VAST vs. VPAID: How to Conquer In-App Video Advertising

Mobile video viewing is continuing to grow, with the average US adult watching over 40 minutes of video content on their smartphone daily.1 While some video platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime operate on a subscription-based version, most video suppliers are ad-supported giving a excellent opportunity for advertisers. In this blog post, we will offer an overview of the VAST and VPAID criteria and their key differences, review the top-performing in-app video ad formats, and discuss our recommendations for advertisers seeking to begin — or grow — their video advertising strategy.

VAST vs. VPAID

When implementing an in-video advertisement, there are two important criteria: VAST and VPAID. VAST is short for Video Ad Serving Template and was designed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to allow video players to communicate with third party ad servers. Therefore, there was no way for buyers to guarantee viewability. While this problem has been solved with VAST 4.1, it’s the reason why many advertisers still decide to implement VPAID.

VPAID, short for Video Player Ad Interface Definition, is a list of APIs that establish communication between an ad and a movie player. While VAST defines how to produce a movie ad, VPAID defines how the player interacts with the ad and is placed inside the VAST code. VPAID was designed to allow for interactive in-stream advertising creatives, such as an”interactive showroom” commonly used for showcasing cars where a consumer is able to move around the vehicle to explore the different features. However, as this code was intended just for desktop viewing, issues with this format have become clear as advertising continues to shift towards mobile.

One reason that VPAID remains in use is its ability to measure ad performance. However, the associated risks outweigh the benefits. For instance, advertisers have misused the format by stacking unlimited ad sources inside the code — taking advantage of the lack of management from the publisher’s side. This VPAID code may completely take over the video player leading to bad user experience, including draining a consumer’s smartphone and consuming data which then reflects poorly on the publisher’s app. In addition, as there is not any widespread support for VPAID in the most common advertising SDKs, advertisers can’t trust their exchange partners to render the ads properly, which also impacts viewability and ad performance.

Moving Beyond VPAID

With VAST 4.1, one key feature has been added: the ability to measure the viewability of an ad through the Open Measurement (OM) SDK. The IAB released this SDK in collaboration with several leaders within the industry, such as Moat, Integral Ad Science (IAS), and DoubleVerify among others. This cooperation means that publishers don’t have to install a number of SDKs in order to guarantee ad viewability, but instead implement one SDK that may satisfy multiple requirements, depending on which provider(s) an ad calls for.

Given the problems with VPAID, many mobile ad exchanges have moved away from supporting this standard, and at Smaato we also encourage advertisers to move away from VPAID and completely adopt VAST. This recommendation follows the IAB, as VAST makes it much easier to both verify traffic and ensure viewability — thus limiting ad fraud. SIMID creates a secure and safe environment for publishers and reduces the misuse problems which were located in VPAID.

Top Performing In-App Video Ads

We covered why it is important for advertisers to use VAST for in-video advertisements, let us examine some of the top performing in-app video ad formats: rewarded, native, and interstitial.

Rewarded video ads continue to be among the most beloved formats of in-app advertising for both advertisers and consumers, because they have high completion rates. Users opt-in to watching an ad in exchange for a reward, like an additional lifetime in a game or ad-free service for a period of time. Because the user chooses to see the ad, they are more likely to remain engaged — meaning that many users may take additional actions and ad recall is large. While the format has typically been related to gaming apps, rewarded video ads are increasingly seen in other categories, including music and learning apps.

As they mimic the native program content, they are perceived by the consumer as being highly relevant and do not usually disturb the user experience. The format used to be found almost exclusively on social media, but non-social apps have begun adopting the format also. In actuality, eMarketer projected a 24% growth in native video ads in 2019.2 Similar to rewarded video ads, native video ads have high ad recall and are preferred by consumers compared to other ad formats.

Skippable ads are interstitial video ads that allow users to skip the ad after five, 10, or 15 minutes. These are full-screen ads served in a natural transition point, so as to not disturb the consumer. As users may choose to skip the ad, it’s important that the creative grabs the viewer’s attention in the first four seconds — before they decide to hit”skip.” Advertisers should look for a skippability flag from the publisher to ascertain whether an ad space is skippable or not.

Future Outlook

There are a number of video ad formats, including rewarded video and native video ads that offer high user engagement rates and ad recall from consumers. In addition, interstitial skippable ads are preferred by consumers, providing an opportunity for advertisers looking to optimize their ad budget.

While VPAID used to be commonly used by advertisers, the IAB is working to phase out the standard in favor of both VAST and SIMID. Additionally, the introduction of the OM SDK means that publishers no longer need to implement multiple SDKs to ensure that their ad spaces are viewable

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