VPAID Is Out, And The IAB Tech Lab Says It Has Its Replacement

The video player ad-serving interface definition (VPAID) standard, which was supposed to improve the delivery of digital video ads but struggled to hit its stride, will be sunsetted.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab revealed Thursday (read the blog post) that the unpopular nine-year-old video ad spec will be retired and replaced with two separate specs in the next few months.

First, the IAB Tech Lab’s Open Measurement standard – which is designed to support third-party verification in mobile app environments – will replace VPAID’s verification component.

Second, a new set of “interactive” specs for video ads – what the IAB Tech Lab is temporarily calling “VPAID-i” – will give publishers more control over interactive ads served in mobile and over-the-top environments.

The IAB Tech Lab wants to simplify things for buyers and publishers by more clearly defining the road map for video viewability measurement and interactivity.

Advertiser and publisher demand also led the IAB Tech Lab’s push to modernize the VPAID spec, namely by separating the ad serve, interactivity and viewability measurement into modular components, according to Dennis Buchheim, SVP and GM of the IAB Tech Lab.

“It was a logical time to build upon the work we did with the VAST 4.0 last year,” he said.

VAST became publishers’ de facto video delivery standard in 2008, and VPAID was meant to support rich media, analytics and more. Publishers veered toward VAST, thus dominating a majority of video impressions, but buyers preferred VPAID because it could measure viewability. 

VPAID was also designed to support video interactivity and creative elements across devices – but it soon became overly complicated.

“In some ways, that ended up being its downfall,” said Buchheim. “The flexibility to execute any JavaScript code through VPAID moved from initially enabling interactivity to, instead, being overloaded or co-opted to support viewability verification and other tactics that clearly became more important over the last several years as video grew.”

That overload led to broken user experiences, especially in mobile, and those problems increased with the death of Flash and migration to HTML5.

VPAID’s additional capabilities also caused longer video load times, which strained publishers’ fill rates and lowered completion rates for advertisers.

Over the years, the IAB Tech Lab worked to mitigate some of these challenges. For instance, last year it introduced VAST 4.0, which rolled some of VPAID’s analytical and measurement capabilities into VAST.

Now, the IAB Tech Lab hopes to support a more standardized approach to video ad delivery across mobile, digital and OTT.

“We’re looking to create something that is much simpler to understand and more robust and rigorous so that VPAID gets focused mainly on interactivity again, which we predict will help drive adoption of VAST 4.0 and the adoption of Open Measurement,” Buchheim said.

To ensure cross-platform video ad delivery the IAB Tech Lab will have VAST 4.0 use a single tag to render ad units seamlessly across all platforms, and support pre-caching of video assets to reduce latency.

VPAID-i or VAST interactive templates will support interactivity, so advertisers can use a single tag for interactive video ads and to deliver them anywhere. (VPAID-I is also designed to reduce any additional strain on the ad serve by moving non-intended actions for VPAID like viewability reporting into Open Measurement.)

And the Open Measurement initiative will manage verification. By providing open-source measurement to verification providers, vendors won’t need to leverage disparate SDKs for different devices and video environments.

The goal, Buchheim said, is to create a common SDK to support a single point of integration for mobile apps and, next year, a single point of integration via an API for browsers.

“Every publisher who has had to deal with updating to new SDKs from Moat, DoubleVerify or IAS, or who has had to weave code into VPAID, will find this simpler to maintain going forward,” Buchheim said.

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  1. Look forward to seeing these changes rolled out. One of the biggest problems for publishers with VPAID creative is when ad networks auctioning off impressions (instead of filling directly) with client side (browser) auctions. This creates page lag, low fill, and a myriad of other issues.

  2. Milena Markova

    Saying that “VPAID is out” is probably premature, and IMHO, the correct way to frame the industry transition and aspirations, is “VPAID incorrect use is on its way out”. VPAID spec, in its original design, still hold its value as a way to provide ad interactivity and dynamic components, yet forced by technological limitations or opportunity, video adtech players starting using VPAID in ways it was not designed for, namely viewability measurement and client-side ad serving waterfall inclusion. It is great to see the IAB moving in the right direction, and correctly accounting for the legitimate needs behind the VPAID misuse with the introduction OM initiative and VAST 4. Yet, let’s not forget that there was also a perfectly legitimate need behind the original VPAID design that somehow got shadowed behind “creative misuse”.

    There will always be need for interaction between a video ad creative and player, if we there are to be interactive and engaging video ad units, and as long as publishers opt to allow for such interactivity by means of supporting any future VPAID reincarnation, there will be space for abuse. Is it possible to create a perfectly safe video ad interactivity interface, or provide, reliable mechanisms for vetting interactive video ad units at a scale…these are probably the question that should really be looked at as a way to build trustworthy relationship between video ad providers and publishers.

    • I think what needs to be asked is an “What is interactive video?”

      I’m guessing this should be defined as a measurable metric? if so then simply tap to play, pause, stop, fast-forward, rewind, mute, un-mute are the only truly ‘interactive’ elements. However, from a creative perspective there are many ways to do this by adding rich media components and it’s not something that can necessarily scaled with ease or ‘templated’. In my opinion, the term ‘Interactive video’ should not be thrown around without real thought. Interactive video should be truly ‘interactive’ in a sense that the user wants and can interact with the ad unit. For example, if the the video plays, the user must be instructed and want to tap, swipe, shake, shout etc.. in order for some form of visual feedback. This could be overlays of hotspots, instructions or tap to continue video etc…

      This industry is becoming overly complicated with ‘upgraded’ ad units and newly introduced formats when it is in fact, it’s stupidly simple. Interactive video is actually Rich media and true Video ad units should just have simple controls.

      • VPAID was developed to give advertisers the ability to deliver a rich interactive experience that is not just “controlling video playback”. That could be achieved in any publisher player without the need for VPAID.
        Some of the standard “interactivity” for which VPAID was originally conceived (before it became overburdened with viewability measurement and other tracking analytics) were:
        Interactive slates, whereby a ‘mini html page’ (originally a Flash app) could offer the viewer a choice of videos to watch.
        Interactive video overlays – with different outcomes for different user actions (e.g social media links, multiple clickthrough landing pages, etc) – hence the different VPAID events that can be dispatched to the publisher player: AdInteraction, AdClickthru, etc.
        Video extenders: where the primary ad is a short video, but before it ends the user is given the option to extend the video.
        None of the above would be considered ad unit “upgrades” in terms of VPAID functionality.