response contains information like
Location of assets
What happens, for example, when the creative is clicked