Reducing Risk in the Advertising Supply Chain with the IAB's VAST 4.0

Thought Leaders
Cover image for  article: Reducing Risk in the Advertising Supply Chain with the IAB's VAST 4.0

If “location, location, location” is real estate’s mantra, then “right audience, right time, right context” is marketing’s maxim. Advertisers must reach the right person with the appropriate message on the exact channel at the moment the prospect is using it.  This can be particularly challenging in the digital landscape, where audiences cross screens and platforms with ease (for them). The complexity of deploying ads in this cross-platform environment is offset, however, by the opportunity to target unique -- even individual -- audiences with more precision, leading to a better engagement between a brand and its prospects

Technology and the creation of protocols and standards are helping publishers and advertisers to improve ad delivery to video players across multiple platforms for a more seamless experience. The January 2016 introduction of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) updated Digital Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) 4.0 is “helping to enable in the digital world what is possible in the broadcast world,” explains Alanna Gombert, General Manager of the IAB Tech Lab. “As a delivery protocol, it provides a pathway for each ad to be delivered properly in digital.”

A template for structuring ad tags that serve ads to video players, VAST 4.0 addresses several challenges for both linear and on-demand delivery, from separating the video and interactive files for more successful ad display across devices and platforms to supporting server-side ad-stitching for seamless display within a video content stream. It also supports a mezzanine file and ready-to-serve ad files that improve the quality of the ad played, based on the environment. That environment now includes over the air, online, over the top, mobile and place-based platforms.

An essential ingredient in VAST 4.0 is its requirement for a universal, unique ad identifier, such as Ad-ID in the U.S. Calling for a system-wide identifier helps advertisers maintain control over the ads they offer and helps media publishers ensure the correct ad asset is pulled for insertion.

Reduce Risk in the Advertising Supply Chain

Without a consistently applied universal identifier, creative assets may be assigned different identifiers for every system they pass through. This modern-day Babel leads to confusion, inaccurate reporting, and manual rekeying and duplication of effort that can introduce error into the advertising supply chain.

Previous versions of VAST required that assets be identified, but did not stipulate how or by whom. Without such standards, it was difficult to determine an asset’s origins, or whether it was the correct ad to be served.

Such knowledge is critical to reduce risk in the advertising supply chain, particularly today’s complex digital video marketplace, where digital video asset data, coding and distribution are extremely fragmented. To create the broadcast-like experience, without buffering or wheeling, ad-stitching services must be able to quickly determine which asset to stitch into a video content stream. Likewise, ad-decisioning and ad-serving systems need unique, universal identifiers to deliver a specific ad to a specific audience -- depending on factors from device type and screen size to user preferences and geography. If each ad asset uses a different identification system, it increases risk that the wrong ad will be served.

“Ad-ID as the identifier makes it clear as day as to what this ad really is,” says Jarred Wilichinsky, Vice President of Video Monetization and Operations at CBS Interactive. “When a stitching service sees an Ad-ID code, it knows exactly what that piece of creative is. And if there have been any revisions to that creative, there’s a new Ad-ID. So there is no confusion. Knowing what advertiser [the ad] is from, how long the ad is [and] what category it is means we are all speaking the same language.”

Beyond Delivery Accuracy: Measuring Performance

Wilichinsky adds that VAST 4.0 and its requirement for a universal identifier have implications for other “interesting executions,” from programmatic to competitive separation, as well as for video operations to improve the quality of execution and the user experience.

Most immediately, Ad-ID provides a level of metadata for each asset that enables performance measurement. No matter where the asset is deployed, it can be tracked, monitored and measured using its singular Ad-ID code. Ad-ID’s Complete External Access module gives media outlets, online publishers, measurement vendors and other approved companies access to all Ad-ID codes and metadata for greater insight from the data.

Julian Zilberbrand, Executive Vice President of Audience Science at Viacom, strongly encourages practitioners to leverage the measurement functionality in VAST 4.0 and its requirement for a universal identifier. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having deeper sets of information and data," he said during a webinar about VAST 4.0. "Universal ad identification, with the deep metadata that it’s providing, will give you additional intelligence on not only your investment, but on the quality of the creative, how it’s working and how you choose to potentially optimize or manage your media. Ad-ID is a proxy to really getting better at what we do as marketers.”

In the U.S., Ad-ID is the standard for identifying ad assets across every media platform. It is a joint venture of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As). Of the more than 334,000 video ad assets produced in 2015, more than 80 percent were registered using Ad-ID.

A universal identifier from a central authority brings greater transparency to the advertising marketplace. It helps eliminate the costly errors associated with inconsistently applied asset identifiers throughout the advertising supply chain, while enabling more granular audience measurement across multiple platforms. In short, it helps ensure the right audience sees the right ad, in the right context, at the right time -- across multiple platforms.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers. 

 

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