The limitations of current Viewable Ad Technologies

The limitations of current Viewable Ad Technologies

Viewable video advertising is a huge topic in the digital ad industry. This is because of the struggle to come up with a consistent way to deliver and measure 100% ad viewability.

There’s a discrepancy within the industry as to what the term ‘viewable’ actually means. There’s yet to be an agreed metric that tells both supply and demand if an ad unit is in view. And if it was in view, for how long?

There are multiple tech partners measuring viewability within the ecosystem, but no one method is the same. Whilst advertisers value the length of time and full resolution of an ad, publishers are less likely to value that metric in the same way. The IAB has their own standards but, to cut a long story short, there’s no consensus here. An industry-wide viewability measurement system is the loch ness monster of ad tech. If it does exist, it’s lurking below the surface, waiting to be discovered but so far, evading us all.

The marketplace has the ability to sell viewable impressions, but there’s a lack of efficiency on the sell-side that limits publisher yield. Advertisers are unlikely to pay for an impression that’s not deemed viewable by their own measurement standards. At the moment it’s a one-sided solution and we need a consistent algorithm if the benefits are to be equally spread. We can’t lump all of this terminology together and expect a ‘one size fits all’ metric. But we can get smarter about how we measure.

The requirements for viewable standards

The IAB and MRC have established minimum viable requirements for viewable advertising.

According to the IAB and MRC online viewable ad impressions guidelines:

As a baseline, it’s simple to appreciate the in-view measure aims to be an objective, qualitative, measure that simply answers the following questions:

  • Was the ad served?

  • Did it appear in-view?

  • Was there an opportunity for the user of the device to see it?

While these are the very basic guidelines for digital advertising, the metrics differ between ad formats:

  • For in-page display advertising, there must be 50%+ pixels in view for more than 1 second.

  • For video advertising, there must be 50%+ pixels in view for 2+ seconds.

The problem with current measurement

These seemingly basic standards are difficult to measure because browsers load content differently. In addition to this, many ad tech vendors are working to their own measurement of these standards. This means each vendor’s results will be different, affect expected CPMs and create mistrust.

Some vendors will assume certain domains are viewable and others aren’t depending on the historical data of those domains. But domain content changes regularly and ads vary widely, so this method can be very inaccurate. So while industry players are trying to address these issues, we’re not accelerating to true ‘viewability’ very quickly and we could be disadvantaging a lot of publishers.

Coull pre-bid viewability technology

To give our demand partners the very best opportunity to engage with their customers we developed Coull’s pre-bid viewability technology. Of course, the first step along that road to viewability that everyone seems to be moonwalking towards, is very simply for the ad to be seen in compliance for the minimum standards.

What we’ve developed is the ability to detect where the ad unit is on the page before it’s served, in other words, pre-bid viewability. This enables advertisers to decide what inventory to purchase based on whether their ad would likely be in view. We have the ability to run viewability tech that combines historical viewability and pre-bid viewability data. This tech is tested across different browsers to try and mitigate the lack of consistency, as well and give the best potential for efficiency and ROI success across campaigns.

For media companies, the ability to sell inventory that shows a high level of viewability delivery and opportunity to see means an increase in the value of that inventory in the market.

The biggest advantage of using this viewability technology is that it minimizes wasted ad spend, giving demand partners real-time data to help them make the best buying decision.

Coull provides viewability analysis using both page geometry and browser optimization and the tech is available through the Coull Video Ad Exchange which is in beta phase right now; due for full release before the end of the year.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

Next mobile video advertising standard will be a game changer

Standards are not known for being a rousing area of industry discussion, but that does not mean they aren’t critical to a functioning ad tech ecosystem.

Each standard’s release adds more oil to video advertising’s engine, ensuring it is running smoothly and firing on all cylinders. The usual incremental adjustments that we have accepted as the norm will take a back seat when a new version of the IAB’s mobile advertising standard gets the go-ahead.

Instead of the baby steps usually seen in standards point releases, the next release of Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions (MRAID), a specification that clarifies interoperability between publishers’ mobile apps, ad servers and media platforms, will be more akin to a low-gravity lunar leap. Display advertising’s founding fathers in the nineties would never have dreamed up the type of data that today’s marketers are set to access through MRAID 3.0.

IAB future-proofs MRAID

Although there is no official word from the IAB that the 3.0 release of MRAID is imminent, references about what the ad industry can expect were made in 2.0’s public comment document. Buried in the PDF is copy describing future capabilities of the MRAID API. The IAB would like to see the advertising SDK queried for smartphone features such as an accelerometer, compass and GPS.

Besides the above trio of inputs, Apple’s latest mobile device, the iPhone 6, also boasts a barometer, three-axis gyro, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor and biometric fingerprint sensor. These are only the tip of the iceberg as Japanese semiconductor firm ROHM offers a UV sensor and there is talk of air quality sensors too.

Of course, there will be concerns about privacy. Consumers will need to be educated about the sort of information advertisers can use. There will be no personally identifiable information. All the data recorded by sensors will be used to deliver ads to the right person at the right time. In order to receive subscription-free content and services, a value exchange must occur, and new data sources will be a powerful tool to ensure consumers receive more relevant and engaging ads.

Sensors and the engagement evolution

(image via techradar)

Biometric sensors will present brands with a unique opportunity, thanks to the rise of premium wearables. Temperature and heart rate, for example, can be used to improve the whole advertising experience for consumers. Imagine if you could measure how much an ad increases a viewer’s heart rate!

Ad-blocking software is becoming more pervasive. Eventually, only more engaging and relevant experiences will have any hope of cutting through. The data gained from biometric sensors may be part of the solution.

Allowing video advertisers access to sensory feedback in mobile devices will provide an unprecedented level of information. Some companies are already ahead of the curve, pre-empting any formal standards release. Adtile, for instance, makes use of a smartphone’s various sensors to create an interactive motion experience with ads. It has examples where a user shakes their phone to create a milkshake or receives directions for the nearest coffee shop. While Adtile only offers rich display formats, it does showcase the power of these sensors.

In addition to contextual information such as content categories, brands will be able to deliver dynamic ad creative based on a rich array of data such as a consumer’s movement, altitude, or air pressure. The opportunities are further expanded when a wearable is added to the mix. Imagine an iPhone ad that culls data from an attached Apple Watch on heart rate and recent exercise to deliver video ads around the health category.

In the not too distant future, video advertisers will benefit from the contextual information provided by a burgeoning array of sensors that each new generation of smartphone brings. Different formats, whether that is pre-roll, in-banner, in-stream or in-app interstitial, will deliver so many advertising possibilities, once the communication between mobile sensors and advertising creative is standardised. With all this data, will the inevitable release of MRAID 3 be the first step towards video advertising sentience?

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MRAID – the Language of Love in the App environment

In-app video monetization has taken flight, with engaged US viewers spending 88% of their time on mobile consuming in-app content (according to ComScore 2014). Advertisers know where to reach their audiences when they’re engaged, but they aren’t managing to do it quite right just yet. The inconsistency in publisher video players and the large amount of Flash still being used means not all content is being monetized and many ad impressions are being wasted. The biggest culprit inhibiting mobile video advertising is the Flash monster.

Flash based content often breaks, it doesn’t scale across platforms, often requires updates and numerous plug-ins; the list of issues goes on.  It’s a wonder mobile manufacturers and media owners like Apple haven’t moved to pure HTML5 based devices sooner. So for an industry that can’t wait, what can be done now?


HTML5 is a standard code that talks to multiple browsers and devices without causing inconsistencies and this has a huge impact on mobile advertising. The IAB has recognised the need for a universal language that allows video content within an app environment to be monetized using basic HTML5 and JavaScript code. They have defined a ‘language’ that advertisers and media companies can use to speak to each other, to get the best out of their campaigns, reduce strain on developers and increase revenues. That language is MRAID.

The function of MRAID

MRAID stands for the ‘Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions’ and essentially it creates a simple bridge between the disparate coding of the app world and the ad market using HTML and JavaScript. It allows the two environments to converge with a one-size fits all approach to in-app banner, display and interstitial advertising. Media companies will invariably have different SDKs for their apps which makes things difficult for advertisers because each SDK will require different specifications from the ad tag to enable a variety of advertising formats. MRAID acts as a standard API for all apps that allows in-stream advertiser/brand creative to translate across any browser and any mobile device. This IAB backed standard replaces the Open Rich Media Mobile Advertising initiative that was known as ORMMA.

How does it work?

MRAID sits between the app and the ad and creates a container that loads an ad within a web-view in the publisher app so the user stays within that environment. The IAB standard size of that ad is 320×50 pixels but the ad can tell the container if it wants to do something, such as expand or close. It then creates another view that links to whatever page it’s been asked to point to.

MRAID is a standard engendered by the IAB to make it easier for the industry to communicate to mobile. For developers it takes the guesswork out of matching ad specs and inventory capabilities because it’s as simple as writing a bit of JavaScript – instead of having write complex instructions into code. It means more ads will be served because there is an understanding between both sides meaning a reduction in errors. When information is clear, as it is using MRAID, ads are displayed correctly in-stream, rather than being passed back.

Image from the IAB MRAID Video Addendum

How are Coull using MRAID?

Coull uses MRAID in our SDK to serve our in-video overlay and interstitial ad formats. We’ll soon be able to serve even more ad formats within the app environment because the MRAID container will be able to use VPAID ad tags to load a video within the publisher’s app. This will enable MRAID to control the ad and display it as either a pre-roll, interstitial or post-roll video within the app’s video content stream. The IAB are currently working on this important update that will have a massive impact on mobile video ad revenues.

When combined with validated and enriched inventory, MRAID gives our demand partners more confidence in the mobile market and media companies are able to make the most of their entire inventory.

What problem does MRAID solve for media companies?

  • Media Companies with mobile video content can integrate rich media ad formats without having to worry about how it’s displayed.

  • In some cases MRAID can communicate with device functions and complete an action on behalf of the user, such as ad information to a user’s calendar, adding value.

  • The clincher is that media companies can earn more revenue from their apps without having to invest in additional development time, and without the risk it may fail.

  • MRAID compliance increases the value of inventory because advertisers will pay more it.

What problem does MRAID solve for brands and advertisers?

  • MRAID takes pressure off of the ad developer, saving valuable time and improving ad delivery success.

  • Makes buying inventory programmatically more efficient and gives brands more confidence in their purchase decisions.

  • Advertisers can purchase with ease across platforms, reaching audiences at scale.

  • The only requirement for MRAID is that the SDK the application chooses, should be MRAID compliant and recognise the API calls from within the ad code. These come from the publisher or sometimes the IAB, so working with compliant media companies increases the success of the ad campaign.

MRAID solves a host of problems for vendors, publishers and advertisers and makes the programmatic trading of in-app inventory better for all parties, including the user who can now experience higher quality, more personal advertisements, at the right time in their engagement.

The IAB have made addendums to the MRAID API including MRAID 1.0 and MRAID 2.0 and will continue to do so to improve its functionality. The responsibility is on media companies, advertisers and technology vendors to ensure they are up to date with MRAID specifications, and the onus is on mobile device manufactures to move away from a flash first environment now, and emerge into the mobile first content world.

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Upfronts and NewFronts are a relic of another advertising age

Dip into any ad-focused publication this week and you will see coverage of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Digital Content NewFronts, where advertisers can buy placements next to online shows well in advance of them airing. You also have the long-established upfronts, where the same bidding process happens with broadcast television’s new season of shows.

What might confuse digital media professionals, though, is the “futures market” that the upfronts and NewFronts are geared towards. Larger advertisers seem to favor them because there is the guarantee of a defined product at a set price, enabling them to plan their brand campaigns well in advance.

These products are attractive solely because they are known entities. Each show or event offers a certain reach, and because it is produced by a studio and distributed via established channels, advertisers trust that brand safety, ad fraud and viewability won’t be a problem.

Brands’ objectives suffer

The difficulty with upfront or NewFront buying is that it is critically limited in delivering a brand’s objectives. Brands want to reach their audience at scale, in a safe environment, and in a cost-effective way. And the truth is that unless you’re someone like Adidas sponsoring the World Cup, there are few shows or events capable of providing that no-brainer matchup between brands and shows/events with the required reach. They’re few and far between, which means the majority of brand spend in this futures market is going on a product that has loose contextual relevance, loose targeting and inexact reach.

This state of affairs has been accepted in the absence of alternatives, but over the last five years programmatic advertising has created a framework for making a brand’s digital spend more effective, efficient and accountable. First display, now video and next up is TV. A programmatic framework gives brands the ability to utilize granular targeting, segment audiences using their own first-party data, and make sure every impression they buy reaches the right person.

TV and VOD content, which makes up the bulk of the upfronts and NewFronts, is still the top end of the inventory market, and its prices should reflect that quality.  However, brands now expect flexibility, and may only want to buy a slice of a show’s audience, the slice that matches the custom audience segment they’ve defined and evolve dynamically day-by-day. That means buying in real-time. And it means buying across TV, VOD and short-form inventory sources to deliver granular targeting at scale.

Is programmatic the answer?

The industry has been slowly waking up to this, with lots of talk over the last year about TV bringing the benefits of programmatic buying and selling to a channel that is still the biggest recipient of U.S. ad spend.

This move to embrace the flexibility of programmatic is becoming more and more apparent, as less than a year after buying BrightRoll, Yahoo is already mentioning programmatic video in the same breath as the NewFronts. Lisa Utzschneider, the firm’s senior vice president of sales for the Americas, explained in a press statement how she wants to give advertisers a broader array of options for their campaigns.

“We know that advertisers want to tap into premium video content that connects them with engaged audiences across devices, and they also want to buy video ads programmatically,” she said. “With our new slate of digital video programming and a wide variety of video ad formats and buying options, we’re helping advertisers meet business objectives – whether they want to buy a show, buy a channel or buy an audience segment.”

It will take a little longer for the technology that’s now available for VOD services to become available to the TV industry, but there is an irresistible trend towards the application of programmatic buying and selling techniques up the inventory quality scale. This trend is absolutely necessary if the tools available to advertisers are ever going to reflect the fragmented, multi-channel content experiences of their audiences.

Planning and buying campaigns against silo-ed channels, months ahead of time, is a relic of another age of advertising. The challenge now is for media companies, vendors and advertisers to accelerate the delivery of the infrastructure that will bring the benefits of programmatic trading to every ad opportunity, so that brands can define their audiences against a variety of data sources, before buying it across every channel.

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What’s in a Word? The Reality of Native Advertising – Part Two

Last week I posted my overall thoughts on the first half of the IAB’s first Content Conference held in London. Its focus was the notion and reality of ‘native advertising’. The second installment of this blog covers – you guessed it, the second half of the conference which was insightful, if not a bit, well – quirky.

(photo from the IAB)

A picture tells a thousand words

Krane Jeffrey from Yahoo/Tumblr presented some of the trends in branded content marketing that are helping it become more accepted by audiences.

The age old ‘a picture tells a picture tells a thousand words’ still holds true today. In fact, with shorter attention spans, and ‘less time’ to consume ‘more content’, visuals are more effective than ever. Creating relevant content with copy less than 300 words is really effective for brands because audiences can consume on any device, without taking up too much of their precious time, and, importantly- it’s easily shareable.

Jeffrey explained three basic components of successful branded-content marketing:

  • Authenticity

There needs to be value in the content and it needs to be written with authenticity, rather than being evasive as to its true nature. Audiences are used to branded content now and won’t so easily fall for something that’s disguised, be honest.

  • Commitment

There needs to be a real belief and investment in the strategy, if you only go in half way, it shows. Publishers and agencies need to work together to create engaging content and a long term relationship.

  • Distribution

If you’re investing in the content, you also need to invest in the distribution, there is no point making great content if it never gets seen – it’s like buying an amazing leather jacket and never wearing it. Shameful.

(Photo from the IAB)

Feel the love

Alex Cheeseman of Outbrain and Kohlben Vodden of StoryScience spoke about the parallels between online dating and online advertising including the common denominators of trust – commitment – and ensuring it’s all being done for the right reasons. This metaphorical presentation included two other really important points:

  • ‘Scale isn’t a dirty word’

We should be looking for reach through quality content that might well proliferate through social channels. Branded content can be authentic and scale, it just requires dedication and a good partnership between publisher and brand.

  • Useful, engaging, emotional content – is gold dust

We now live in a content ecosystem that enables us to consume something arbitrarily, that interest us, and out of that, serendipitously discover another. By sharing content we’re genuinely interested in and following publishers we’ve come to trust, we build our own hub from which we continuously discover content we love.

The fame game

Average Joes and plain Janes have been given a voice through the medium of video, and this means those guys and gals next door, can become stars in a matter of clicks. Hamish Nicklin from Google spoke about how the very nature of fame has changed dramatically thanks to online video. Brands are starting to look to this new fame making machine because when anyone can be famous, it’s important to realize that famous people, in turn, have fans – and fans? ‘Well, fans are nuts!’

Brands want to be famous, because ‘true fans are loyal beyond reason’ – Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi

Hamish presented three key areas to remember when creating content with the goal of building brand awareness and loyalty.

  • Hygiene – Be the most compelling answer to consumers searches on topics related to your brand

  • Hub – Give ‘browsers’ and ‘searchers’ a reason to return with relevant, inspiring content.

  • Hero – Inspire browsers with impactful stories.

Phillip(Philly) Byrne of BuzzFeed gave us this line which is as good as any to end on. ‘Great content finds the right audience’!

If brands and advertisers can harness quality content to tell their own story without ‘tricking’ audiences, the relationship between publisher and advertiser (which is now becoming more and more prevalent through programmatic advertising), can thrive in the native sense, as long as we keep the content and the audience at the heart of the story.

Of the panels and presenters heard over the day, there were differing opinions about what native is, how it’s being created and whether it’s a good thing or not. The only clear realization was that there is a need for a simpler term and a more efficient and understandable way to attribute engagement and ROI from this format of advertising. Hopefully a year on from now we’ll be seeing some real breakthroughs in regard to just that.

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What’s in a Word? The Reality of Native Advertising – Part One

I recently attended the IAB’s inaugural content marketing conference focused specifically on native advertising. What came out of this? The term native advertising has been deemed bullshit (at least by the majority of panellists and attendees) – and what the industry needs is transparency, truth and a little thing called trust.

But wait, let me take you back to where it all began…sex. Teenage sex in fact, 16 year old teenage sex to be even more specific. Don’t be alarmed, it’s not what you think. Native advertising was not spawned from a teenage romance turned horribly wrong – this is just the opening line of the conference as delivered by our host Clare O’Brien, Senior Industry Programmes Manager at the IAB. To be fair, I’m sure she was testing to see if the audience was suitably caffeinated for the conference to commence – we were and it did. Her metaphor was used to provoke the idea that while everyone may be talking about native advertising, no one seems to really have a firm grasp on what it’s all about, and even fewer are truly doing it.

Kunal Gupta – from Polar, a US based advertising platform was the first speaker to take to the podium and presented some benchmark data the company has collected about global audience response to native advertising. He provided some great insight specifically into UK audiences.

The section of his presentation I found particularly interesting was his analysis of UK audiences. It seems the UK is far more accepting and engages much deeper with native content than audiences across the globe. The fact that UK content is largely still created and controlled by the publishers could have a lot to do with this high engagement rate. The quality of content remains firm, and so, it’s not surprising the trust between reader/viewer and publisher isn’t severed.

Kunal also revealed figures that support the accelerating trend of native content engagement on mobile devices, showing a 50% higher click-through rate than that of desktop.

Nick Bradley – Head of digital sales at Northern and Shell took a strong stance with his topic – ‘Is it just me or is native shit?’

The focus was on audience’s growing appetite for quality content and how publishers need to continue to tell compelling stories with content and maintain the trust of their audiences. Nick did draw attention to the power of native advertising when it’s done really well and gave some of our favorite examples in Red Bull and of course the New York Times with their ample supply of engaging and ground-breaking long form pieces and branded content extravagance.

Nick took a quote from George Parker of the Financial Times to make a poignant statement.

‘It’s all about the content.  Shit will always be shit, no matter what platform it is delivered on.’

The impression I got was that Nick isn’t convinced in any way shape or form by native, and his stats showing that 24% of people scroll native content as opposed to 74% on standard content is invariably evidence that it does still have a long way to go before it truly impacts audiences. He is however, willing to accept that if publishers are authentic, discerning, transparent and use the right tone with their audience, even sponsored content can result in a positive, valuable user experience that matches expectations. 

Kenneth Suh of Unruly posed the question of how brands can win attention through their videos when interruptive ads such as pre-roll are so unpopular with audiences?

Online video is the medium of the moment with high engagement rates and publishers flocking to create their own content, but, without learning the lessons of the often negative impact of disruptive advertising formats they really aren’t taking advantage of the brand association and native ad integration that is possible.

  • Video sharing has increased 50x since 2006.

  • It’s predicted that digital video ad spend will reach 22.5B by 2017.

  • YouTube now only accounts for 24.3% of views and this includes embeds.

There is so much opportunity across platforms on different players – it’s now about advocacy, action, awareness and attention.

Anna Watkins of Guardian Labs talked us through some of the high profile work The Guardian has been doing on the native side with case studies from EE and Unilever. The success they’ve achieved with these campaigns is astonishing but the great thing is they’re going about it with the reader/viewer at the fore of the creative. She talked about how the content was collaborative with their audience, shareable and probably the most important – it was authentic.

Matt O’Neil from Unanimis spoke about native at scale which takes into account many elements including the ability for brands to be seen by consumers within the editorial space, be engaging enough for them to take notice, to function on mobile devices and appear natural within that space; and be tracked alongside other formats.

To do this, clear attribution solutions are needed and we should learn from the past that a simple click metric is not going to give you the data you need to understand performance or audience perceptions.

So far there have been mixed opinions as to how ‘native advertising’ has performed over the past year but the evidence certainly suggests there is opportunity when brands and publishers come together with audience engagement being the overarching goal. The second half of the conference was just as intriguing with panels and presentations on how human behavior dictates campaign strategies and how video is changing the fame game.

I hope you’ll check out part two where I give you the best bits of what I took from this, the very first IAB content marketing conference.

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IAB Digital Britain – Coull wrap up

The IAB Digital Britain Conference was recently held in Manchester – the most important subject on the agenda? Digital Advertising revenue spend for the year of 2013. Attendees gathered from around Britain to hear the big figure revealed, but that’s not all that was on offer.

CEO of IAB UK, Guy Phillipson revealed the projected revenue spend for the full year of 2013 was £6.1bn but announced an official spend of £6.03bn – an increase of £853m in a full year and a 15.2% increase on a like for like basis. The figures show a positive forward momentum that really encourages those in the industry to keep pushing, challenging, and participating in innovation to help not only improve revenue, but improve the longevity of digital advertising by:

  • keeping it brand safe

  • protecting privacy

  • working to make advertising more and more contextually relevant for audiences.

From our perspective, the really juicy part of the Adspend Study came in the form of the figures for online video which made up 17% of all display advertising with strong signs of increasing.


  • Video itself grew to £325m in 2013 which is a growth of 2/3rds – very positive figures.

  • It was made clear that digital advertising has shifted from a click to purchase model of conversion, to having real value in creating brand awareness and purchase intent.

  • Mobile ad spend grew to £1.03bn which is a massive increase of 93.3% on a like for like basis.

Multiple screens and multi-tasking

IAB Senior Research Manager, Hannah Bewley spoke about the IAB RealView research project that showed how people use their mobile in conjunction with other devices (#omniscreens) in everyday life. Perhaps the most intriguing finding was that many people were interacting with their devices while conversing face to face with friends and family and not even realizing their distracted behavior. A lot of participants were also making use of multiple devices/screens at the same time to complete tasks more quickly or easily, or to in fact, multi task.

More technology, more problems?

Amit Kotecha – Head of Marketing EMEA at Quantcast spoke about the vast amount of data that we now generate and have access to, but that without insight, data doesn’t mean anything.

‘Data is dumb until we give it meaning’

Amit stated that we used to be happy with a simple report detailing impressions, clicks and CTR but we now require much more granular information relating to the consumer conversion journey.  We need insight into attribution, viewability and brand safety and data can reveal this information if it’s analyzed and reported in the right way.

Social video

Oliver Smith from Unruly spoke about how we can make video that get’s shared, watched and ultimately remembered.

The key learnings where the reasons people share videos and how brands can invoke a positive response:

  • Make your video emotional

  • Negative emotions may well get you noticed, but they are risky

  • Exhilarate your audience –  exhilaration delivers 65% brand recall

  • Be proud of your brand – put emotional and interesting content in front of your audience and they’ll be more likely to share even branded video.

  • don’t over invest in the content and under invest in the distribution – there is no point spending time and money on content creation if you don’t have the means to make it visible to your audience.

A video that results in a positive physiological response is much more likely to be shared socially.

Oliver identified nine different reasons for sharing a video that range from sharing similar interests and being charitable, to participating in current trends, self expression and opinion seeking. Video should appeal to a user’s emotional needs and give them to opportunity to fulfill those needs online.

The IAB Digital Britain conference encapsulated the progression of the digital advertising industry and gave a good picture of not only where it might be headed from an industry perspective, but from a user perspective. Understanding how consumers interact with media technology and how they use digital media is the key element in driving innovation, better experiences and sustainable and increased revenues.

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Explaining the Video Player-Ad Interface Definition (VPAID)

Spelling it out

The purpose of this post is to briefly explain VPAID and its function within online video advertising. If you’ve been monetizing your video inventory for some time, you might have noticed some changes in the ads delivered across your site. You may have also developed your own unique video player to enable compatibility with the standard ad unit requirements that have been implemented by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

If all this sounds relatively new to you, don’t panic – the standardisation was implemented to ensure better measurement and compliance across the online advertising industry. You may only just be beginning to serve advertising across your inventory or you may be switching to the IAB standard ad formats so let’s take a look at VPAID specifically and what it means for you.

VPAID – the IAB’s Video Player-Ad Interface Definition

The IAB created this ad format to ensure a standard template for online video advertising across all types of video players that allows all compliant publishers to display. VAST itself however, is limited in regard to the extent of interaction the ad unit allows the user.

The VPAID ad format allows a rich interactive user experience with in stream video ads. Not only does it provide a deeper experience for the user than VAST, but it captures and reports how the user interacts. Advertisers can use this information to improve their creative and technical specifications.

In short, VPAID allows executable ads with compatible video players, while VAST delivers a packaged ad with basic interactions.

Video ad flow with VPAID


The Executable Ad

VPAID communicates a set of instructions that informs a video player of the length of the advertisement, tells it when to play, when to disappear or re-appear within the player and allows the user to interact in a variety of ways.

An example of a VPAID enabled interaction would be that a user could click on an ad to view more detailed content such as a longer version of a pre-roll. The publisher can choose to set what time and where the ad appears within the content, and the basic functions of play, pause, close/hide etc. remain. Whatever action is taken by the user will be recorded and reported back to the advertiser.

Types of ads supported include:

  • Clickable pre-roll

                                   clickable pre-roll

  • Companion banner

                                   companion banner

  • Overlay banner

                                   overlay banner

  • Overlay banner with click-to-linear video ad

                                         overlay banner with click-to-linear video advertisement

What if the player can’t read a flash format such as the type VPAID uses?

VPAID uses the .SWF file format which enables graphics, gifs and other interactive elements via Flash that standard file types do not. If a publisher player is unable to read the .SWF (eg, it only reads JavaScript) the VPAID tag will be overridden by the VAST tag so that an ad will still be served but it won’t have the interactive capabilities the VPAID tag allows for.

What does it mean for advertisers?

VPAID is an important IAB development because it means advertisers can see how individual ads are performing and devise improved ways of engaging their audiences and increasing the level of interaction with the ad.

What does it mean for publishers?

Publisher players must be compatible with IAB standards to ensure VPAID ads are executable and this is of mutual benefit across the industry. Publishers compatible with VPAID ad formats can accept more rich interaction advertising, and the premium experience, according to the IAB, will often lead to ‘premium compensation’. The IAB standard formats also make it easier for publisher development teams because they only need to build one compatible player which will accept all standard formats.

All example images from: iab.net 

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