VPAID May Improve Video Measurement, But Gaps Remain In Mobile And OTT

Although the Video Player Ad-Serving Interface (VPAID) was meant to create better measurement in online video, it’s not that compatible with mobile video or OTT.

“Everyone wants to measure [viewability] and they’re giving us VPAID tags, but VPAID doesn’t work in all environments,” said Soo Jin Oh, VP of client strategy for Cox Media’s digital advertising solutions arm Gamut.

And even if VPAID is better for viewability, third-party measurement providers can’t always prove it. Most still support Flash, not HTML5 or JavaScript.

“The verification vendor needs to be within a mobile SDK to measure viewability (using VPAID) – and if they’re not, they can’t tell us much,” said Nick Frizzell, senior director of brand safety and inventory operations for the video ad server and SSP SpotX.

Also, while some verification providers hook into connected TV and OTT on a custom basis, gauging viewability there involves more guesswork.

“It’s assumed to be viewable, just like cable and broadcast environments,” Frizzell said.

Also, HTML5 creative is far less mature than Flash in VPAID, which is becoming an obsolete format that its developer, Adobe, will stop supporting by 2020.

Meanwhile, browsers like Chrome already reject Flash, which inhibits video ad calls that haven’t been optimized already for HTML5.

“That’s the biggest challenge in my opinion,” said Gamut’s Oh. “A publisher could be set up for HTML5/JavaScript with their player and advertisers could have sent the proper creative file type, but if the VPAID wrapper is still Flash-based, then it blocks the impression in Chrome.”

Some publishers and tech platforms have also been reluctant to adopt VPAID, as it can drag down page load times.

Even with the termination of Flash, many pubs have simply opted to revert to an earlier, more familiar Video Ad-Serving Template (VAST), which wasn’t designed for cross-screen video ad delivery.

“We saw some publishers default back to a VAST player rather than HTML5 VPAID, which is sort of a step backward because it keeps us from being able to do the most advanced creative and have the most advanced measurement,” said Pete Macey, VP of video solutions for video ad server Innovid.

Despite HTML5 VPAID’s promise to improve video measurability and, ultimately, gauge viewability more effectively cross-screen, there’s just more VAST inventory out there.

And despite the deadline to migrate from flash to JavaScript/HTML5 VPAID in early July, support for JavaScript formats has been inconsistent across the ecosystem.

While VPAID is generally revered as a way to measure interactivity and viewability within video ads, it creates alot of gaps in monetization.

One way tech platforms are mitigating this issue is by overlaying VPAID flash with an HTML5 VPAID wrapper in a hybrid model thats supports both video ad delivery methods.

Innovid says it has worked with clients, including the agency Universal McCann, to ensure its publisher and tech partners are up to speed on these new technical requirements for HTML5 VPAID.

“We’re making sure our media teams understand that they demand VPAID inventory from our publishers,” added Huascar Peralta, SVP of decision sciences at UM Detroit, who said advertiser clients often rely on VPAID inventory to support advanced video creative. “We [tell them that if] they want the comfort level of having that transparency and clarity of how video ads are performing and being viewed, that sort of trumps concerns over constraints of inventory in VPAID.”

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