Ad Industry Has To Solve Its VPAID Mobile Hang Ups

Is the video advertising industry so driven towards solving viewability, brand safety and fraudulent traffic, that it has lost sight of the issue with VPAID that could help unlock all three?

Standardization decisions made as far back as 2009 are preventing the advertising industry from capitalizing on mobile video’s opportunity. One standard in particular could have benefitted from more forward thinking: the IAB’s Video Player-Ad API definition, or VPAID.

The first version of VPAID was released six years ago, when the iPhone 3G gained a foothold after famously launching without Flash support.  This first version missed the opportunity to use HTML5, a coding standard being developed by Web standards organization W3C with mobile video capabilities baked in.

Instead, HTML5 support was not added to VPAID until 2012, with the repercussions of this still being felt throughout the video advertising industry today. Yet advancements in mobile video are a must if the industry wants to improve on the $4.4 billion in mobile video ad revenue by 2018 forecasted by BI Intelligence.

Advertisers desire VPAID JavaScript mobile inventory because it can provide viewability, brand safety and fraud feedback. Previously the buy side had to settle for the Digital Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) standard, which offered little to advertisers apart from the ability to apply linear creative to online media.

Despite the advantages of its reporting metrics, certain stakeholders are not making a speedy transition from VAST to VPAID - a fact that Xaxis aims to remedy by taking matters into its own hands.

Xaxis’ North American arm has stated that it is now exclusively using VPAID to deliver desktop video due to its three-pronged approach that gathers viewability information, lets buy side tools verify URLs serving videos to stop fraudulent impressions and allows consumer opt-out through the Privacy Ad Choices icon.

In Ooyala’s Q4 2014 Global Video Index Report, video plays on mobile doubled to 34% in Q4 2014. Given these figures, why are agencies not applying a VPAID-only approach? There is a simple answer: not enough VPAID JavaScript inventory exists on mobile for agencies to effectively run campaigns without sacrificing reach.

Video viewing is moving to mobile, but the technology that gives brands and agencies the confidence to buy mobile video inventory has not caught up. If publishers and vendors do not get on board, they will handicap themselves in the future and lose revenue as a result.

What is preventing wider mobile VPAID JavaScript support? Some responsibility lies with publishers. They are seeing more revenue from desktop CPMs, so mobile has been merely an afterthought. Publishers are typically choosing to use a separate player, an easy out-of-the box VAST solution or opting against monetization altogether.

By supporting VPAID JavaScript on mobile, publishers would also have to pay for new development work. Publishers often naturally resist this: they prioritize investment that offers a direct return, which means cash is spent on sales teams followed by ad ops and then, if there is anything left in the pot, development.

Solutions are only just starting to catch up. Google’s IMA SDK, a popular product that brings advertising to video-player technology, developed support for Javascript, or HTML5, mobile VPAID last August. Facebook’s LiveRail was slightly later and BrightCove still offers no native support, relying on third-party plugins instead. Even Open VideoView, the open-source technology for measuring ad viewability, supports only Flash in Mobile VPAID.

Exchanges such as LiveRail do however offer JavaScript code that a publisher can integrate with their player, enabling it to run VPAID creative on mobile devices.

As mobile video consumption increases, so too does the financial viability of investing in the mobile video infrastructure. You only have to look as far as ZenithOptimedia’s ad spend study, which reports that the global online video industry will grow an average of 29% year-on-year to reach $23.3 billion in 2017, to see the opportunity in video.

Very soon publishers will have little choice but to pay for VPAID JavaScript support on their inventory. If they do not, they risk missing out on the rising tide of mobile revenue. 

The onus is not entirely on publishers; the buy side needs to continue pushing for VPAID on mobile and vendors have to take responsibility for connecting the two using standardized, transparent delivery.

2 comments about "Ad Industry Has To Solve Its VPAID Mobile Hang Ups".
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  1. Louis Moynihan from Demandbase, June 14, 2015 at 8:34 p.m.

    what possible events might occur for more publishers to allow of VPAID in mobile?  Is it a facebook/google leadership led adoption, or is it a smaller more nibbler company becoming so successful it forces change... or soething else?  what do you think?

  2. Irfon Watkins from Coull, June 16, 2015 at 10:57 a.m.

    Ad spend is already shifting away from VAST inventory to VPAID (see Xaxis example). Publishers that don’t accommodate advertisers’ need for transparency are going to feel it.

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