Since premium video formats can command high CPMs from advertisers, publishers want to ensure those ads are rendered and under reasonable parameters that ensure they meet viewability thresholds.
Server-side stitching can leave ad blockers shooting in the dark, one added benefit of the technique. Ralf Jacob, CRO of Verizon Digital Media Services, called client-side ad insertion “prey” for ad blockers.
When a browser or device-level script makes a call to the ad-decisioning system, the ad blocker can identify that signal, as opposed to a server-side script where the ads are already stitched into the player’s content, making it harder to distinguish an ad from content, he said.
Because SSAI essentially rewrites the way many third-party video ad servers, measurement and delivery systems communicate, it can require a lot of heavy lifting from a publisher’s internal ad ops team or require external vendor support.
Thus, it may be a more useful technique for a specific subset of publishers.
“Because ads are pre-populated into the content itself, it might work better for direct, sponsorship-based content as opposed to programmatic auctions, which require real-time decisioning,” predicted The Media Trust’s Calic.
For instance, a publisher like Refinery29 or BuzzFeed that produces a lot of video content and primarily relies on direct deals might benefit most from ad stitching, he hypothesized.
Since segments tend to be pre-defined prior to insertion into the ad pod server-side, there may arguably be less room for audience discovery or competitive pricing for direct deals than in a programmatic auction.
Additionally, because SSAI mimics commercial broadcast delivery in a digital environment, it may benefit most when applied in video on-demand or other time-shifted formats.
Some argue that client-side technology still adds a necessary level of interactivity and support for live content, though platforms with advanced capabilities claim they can usually work out these kinks.
Other advancements, such as the IAB’s release of a new Video Ad Serving Template 4.0 (VAST 4.0) also support server-side ad insertion, said CBSi’s Wilichinsky.
“The VAST 4.0 file type is a huge move,” he added. “In the online world, standardizing around the metadata component allows us to talk to the same user across different [devices] on the same terms” through a single creative.
Ultimately, publishers want greater flexibility to enable dynamic ad insertion within disparate video streams.
“This is helping big publishers take their episodic TV content and condition it so it can be distributed to their website, apps or on-demand destinations they may syndicate to, such as Netflix or Hulu,” said Matt Smith, chief evangelist for Anvato, an SSAI vendor.
“Simplifying the way we prepare this content and, hence, monetize it drives tremendous efficiencies. It also solves frustrations for consumers who see the same ad over and over again in ad breaks.”