IAB: Adopting VAST 4.2 Should Be a Priority for Advertisers, Broadcasters

Adoption of the updated Video Ad Serving Template (VAST), VAST 4.2, is important for advertisers and broadcasters and it should be prioritized on their roadmaps, according to industry experts.

VAST 4.2 and the Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition (SIMID) “kind of completes a refresh of the video stack” at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab, with 4.2 replacing VAST 2 and 3, Amit Shetty, senior director of video and audio products, said during the recent Ad-ID webinar “Understanding VAST 4.2 and Why It’s Important.” The webinar was “perfectly timed” because 4.2 launched June 28, he noted.

The latest version of the template modernizes the delivery of video ads by, among other things, separating a media file from the code, allowing for safe delivery, transparency, simplicity and increased platform coverage, he told listeners. It also enables better workflows and reduces errors, while providing closed captioning standardization, he said.

The new system fixes several “gaps” with prior video standards that had included bad mobile user experiences and several challenges for over-the-top (OTT) video that included live streaming difficulty, the ability to pass along client context without cookies, bad quality creatives and IAB’s older Video Player Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) standard causing errors, he noted.

Despite its flaws, VPAID had established a common interface between video players and ad units, enabling a richer interactive in-stream ad experience than was previously possible, according to IAB’s website.

VPAID is being replaced by SIMID and Open Measurement Interface Definition (OMID) now, Shetty pointed out, explaining: “What we are trying to get to is a much more simplified world where it’s very clear” that the latest version of VAST is “what you’re going to use for delivery,” while OMID is what’s used for verification and SIMID is what’s used for interactive ads and is focused on security. SIMID handles audio and video ads and, with it, the publisher of the content is in control of playback, he said.

Enhancements to VAST have been in the works for a while. After all, VAST 4.0 was introduced in early 2016. CBS Interactive and Viacom executives touted the benefits of it during a 2016 webinar and Viacom and Microsoft touted its benefits at the Metadata Madness event in New York that year.

But VAST 4.0 was “a little incomplete in the sense we hadn’t really defined exactly how verification” worked at that point, Shetty said during the latest webinar. VAST 4.1 was much more significant and 4.2 updates it further, he noted.

Enhancing VAST 4.2 even further is the use of Ad-ID, the industry standard for identifying advertising assets across all media platforms that was started in 2002. But there’s a misconception that Ad-ID is costly when it is not, according to Harold Geller, executive director of Ad-ID, which is a joint venture of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers.

More than 3,000 advertisers use Ad-ID now and close to 4,500 have used it to date, he told listeners, adding more than 3 million codes have been created by it. It’s been “well adopted” in the TV industry and, with VAST, it can now be “adopted across the digital platforms as well,” he said.

Noting that A&E Networks content is “everywhere,” Jermaine Roseman, its senior director of advanced advertising solutions, said: “Our challenge at A&E is really to maintain a consistent ad experience across anywhere our content is being shown. We believe 4.2 will help publishers, as well as A&E, maintain this consistency across all” endpoints.

VAST 4.2 “matters” because it provides a better overall user experience than VPAID, which has “always been a challenge to manage,” he said. The bottom line is that it will save time and money, he said, noting enhancements such as Ad-ID will help his company “easily pinpoint and resolve ad issues.” Dropping VPAID, meanwhile, will “reduce the likelihood of creative errors by allowing the player to keep control, which will always keep our product team happy,” he said.

To view a replay of the Ad-ID webinar, click here.