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Confused by VPAID vs. VAST? There's a Clear Choice in Video Ad Standards

By Published on .

Credit: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg
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The first iPhone was released 10 years ago, drastically shifting the way consumers receive and interact with content. A decade later, marketers are still adapting to new mobile trends. Adults in the U.S. log almost two hours a day using video-related apps on their smartphones, and nearly 20% of all media consumption happens within mobile apps.

With this in mind, advertisers have shifted their focus to mobile marketing -- creating new platforms, standards and buying strategies designed to capture the attention of today's voracious, mobile users.

Currently, there are two video standards in the market: Video Player-Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) and Video Ad Serving Template (VAST). But not every standard is created equal when it comes to measurement, viewability and user experience.

First came VPAID

With the growth of digital video advertising, the Interactive Advertising Bureau in 2009 developed VPAID to enable marketers to add interactivity to preroll video ads on the desktop. Essentially, VPAID allowed advertisers to create and deliver a more enjoyable digital video ad experience by adding more interactivity for consumer.

The specification was rapidly adopted by brand advertisers, in large part due to its to support of "viewability" -- a critical, yet often misunderstood, measurement of how many people actually see a given ad. Indeed, up until recently, many media buyers considered VPAID to be synonymous with viewability.

Over the past year, however, it has become obvious to both advertisers and publishers that there are a myriad of challenges with VPAID, as well as with how viewability is reported.

There are other problems too. VPAID often causes long video load times, resulting in poor consumer experiences, lower render and fill rates for publishers, and lower viewability and completion rates for advertisers. Advertisers can't have it all with VPAID; they're forced to choose between metrics and user experience.

Also, because VPAID is implemented in either JavaScript or Flash, which works well in desktop browsers, it doesn't work in native iOS or Android video players. With demand for mobile at an all-time high, and with most media time being spent in-app, advertisers must optimize their approach to reach users where consumption takes place. The right path to achieve this isn't through VPAID.

Back to the Future: VAST

With VAST, a later specification from the IAB, app developers and the platforms that publishers use to offer in-app video inventory can pre-load video ads. This creates a seamless experience for in-app mobile consumers, delivering buffer-free video ads.

VAST-based video ads can also be delivered to a mobile device on a 4G network within 6/100ths of a second, or 60 milliseconds, on average. Given how quickly the brain can process information -- "instantaneous" is defined as events occuring within 50 milliseconds -- what VAST really delivers is smooth, "instantaneous" video ads. This instant-play experience allows publishers and advertisers to minimize consumer frustrations while increasing render, fill, reach and completion rates.

The advantage of VAST is that it can now support independent Media Rating Council-accredited viewability with instantaneous, buffer-free video ads --- a clear step forward for the industry. Advertisers can use third-party, MRC-accredited viewability and brand safety suites, giving them a concrete way to measure whether their ads are being seen by real people.

By eliminating slow load times and moving to an instantaneous, buffer-free video ad experience, advertisers can double their reach, viewability and completion rates, while publishers can double their render and fill rates.

Think outside the browser

VAST enables sophisticated mobile video buyers the same level of insight they demand on desktop browser experiences, without compromising media effectiveness. It can help ensure that they reach audiences effectively and efficiently on the mobile devices where they spend most of their time.