How VAST 4.0 is improving transparency and measurement of video advertising

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If you’ve been around lately in or close to digital advertisement you’ve surely heard about how video ads are to be the next big thing (marketers kinda like to always have some ‘next big things’ around, but hey, that’s how they are wired). True enough, with projections showing it passing the $10 billion mark annually very soon.

Day by day, the created content expands in quantity and quality, many believing firmly that video’s engagement is incomparably better than display ads – and allow me to forego all the caveats here: delving into the topic of creating truly engaging video ads is a whole separate discussion (just please, don’t make three minute long creatives for youtube and then complain about ad blockers ruining the industry at the next conference. No really, just don’t). But today we are here more for the technological side of the story.

As you are reading this blog I do assume that you’ve heard about VAST (Video Ad Serving Template). If you did not, read up on it. It’s been around since IAB introduced it in 2008, as the industry realised that some standardization is in the best interests of all parties involved, in order to somewhat tame the technological wild west of serving (video) ads.

VAST was great and worked well for it’s intended purposes (especially when VPAID rode in with support for a lot of new features), however it was lacking in at least one key area that we are in the business of flaunting it on our banners – supporting transparency through tracking and verification.

Video inventory sells high, still, some buyers are content with buying it blind – and let me tell you, if you think that an ad performed well if a bunch of plays went all through to 100% and you received a good number of clickthroughs, I might just have a very good offer for you (and a nice early-retirement plan for myself).

Earlier VAST versions do not support proper javascript based third-party tracking, and while VPAID bridges this gap, it’s simply not widespread enough in some markets, and the whole picture is too fragmented to offer broad solutions. Sure, you can build some good verification metrics using image tracking pixels only, but that uncovers the less sophisticated fraudsters only. With video inventory prices, it still makes sense to use any trusted verification service available, as filtering the simpler fraud schemes still generates you a hefty ROI, but the game of the name here should be advanced behavior analysis and viewability verification – which, by definition, requires javascript based tracking.

And so enters VAST 4.0.The latest iteration by IAB covers most rocking features from VPAID and earlier VAST’s, and also places the necessary emphasis on tracking and transparency. Devising 4.0, IAB has been careful not to affect current business needs while setting a path for the ecosystem to follow, all the while simplifying the technical requirements: VAST 4.0 offers better server side ad-stitching, tracking, verification, viewability, and verification than its predecessors. It takes into consideration the needs of all stakeholders involved in the equation from advertisers and content creators, to publishers and end users.

At enbritely we strongly hold the opinion that the industry needs to step up it’s game in terms of widely used standards of operations and in the demand for transparency (which, coincidentally, usually go hand in hand) – exactly the direction that VAST 4.0 has set out to explore.

We do think that the big players who want to be on the top of their adtech game should push to adapt as soon as possible – for keeping their edge as well as to lead by example.

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