No segment of the industry contributed more to the chaos than the array of video networks, each one with its own metrics definitions, ad-serving system, and tracking methodologies. As irony would have it, the advent of VAST 2.0 has many of those same video networks facing possible extinction -- at least, this is what some have suggested. The thinking is that the IAB's update puts the display networks on the fast track to video viability, which would further commoditize video network inventory, enable brands to wield far greater pricing influence, and ultimately push some of the traditional video nets from the space entirely.
While this outcome may eventually play itself out, VAST 2.0 isn't likely to spell immediate doom for video networks, due to many of the same technical and operational reasons it was born. For starters, it's difficult to envision accelerated VAST 2.0 adoption across the publishing community. The VAST update is designed to improve communication between publisher/network and ad server, by standardizing the ad server(s)' response to an ad request. It's still up to the publisher to identify the best resulting ad for the requesting consumer at the specific moment of request. It's still up to the publisher to determine the best value from among available ads. This might fly in a world where third-party ad-serving is commonplace (such as display), but to date that's been a slow process with video. Only those video networks and ad servers who've done the legwork to integrate a pure third-party video connection with their sites are in a position to provide publishers with guidance on value. VAST 2.0 isn't intended to provide standards around multiple ad returns in a single call, or how to value those ads. For the other guys -- the rep firms, if you will -- who lack the native communication with a site's video player, the jig will soon be up. Sure, they can manually deliver sites a fully formatted VAST template and proceed with business as usual, but these companies aren't actually "networks" in the truest sense of the definition.
Regardless, securing meaningful video inventory will be more difficult than some think. Even with foundational standards in place, there's a limit to the number of ad sources a publisher can be expected to work with and effectively manage -- unless an ad vendor steps forward with a solution that delivers video ads asynchronously. And delivering in full for advertisers may turn out to be an unexpected challenge. Historically, in display, when a network is short of full delivery near month's end, it can go to other networks and buy media from mystery sources. These placements are largely unknown to the advertisers. Video ads aren't delivered through daisy-chained requests or placed in nested Iframes, so rogue placements are easier to spot.
The IAB and its members have worked hard in recent years to craft acceptable guidelines to support in-stream media, from simple encoding specs to the complexities of tracking and reporting the various assets that can be presented in-stream. In theory, a display network or video rep firm could package and serve a Flash SWF as a VAST-compliant pre-roll, but that practice would in many ways run counter to the time spent moving the process to its current place. Never mind the challenges that can go into transcoding video assets (regardless of whether they're included in a SWF) and allowing a system to define and easily innovate around various video-based ad units to drive value to the advertiser.
If anything, VAST 2.0 will create clear distinctions in the video space as a whole, accelerate the learning curve on the buying side and, ultimately, separating the genuine video networks from all the rest.