Ad Tech & Ad Ops

IABs Video Ad Standards: Everything You Need to Know

Before we begin explaining what video ad standards are, there’s one thing that you may find of interest. IAB released the Open Measurement SDK to create a common framework software development kit (SDK) to work for all vendors. Resultantly, publishers will need only one SDK to measure viewability despite working with multiple vendors. 

Video Advertising- The Rise

There are two main reasons publishers and advertisers find selling and serving video advertisements complicated: 

  1. Video players’ technical capabilities 
  2. Consumption of video ads on multiple platforms (mobile, desktop, tablet, etc.) 

The most common access point for video ads has been the desktop, but the consumption of video ads on mobile and tablets has been on the rise in the past decade. 

The popularity of advertising on mobile platforms owes to the video advertising engaging users and making an impact which is why US digital ad spending on video has increased from $152.71 billion in 2020 to $239.99 billion. And the ad spending is projected to surpass the $300-billion mark by 2025.

Creation of technical specifications for each party involved- publishers and advertisers become essential to streamline the process of selling and serving video advertisements. These specifications include certain criteria and delivery of video ads across various platforms and devices without any hindrances. 

IAB’s video ad standards:

Let us understand specifications for IAB’s video ad standards: 

International Advertising Bureau, aka IAB, announced an update to the ad format guidelines for publishers to scale their ad inventory across different distribution channels, such as programmatic markets or ad servers. IAB has published technical specifications on video ad standards and their metric definitions- size, aspect ratio, file formats, and best practices developed by IAB members with the required expertise.

Who are video ad standards for?

Video ad standards are mainly for publishers, video ad developers, and adtech vendors:

1.  Publishers: 

Video ad standards guidelines will serve as a resource for publishers to provide creative video ads submission requirements, such as ‘ready-to-serve’ files for streaming, download, and mezzanine file for video ad formats. These standards will help publishers transcode the file suitable for the environment in which the ad will serve. 

2.  Ad technologists and Ad servers: 

The video ad standards guidelines can be used by creative ad agencies, video ad technologists, and ad-serving partners for video ad metric definitions, such as total site traffic, bounce rate, page value, impressions, CPM, quality score, clicks, conversions, etc. For more details, you can refer to our article here. 

3.  Video ad Developers: 

IAB video ad standards lay down the general video ad requirements for ad developers, such as maximum file size, ad space, CPU load, and other metric definitions. Developers may need to design ads that run on all the platforms. Video ads in mobile phones require planning for smaller screens, smartphones’ OS, shifts in bandwidth capabilities, and whether the platform is a native video player or a web player. 

VAST- 

The Video Ad Serving Template enables a consistent delivery format for video ads on different platforms (desktop, mobile, tablet). VAST is a standardised XML-based template* for video ads. We have discussed VAST in detail here

Originally introduced in 2008, VAST was launched to grow the marketplace by standardising video ad responses to aid the publishers, ad networks, ad-tech vendors, etc. Since then, VAST has been updated several times to comply best with the emerging trends in video advertising. The most recent version, VAST 4.2 was released in 2019. 

*XML refers to Extensible Markup Language for storing, transmitting, and reconstructing data in a language readable by both humans and machines. 

VAST enables the communication between the ad servers and the ad player for a seamless video ads display. 

The common functions of VAST are to let a video player know:

  1. Which ad to play
  2. How to play the ad
  3. Whether the ad is skippable or not
  4. How long the ad will play 

VAST supports providing linear video ads in a stream to video players using server-to-server methods and raw, high-quality mezzanine files to enable video ads on various platforms. 

The current version, VAST 4.0, addresses the challenges of smoother operation of the video ads by separating video API files and interactive API files with the help of a VAST tag. A new Universal Ad ID feature has also been introduced to include the creative identifier across various systems. 

You can read more about the latest VAST 4.1 here

VPAID- 

IAB’s Video Player Ad Interface Development is here to establish a common interface between ad players and ad units for a rich, interactive ad experience. 

VPAID provides a common ad format to achieve two primary goals, a) providing users with a rich ad experience, and b) capturing ad playback and user interaction details. 

As we explained earlier, VAST enables a seamless ad display, but it alone doesn’t offer support for a rich interactive ad experience. 

The amalgamation of VAST and VPAID is the enhanced solution for a great ad experience:

  1. Increase common video ad supply so that publishers can accept video ad serving from the servers. 
  2. Improves ad supply liquidity
  3. Common technology specifications for ad developers. 

VMAP- 

Like VAST, VMAP is also an XML template used to place multiple ad slots in a video content in the absence of control over the video player or the video content distribution they are using.

IAB’s Digital Video Multiple Ad Playlist (VMAP) allows the the video content owners to exercise control over the ad inventory to capitalise on advertising while maintaining the integrity of their program content. 

VMAP is complimentary to VAST and is only userful when the video content owners have no control over the video player and the distribution channel of the video content. But VMAP allows the content owners to have control on the advertising exeroeinces within the content. 

Digital Video Ad Formats

While sharing guidelines for video ad standards, IAb broke down the Video ad formats into different ones- linear video ads and non-linear video ads. 

  1. Linear video ads are the ones that interrupt streaming content, like a TV commercial. They can play before, during, or after the streaming content. 
  2. Non-linear video ads are served as the overlay content on the streaming video content. The user sees the video ad while streaming the content without interruption. Non-linear video ads are small enough to allow unobtrusive streaming experience. They can be delivered as text, static image, or interactive rich media. 
  3. Companion Ads are the video ads served along with linear and non-linear video ads as text, static image, or skin wrap. These ads run srurrounding streaming content. Companion ads are always served with a master ad which can either be linear or non-llinear. 

Video Ad formats Standards: 

Linear Video Ad Format: 

  1. Can be inserted pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll (before, during, after) 
  2. Ad duration should be- 6 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds. 
  3. Both the video window and the companion ad must be clickable with their links to the advertiser’s site. 
  4. Controls like fast forward, skip the ad, etc. should be negotiated before the campaign start. 
  5. Preferred aspect ratio is 16:9 for HD screens but a 4:3 can be accepted, too. 

Linear Ad File Submission Specifications: 

Progressive download formatMPEG-4 for progressive download. Produce high, medium, and low versions of each asset for publisher to choose from suitable to the environment (desktop, mobile, tablet). 
Adaptive Streaming FormatHLS (M3U8) or MPEG-DASH for adaptive streaming format. High, medium, and low file recommendations.
Video CodecH.264
Aspect Ratio16:9 preferred; use 4:3 when the source material is 4:3. Avoid horizontal letter-boxing, vertical pillar-boxing, and skewing or stretching. 
16:9 aspect ratio resolutionLow: 360p or less. Typical resolution- 640×360Medium: Greater than 360p but less than 576p.High: Greater than 576p, upto 1080p
4:3 aspect ratio resolutionLow- 480pMedium- greater than 480p and less than 576pHigh- not applicable. 
Video Frame RateMaintain the frame rate of the original content unless the publisher has specified their specifications. Avoid frame rate conversion, transrating, telecine. 
Video Colour Space4:2:0 YUV Chroma Subsampling
Video InterlacingNon-interlaced, no intra-field motion, that is, blending.  

For more specifications, click here.

Non Linear Video Ad format: 

The non-linear video ad standards are to outline the minimum considerations for nonlinear ad development. You can check with the publishers for their required specifications. 

  1. They are to be inserted during the streaming video content. 
  2. Ad duration may be persistent or 5-15 seconds long. 
  3. Click or rollover on the overlay must expand to auto-initated video or take to the advertiser’s site.
  4. Ad unit should be labelled as ‘Advertisement’ inside the ad frame or next to it. 
  5. Initial dimensions of the ad may be one of the- 300×50 or 450×50; the overlay must not be more than ⅕ of the height of the player. However, publishers can allow an extra 20 additional pixels in the form of drop shadows or flying sparks, etc.
  6. Nonlinear ad should have maximum file size of 100k for initial portion. However, user-initiated ad may be of any size. 
  7. Text and image should have 100% opacity, the background with 70% opacity. 

For more nonlinear video ad format standards, click here.

In closing

IAB’s video ad standards extend to the different types of video ad formats, the file submission recommendations, metric specifications, audio guidelines, etc. With the help of VAST, VPAID, and VMAP, advertisers and ad developers can bring rich interactive ad experience for the video player. 


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