ADOTAS – Today, at its IAB Marketplace: Digital Video conference in New York City, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced the new IAB Video Suite, a current set of suggested protocols for video advertisers and web publishers. Generated through extensive discussion of issues in the video ad niche confronted by IAB members, the new guidelines lay out particular technologies the IAB suggests its members support. Among the solutions those guidelines address are those related to allowing owners of video content to specify where ad breaks should occur when they don’t actually own the video player (this is a new protocol); support for skippable ads, should the publisher want to offer the option to skip; support for ads to appear the same way across multiple devices; and support for multiple ads to appear in sequence during the same break in content (“pods,” the IAB is calling those blocks of ads).
The IAB’s vice president of ad technology, Steve Sullivan, specified in a conversation today that the IAB’s protocol is “not about endorsing, it’s about supporting. If they’re broadly adapted, they can become standard. The efficiency doesn’t come from the methodology — the efficiency comes from if everyone uses the same methodology.” As such, the protocol on supporting skippable ads wasn’t a suggestion that online publishers support skippable ads, but rather a suggestion of how publishers should proceed, technologically, if they choose to offer that option. “What we’ve created in VAST” — the IAB’s previously existing Video Ad-Serving Template — “is a response to the market moving in a particular path,” Sullivan said, matter-of-factly. “We had members who were publishers who were offering skippable,” and it became an issue worth addressing in greater detail.
“The vast majority of changes are simply improvements to the content that already existed,” Sullivan explained of the IAB’s announcements. In VAST, for example, protocol had been laid out in print as “options in a bulleted list. The vast majority are taking those bullets and exploding them out to be more specific. We have a lot more code samples, a lot more graphics.
“A protocol is a document that describes the interfaces the developers need to develop to,” he said.
VMAP — the Video Multiple Ad Playlist — is new, though, joining prior (and now elaborated-upon) protocols VAST and VPAID (Video Player-Ad Interface Definition). VMAP addresses, said Sullivan, “a very specific need for a situation where the owner of content does not necessarily control the player in which the content is rendered.” While in the past, he said, the content’s owner would typically control the player, the increasingly widespread practice of video publishers (say, a TV network) essentially syndicating their content to other distribution platforms (say, Hulu) has changed the online landscape enough for the IAB to address it. “It’s a need that’s come to us through the market. It’s new,” Sullivan said of the demand for a protocol there. VMAP offers suggestions to, for example, “find the blocks within that space where ads will appear.” In that regard, VMAP protocol would be applied in conjunction with other protocol, like VAST, which would actually serve the ad via a line of code.
Also “brand-new,” said Sullivan, is the protocol around “podding,” the insertion of blocks of multiple ads in-stream during an online video’s play. “With more and more long-form content being consumed, there’s the need for advertisers to specify a collection of ads — ‘Here’s a set of ads, a pod, that we want distributed in a particular way,'” he explained. “It’s happening out there in the marketplace.” Through surveys and discussion among advertisers, “what we found is that there were enough instances of advertisers wanting to specify a pod of ads, instead of one at a time,” Sullivan said. “The time was right.”
Sullivan added that these protocols suggested, in part, a “blurring of the lines between traditional broadcast and online video,” he said. “We see quite a bit of migration.” With advertisers looking to leverage more control over their ad messages by strategically grouping them together — pretty much the way broadcast always has done — and with users looking to leverage more control over their viewing experiences by skipping ads or watching videos on the platform or device of their choice, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out as the ways in which the public’s viewing behavior continues to change with the technology available to assist it.