Publishers Rejoice: VPAID Is Out And SIMID Is In

On Tuesday, the IAB Tech Lab explained how it would start phasing out the decade-old Video Player Ad-Serving Interface (VPAID) spec in favor of a new specification – snappily dubbed Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition (SIMID) – that specifically supports interactive video ads.

The IAB Tech Lab, which has been working on a VPAID replacement since 2017, is collecting comments on SIMID through May 24.

“So many publishers have just wanted to kill VPAID, but there was no answer,” said Dennis Buchheim, SVP and GM of the IAB Tech Lab.

Over the years, VPAID evolved into a headache for publishers for a bunch of different reasons.

The spec didn’t work on mobile, didn’t work within over-the-top, wasn’t secure, wasn’t particularly transparent, slowed down page loads and was tricky to maintain.

VPAID was also co-opted for purposes other than those it was originally designed for – third-party verification vendors, for example, piggybacked onto the standard to enable viewability measurement – which created a messy situation.

In 2015, the IAB Tech Lab released VAST 4.0 (Video Ad-Serving Template) as the industry’s video delivery standard decoupled from measurement and verification. But publishers didn’t adopt it because they could get viewability measurement through VPAID, which they used despite their other gripes with the spec.

“If you wanted to do anything interactive, you needed VPAID, and that opened a can of worms,” Buchheim said. “VPAID, for all of its flexibility, created loopholes, because you could have arbitrary JavaScript code and that could mean injecting malware in the worst case, let alone enabling arbitrage – all of which is closed down in this model.”

SIMID is like VPAID without all the bloat. The spec will be fully functional on mobile and within OTT environments (VPAID is not), and will give publishers more control over the user experience.

Once the comments are in and SIMID is finalized, publishers will have “a trio of tools” to cover all their bases, Buchheim said.

VAST will enable ad delivery and basic video interactivity. The Open Measurement Interface Definition (OMID) and Open Measurement (OM) SDK for mobile will let buyers access multiple verification vendors through one integration. And SIMID will be there for buyers that want to bring in more creative interactive elements. (VPAID, meanwhile, can be tossed in the bin.)

The IAB Tech Lab’s Open Measurement project is the catalyst that will spark adoption of the most recent VAST spec and, soon after, of SIMID, Buchheim said.

“We have all the components in place now and the incentives are aligned,” he said. “Buyers can say, ‘I want verification,’ sellers can say, ‘We have OM,’ and that begins the push for VAST 4.2. We expect SIMID to be picked up naturally in that context and for VPAID to go away.”

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