Ad Tech & Ad Ops

VAST vs VPAID: What They Are, How They Work, Differences [+ More]

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By 2019, video-led traffic will account for 80% of the overall Internet traffic. Likewise, nearly 36% consumers say they trust video ads. So consequently, video ads are expected to generate up to $15.4 billion total ad spend.

VAST vs VPAID
Image source: Hubspot

So how do these stats make a difference to publishers? SimpleーPublishers work for revenue, and video advertising is proven just for that. Hence in that context, publishers often seek to understand the difference between VAST and VPAID; both as elements of video advertising.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

What Is VAST, a.k.a. Video Ad Serving Template?

In the simplest form, VAST is a script which empowers video players to run video ads in coordination with ad servers. The purpose of VAST is to programme a video player such that it runs video ads (on different websites and devices viz. mobile, desktop, tablet) in the way publishers want.

But how does VAST give the control in publishers’ hands?

With a certain set of instructions given by publishers, VAST makes a video player know:

  1. Which ad to play
  2. How to play the ad
  3. How long should the ad last for
  4. Where should users land after hitting the CTA
  5. If users are able to skip the ad

So how does VAST work anyway?

VAST vs VPAID: how vast works
Image source: Medium

The working of VAST is 3-step process which goes like:

  1. Calling for a request, where the video players calls the ad server asking to fetch an ad.
  2. Making a response, where the ad server responds to the video player having the media files along with needed tracking URLs.
  3. Triggering the URLs, where the video player launches the tracking URLs/pixels to allow other parties to start tracking and measuring impressions.

The versions of VAST?

VAST as a component of video advertising has evolved enormously. Here’s a guided tour through the journey:

  1. Introducing VAST 1.0 supporting MP4, 3GP, .MOV, play/stop/pause functionality, and basic event tracking (linear only).
  2. Moving on to VAST 2.0 supporting MP4, 3GP, .MOV, Flash, JavaScript, play/stop/pause functionality, quartile event and player tracking (linear, non-linear, and companion ads).
  3. Upgrading to VAST 3.0 supporting five ad formats, skippable ads, OBA compliance, and improved error reporting.
  4. Advancing to VAST 4.0 supporting separate video + interactive files, mezzanine files, server stitching, viewability, verification, and advanced reporting.
  5. After all advancements and upgrades, VAST is currently running at 4.1 available to users.

Are there any limitations?

No tech in perfect, so yes. As in case of VAST, ad viewability has often caused a concussion. Until 4.0, VAST did not particularly support the viewability standards, as it should have.

Moreover, some lose technical endsーVAST XML parsing error, VAST schema validation error, VAST redirection timeoutーhave prompted arguments on debugging regarding the application of VAST.

Moving on…

What Is VPAID, a.k.a. Video Player Ad Interface?

VPAID is also a script which allows video ad units to interact with video players. The first level difference between VAST and VPAID is VPAID empowers advertisers to serve rich media, interactive ads to users, which VAST doesn’t.

The good part is, VPAID allows advertisers to also record the data on how users are interacting with their video ads. Hence, allowing advertisers to closely refer to different performance measurement metrics and publishers to leverage video ads as a medium of revenue generation.

But how does VPAID make interactive ads really interactive?

By enabling and allowing tracking of a certain set of events, VPAID lets users to:

  1. Click on different tabs of the ad to view info
  2. Expand the overall view of the video ad
  3. Fill out a form embedded in the ad
  4. Take a survey embedded in the ad
  5. Interact with ad elements or even play a game

So how does VPAID work?

VAST vs VPAID: how vpaid works
Image source: Coull

Similar to VAST in just the beginning, the process of VPAID flows like:

  1. Calling for a request, where the video player requests an ad call from the ad server.
  2. Making a response, where the ad server responds to the video player having the VAST XML file along with the VPAID compliant ad unit.
  3. Communicating throughout, where the video player and video ad unit constantly exchange properties and events to-and-fro.
  4. Tracking activities, where both the video player and video ad unit send the tracked impressions and other activity data to their respective ad servers.

The versions of VPAID?

Till now, VPAID has had two versions viz. VPAID 1.0 and VPAID 2.0. Currently, what majority video players are synced with is VPAID 2.0, having the following fixes which 1.0 did not support:

  1. Starting with VPAID 1.0, supporting ad rendering on desktop and limited functionality with Flash.  
  2. Moving to VPAID 2.0, supporting ad rendering on mobile devices, autoplay VPAID on chrome for players smaller than 400×300, wider range of functionality than Flash using HTML5 and JS.

Are there any limitations?

Pretty much. VPAID mobile inventory is sometimes limited due to restricted compatibility with in-app environments. For mobile, a VPAID ad must be delivered in Javascript, though on desktop, the ad is delivered via Flash.

Also, again due to its incompatibility with in-app environment, VPAID is probably not considered an apt script because of its chances to propel a longer page-load time on mobile. VPAID is also alleged to ignore large volume of inventory on mobile and smart TVs.

VAST vs VPAID: What’s The Catch?

For VAST, the adoption of the latest version 4.1 has been a matter of contention due to its incapability to resolve issues like pre-impression based API integration for real-time scoring.

Also, as also highlighted above, the version until VAST 4.0/4.1 stood lose in meeting industry viewability standards creating lack of trust in publishers.

For VPAID, it uses .SWF format to read elements like images, GIFs, and other interactive elements, which standard formats don’t. However, it’s likely that video player used by publishers may not be able to read .SWF.

When this happens, the VPAID script automatically gets overridden by the VAST script ensuring the video ad still gets served. The catch? The ad shalt not support user interactiveness which VPAID is originally designed for.

Relationship Between VAST And VPAID

VAST vs VPAID or VAST with VPAID?
Image source: Epom

You might be wondering, what do VAST and VPAID share一relationship or differences? Well both. First, let’s clarify on how VAST and VPAID are related.

Think of this, VAST (video ad serving template) is an all-in-one CRM/automation platform. It does all the basic operational stuff an office place requires like accounting, call automation, task management, etc.

Now, there may be a requirement for feature advancement or customization in the solution which does not come with the standard package. At this point, VPAID enters. Understand this一needing extra features or customizations is an add-on, but not a different entity altogether.

Hence, VPAID will make those add-ons possible without replacing the entire VAST setup. At some level, we may call VPAID and VAST as proxy to each other, whenever the situation calls.

Difference Between VAST And VPAID, Explained

VAST vs VPAID

We discussed the relationship. However, on the technical end, there are certain differences which make the two technologies distinctive; the differences publishers and advertisers are often seeking. So here you go:

Basic  

  • VAST: Creates a communication bridge between video player and ad server.
  • VPAID: Creates an interaction bridge between video player and video ad units.

Intent

  • VAST: To enable video ads to run in the video player in coordination with ad server.
  • VPAID: To serve video ads which are able to interact with the video player as instructed.

Support

  • VAST: Supports standard form of video ads within in-stream videos across all compliant video players.
  • VPAID: Supports interactive form of video ads, playback, etc. within in-stream videos across compliant video players.

Data exchange  

  • VAST: Offers uniform way of exchanging data between ad server to video player independent of any technology.
  • VPAID: Offers API integration to facilitate video players to accept more ads independent of the complexity in video advertising.

Strength vs weakness

  • VAST: Doesn’t allow the video player to preload an ad unit before rendering the ad/media.
  • VPAID: Allows the video player to preload an ad unit before rendering the ad/media.

Version

  • VAST: Started from VAST 1.0, followed by 2.0 and 3.0 till the latest VAST 4.1.
  • VPAID: Started from VPAID 1.0 upgrading to the latest VPAID 2.0.

Intelligence

  • VAST: Helps video players understand what to run, how to run, what would be the ad duration, what’s the CTA, to skip the ad or not.
  • VPAID: Helps video ad units to be interactive inside video player like click tabs on the ad, expand the ad, submit a form, take a survey, play a game.

USP

  • VAST: Allows publishers to take control by specifying instructions to video players.
  • VPAID: Allows advertisers to track and measure users’ interaction with the ads.

Steps To Creating Custom VAST Tag

VAST tags are generally of two types namely VAST XML and VAST URL. But mostly, VAST XML is a rather preferred format if both XML and URL formats are supported by your DSP. In addition, there are three ways to creating a VAST tag. All you need to do is follow these steps:

1. Via Manual XML creation

You may choose to make the VAST script manually i.e XML. To do so, you must edit the predefined parameters and add them together to construct a full-fledged XML file for VAST tag.

Editing and combining parameters is a more preferred option by ad op developers as it’s less tiresome than coding a new file from scratch.

2. Via Google Ad Manager

Creating XML files manually is always an option. However, a rather simple process is given by Google Ad Manager. Here’s how it goes step by step:

  1. Log in to your Google Ad Manager a/c.
  2. Click Inventory, then Ad Units.
  3. Locate your video ad unit.
  4. Go to Generate tags.
  5. Finish the process of selecting tag type, tag options, and tag result; click Continue.
  6. Lastly, hit Done.

3. Third Party VAST Tag Generators

As a substitute to method #1 and #2, there are third party tools like Mobileads known as VAST tag generators which create the tags if you choose not to go through the process of creating an XML script file.

What you may need to ensure is you clearly communicate the specifications with VAST tag generators that match with your video player to avoid getting errors.

Steps To Creating VPAID HTML5 Creative

Since VPAID supports rich media interactive ads, creating VPAID creatives is pretty much the same as creating HTML5 banner ads. Getting an HTML5 creative made may appear overwhelming at first. So here’s a quick brief:

  1. Select an HTML5 ad builder.
  2. Start creating a banner ad; you may even use d/f formats.
  3. Add video to your creative using <video> tag to your HTML file.
  4. Close the creative in order to let it fire the events to your (publisher) video player.
  5. Preview and test.

Also Understanding VMAP And MRAID

VAMP aka video multiple ad playlist, current version 1.0.1, allows video ad makers to define the point of insertions of their ad inventory within long-form video content. Ad creators don’t really have control over the video player. So instead, they use VMAP to define the following:

How is VMAP related to VAST or VPAID, whichever?

VAST 3.0 contained a functionality which allowed ad slots to be inserted during long-form video content. However, the control was never given to be exercised by ad creators.

With VMAP in relation with VAST, ad creators get the bandwidth to decide the insertion structure of their video ad inventory and design users’ experience within videos. Ad creators get to decide the:

  1. number of break available during the video
  2. number of break occurring during the video
  3. duration and frequency of ad breaks within the video

And what about MRAID and its relation with VAST or VPAID?

MRAID aka mobile rich media ad interface definitions is an API used to cater and favor rich media interactive ads in mobile apps. At some point, a situation that arises is ad makers have to meticulously create ads which play well on both desktop and mobile.

Mobile accounts for nearly 70% of digital media time. Hence with MRAID, advertisers are able to serve ads across devices and in all kinds of apps. How it’s related to VPAID is since VPAID allows interactive ads designed using HTML5 or JS, ad creators may use MRAID’s commands to leverage device compatibility.

MRAID allows ad creators to create mobile-friendly video ads where users can:

  1. Expand or resize the video ad
  2. Get information if they want
  3. Access mobile device functionality

Although, all ad creators or ad ops developers don’t go with MRAID blindly. Sometimes, they end up creating their own framework to combat the device compatibility matter.

Afterword

Writing anything about videos in ad tech is great! There’s just so much data to fall for. Therefore, for a topic like this, I’d like to sum up with some more of it.

  • An average Internet user spends 88% more time on a website that has videos.
  • 73% consumers say they made a purchase after watching its video.
  • 73% marketers say they find videos positively impact their ROI.
  • Users are now watching 71% more videos than they were watching last year.

While the prima facie seems that videos are on the roll, the technical aspect of video advertising is going through a overhaul. These day-to-day advancements are leading to betterment and need for troubleshooting at the same time.

Either way, video ads are growing and they are growing like anything. As a publisher, if you’re not prepping for video ads yet, your website monetization strategy is probably lacking.

However with developments like VAST, VPAID accompanied by VMAP and MRAID, publishers are given more control, scope, and bandwidth to monetize using video as a medium. By now, I hope the difference between VAST and VPAID is not that complex as it may have seemed first.

Lastly, what’s surprising to me is, to what extent will these technologies go, and what upgrade will we see next?

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