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Why VPAID’s growing pains are problematic for publishers
Published on June 20, 2017 • Digiday
For every new ad standard, there is a new set of issues.
Video player ad-serving interface definition (VPAID) tags are having a moment due to the growing demand for video. But they still create problems for publishers such as lost revenue opportunities and latency.
A major cause of these headaches is that VPAID lets advertisers install arbitrary tags in the publisher’s webpage, and some advertisers that are pushing these tags still rely on outdated technology that’s not supported by most browsers or apps.
VPAID is code that runs within video players that gives ads interactivity (e.g., clickable overlays) and provides data to advertisers on how their ads are performing in areas like viewability and engagement. The standard is important because it helps video players and ad servers speak the same language, which helps publishers scale video ads. As video becomes a bigger part of digital advertising, protocols like VPAID will become more important.
Since VPAID facilitates interactivity, it has traditionally relied on Flash technology. But Flash doesn’t work on mobile, and its desktop death is near, too, since some browsers already block it. And come July, Google will refuse Flash ads within its DoubleClick Digital Marketing platform.
Another issue with VPAID tags is that they are heavy. Advertisers like VPAID because these tags give them a greater ability to track how users interact with their ads. For example, VPAID tags can tell advertisers the exact second that users muted an ad. But all that tracking code bogs down webpages, said Ryan Gauss, vp of product at mobile ad company AerServ.
Confusion also exists within the industry on what proper VPAID tags should look like, said Jana Meron, vp of programmatic and data strategy at Business Insider.
“We have had VPAID campaigns where the agency had to redo the tags two or three times before they were correct,” she said. “The reality is, it is just confusing and messy, and there aren’t clear guidelines on how you set this up to work correctly in all environments.”
For VPAID to overcome these issues, Interactive Advertising Bureau standards, advertisers’ specs and publishers’ app development will have to come in harmony with one another, said Amin Bandeali, CTO of ad measurement firm Pixalate. Although the IAB has incorporated VPAID into its mobile standard, mobile rich media ad interface definitions (MRAID), the adoption of the latest version of MRAID hasn’t taken off yet, he said. After all, VPAID is supposed to apply across channels, while MRAID requires app developers and advertisers to learn how to master a new set of code just for one type of channel.
“The conversation is definitely ongoing,” she said in reference to ironing out VPAID’s issues. “But it takes a while for the ship to turn.”