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VAST 4.0: New Features And How Will They Affect Publishers and Advertisers

Before introducing to you with VAST 4.0, let me remind you of the significance of VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) in the video industry. VAST is XML package for delivering the video content with other information required for advertising. It organizes ad tags that serve ads to video players and transfers important metadata about an ad from the ad server to a video player. VAST was created in 2008 and since it’s creation it has contributed a lot to the evolution of the digital video marketplace, as it has provided the monetization of video content with ads.

Vast And Its Challenges

The template has met a number of challenges. The first big challenge is a lack of quality control. VAST is designed to deliver ads programmatically or include ads with complex interactions. But If a player doesn’t support VPAID ads, the ad will not perform.
The solution here would be for publishers to find a way to separate the video file from its interactive components, and that will enable for the ads to play in systems that cannot execute the interactive components.
The second challenge, very important for those with a great amount of online content, is the lack of a consistent identifier. Though VAST offers a creative identifier, it has been used inconsistently, and one creative may use different identifiers for every system it passes through.
VAST 4.0 has been created as the answer to all these difficulties and few more listed below (section is taken from IAB website: click for more on VAST tags):

  • Separate video file and interactive file: The complexity of digital video has given rise to the need to separate the linear video file from any creative interactive API files. While the VAST media file has accepted a variety of media files in the past, interactive APIs cannot always be executed. A VAST tag that provides the video file separate from APIs can display more successfully across platforms and devices.
  • Server-side support: While client-side ad execution and tracking has been the recommended way to track ad impressions and other metrics, digital in-stream video ads are often served to devices (clients) that cannot execute and track ads using traditional display methods. VAST 4.0 supports the increasingly common “ad- stitching” method for stitching linear video ads into a video content stream and sending it to players with limited capabilities.
  • Mezzanine file: To support advertising across video platforms that include long-form content and high-resolution screens, VAST 4.0 features include support for the raw, high-quality mezzanine file. The mezzanine file is very large and cannot be used for ad display, but ad-stitching services and other ad vendor use it to generate files at appropriate quality levels for the environment in which they play.
  • Ready-to-serve files: Along with support for including the mezzanine file, VAST 4.0 provides guidance on providing three ready-to-serve video files, each at different quality levels, to ensure that a linear video ad can always play. The IAB Digital Video Ad Format Guidelines offers guidance on video file specifications for linear ads.
  • Universal Ad ID: While VAST has offered a creative identifier in the past, it has been used inconsistently. The new Universal Ad ID feature is used specifically for including a creative identifier that is maintained across systems. The existing adId attribute for creative can still be used to log creative IDs specific to the server.
  • Ad Verification and Viewability Execution: Verification vendors have been using VPAID for measurement verification instead of using it for ad interaction as VPAID was intended. VAST 4.0 offers a designated space for inserting ad verification APIs, enabling a more streamlined process for executing files strictly intended for ad verification. In addition, a secondary impression element, the <ViewableImpression> element, has been added to allow publishers the option to track viewability on their inventory.
  • Support for categories: Ad categories help video publishers separate competing ad creative and improve brand safety. VAST 4.0 ad categories support these efforts.
  • Conditional ad declaration: In programmatic environments, a VPAID unit is sometimes used to decide whether or not to place an ad. If this “conditional ad” never results in an ad to display, the publisher may have to forfeit any revenue from the resulting lost inventory. A declaration in VAST for a conditional ad helps publishers prevent and reclaim any potentially lost inventory revenue in programmatic ad delivery.
  • New error codes: Along with support for the mezzanine file and other new features, added error codes provide additional troubleshooting support.
  • Standardized time stamp: Trackers used in VAST often include timestamp macros, but its use has not been consistent. In VAST 4.0, the [TIMESTAMP] macro and the format for time has been standardized to enable more consistent time-sensitive tracking.

On the publisher side, benefits are huge. VAST 4.0 eliminates ad-specific latency and provides a much easier way for the delivery of the ads to multiple devices, and keeps it safe from ad blocking. It offers better cross-screen standard as it narrows the demands on the publisher and the device, and provides new options, such as interactive over live content.
VPAID may still stand as the in-market standard for enabling viewability, verification and interactivity. VAST 4.0 on the other hand, seems to be the first standard which promises to replace the old model. Time will show will this version succeed.

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