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MarTech Landscape: What are VAST and VPAID?
Short answer: They help to make the video ad ecosystem possible.
“I need more acronyms in my life,” said no digital marketer ever.
And, in the sea of initials in which marketers swim, two acronyms often float by: VAST and VPAID. In this article, part of our MarTech Landscape Series, we look at these two specifications for video ads.
The Video Ad Serving Template spec (VAST) was introduced by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) in 2008.
It employs XML script to describe how ads will be served to digital video players in websites and apps, so the player knows what to do. By letting video players and video ad servers speak common phrases, it allows the servers to provide a single ad type to many kinds of players.
As IAB recalls:
Before VAST, there was not a common in-stream advertising protocol for video players, which made scalable distribution of ads impossible for ad servers. In order to serve ads to multiple publishers using disparate proprietary video players, ad-serving organizations had to develop slightly different ad responses for every publisher/video player targeted. This approach was expensive and didn’t easily scale.
The VAST protocol describes such parameters as which ad to play, how long it should play and whether viewers can skip it, plus it contains some tracking capabilities.
The latest version of VAST is the fourth one. Version 3.0 allowed video players to declare the formats they would support, including Linear Ads, NonLinear Ads, Skippable Linear Ads, sequenced groups of ads (called Ad Pods) and Linear Ads with Companions. Not all publishers support the latest version, but each new version is backwards compatible.
While VAST is the foundational protocol for the wide distribution of video ads to sites and apps, it’s only one of three specs for in-stream video ad formats in IAB’s Digital Video Suite, or V-Suite. The three specs can be used separately or in some combinations.
A second spec, VPAID (Video Player-Ad Interface Definition), was also initially released in 2008 and is designed to specify more interactive video features for video ads. These can include various responses to a click by a user, such as forms that appear as overlays or expanded video. This spec, which is sometimes used instead of the VAST ad tag, also includes measurements of engagement and viewability.
In 2012, IAB added its third standard, the Video Multi-Ad Playlist (VMAP). It allows a content publisher or an ad network to schedule ad insertions in the program content if the publisher doesn’t control the player, such as pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll. While ads can be scheduled in other ways, VMAP allows mass scheduling.