Commentary

Solving The In-Stream Standardization Puzzle

What Are Video Ad Standards?
Standards are generally thought of as best practices -- approved models, if you will, of how something should behave. In terms of video advertising, standards address the length of the ads, the coding of the language with regards to how players deliver the ads and how players interact with ad servers. Basically, standards are aimed at creating an effective and efficient way for advertisers and their agencies to easily create ads and communicate with online audiences by engaging them, not annoying them.

Why standards?
In a word, scale. To keep up with online video advertising's recent growth spurt, advertisers need a way to quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively reach audiences that have shifted their viewing habits from TV to the Web. And there are a lot of new eyeballs out there: an April 2009 study from Nielsen shows from February 2008 through February 2009, viewers of online videos grew 10%, the number of streams grew 27% and the total minutes engaged with online video grew 71%.

Who needs standards?
Publishers: Standardization helps monetize video content by creating ad placements that are quickly and easily pushed out, ultimately offering clients an easier way to buy and create efficiently.

Agencies: Creative agencies can "create ads once, play them anywhere," maximizing their production time and cost. Media agencies can simplify their buys by purchasing media across a wider selection of publishers and networks without having to worry about whether the ad will work on a specific site or placement.

How the IAB is helping
In July of last year the Digital Video Committee of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released its Digital Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) guidelines, designed to standardize communication protocol between video players and servers. In addition, this past February, the group released the Video Player-Ad Interface Definitions (VPAID) guidelines, which, according to the IAB Web site, "define a standard method for video ads to communicate with video players and enable ad compatibility across all VPAID-compliant players."

Why standards are vital to the future
Again, it's all about reducing friction of purchase and execution to allow for scale. Without standards in place, publishers will work to differentiate themselves by each offering their own player and ad-serving solutions. Not only does this promote confusion in the interactive digital advertising ecosystem, but it creates a bottleneck in terms of potential ad dollars, taking away the ability for the market to scale.

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Let's put it in perspective: where would TV advertisers be without the ability to run the standard 30-second spot on any channel at any time they wanted? Answer: the same place online video is today. In short, standardization must become a reality for marketers, agencies and publishers to create a financially viable and rewarding ad medium that drives meaningful revenue for all.

2 comments about "Solving The In-Stream Standardization Puzzle".
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  1. Kevin Kastner from Perfect Blend Media, May 22, 2009 at 2:38 p.m.

    I agree completely with the need for standards for insertion media. We have simply reverted to a model that agencies and their clients are already familiar with - the :30 spot, pre-roll. It's not what we believe is most effective, but it's close enough to the old broadcast models that we are more attractive for advertising. There's another group called the Association for Downloadable Media that is working on similar standards for podcasters. Long term, the :30 spot will probably continue, however agencies, companies and media buyers ARE going to need to start working for a living. The buy once, run everywhere model is DOA. To some degree, I think the organic growth of direct to distribution deals are going to be loads better than the giant media clearing houses...but, then again, that's just MY take on it. /K

  2. Martin Russ from Freelance Technical Author, May 26, 2009 at 11:18 a.m.

    Standards are vital to the future, but just as important is that those standards are revised so that they keep up with the rapid rate of change in the online world. TV standards change at a slow pace because of the dependence on hardware support. Online is different because the dependence is on software, which churns much faster than hardware purchases like TVs or Cable boxes.

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