What is VPAID?

Sortable Ad Ops

If you’re using video content as an integrated part of your business (and if you aren’t, why not?) you need to know about VPAID. VPAID stands for Video Player Ad-Serving Interface Definition and is a tagging protocol which allows a video player to insert a pre-roll or banner ad into your video content. 

VPAID is one of three such standards developed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). VPAID builds on the IAB’s first protocol, VAST (Video Ad Serving Template), which launched in 2012. VAST is still used as a stand-alone by some content publishers, but VPAID builds upon its foundation with added features of interactivity and engagement tracking.

How Does VPAID work?

When a publisher requests a piece of advertising, VAST and VPAID provide the tags which specify the following parameters:

  • What ad to select
  • Ad duration
  • Whether the ad is in banner or pre-roll format (a strip across the bottom of the video content or a full-screen interruption of it)
  • When to run the ad — either before the content, during, or at the end
  • What interactivity points to include, including expand to full screen, skip, and others.
  • What metrics to send and how

While VAST tags allow viewers to click through, play, pause, or skip an ad, that’s about all it can do. Its simplicity means that it does its job quickly, without slowing down the user experience unnecessarily. It also works across all devices and operating systems.

What makes VPAID different is the additional stages of interactivity and feedback it allows. There are basically four stages to how VPAID works each time it pulls in ad content: 

  1. The publisher’s site makes a request for ad content at an appointed place in playback.
  2. The ad server responds by sending tagged content.
  3. There is a period of communication between server and site, during which the viewer can interact with the ad content, whether banner ad or pre-roll video.
  4. A final phase sends metrics back to the advertiser’s platform for aggregation.

Advantages of VPAID over VAST

There are three major advantages to using VPAID over VAST: two offer a more sophisticated approach to video advertising, and one leverages viewer behavior.

Interactivity

Rather than simply seeing an ad appear and allowing the viewer to decide to let it play out, skip it, or click through, VPAID allows the viewer to interact in different ways. With VPAID you can create ads:

  • To expand to full screen on mobile devices
  • With interactive forms or surveys embedded
  • With clickable tabs and pop-ups which appear during playback
Customizability

VPAID ads can be customized so that different versions can be displayed to viewers in different geographical areas. For example, a franchised business could produce multiple versions of an ad which display the address of the viewer’s local outlet.

This could also be used for A/B testing, where certain ads are shown to certain viewers. And this is where the third unique feature of VPAID comes in, measurability.

Measurability

Certain metrics can be tracked and sent back to the advertiser, namely viewing time, clicks, and skips. This allows advertisers to measure the success of their campaigns and if necessary, halt or alter them to make them more effective. 

Previously, the success of a campaign was measured by its effect on sales or site traffic. With VPAID it can be assessed in terms of how viewers directly respond to the material and message, even before buying behavior is triggered. 

This allows advertisers to identify customers who *almost* bought their product, as well as those who did.

What are the Drawbacks of VPAID?

VPAID is more complicated than VAST in the sense that there is two-way communication between the ad server and the viewer during the ad’s display. It isn’t just a matter of passive consumption. There’s a greater potential for errors and buffering problems on systems that are not ideally optimized. 

Some users have reported that it slows down publishers’ sites due to excessive pre-loading times. In the worst-case scenario, this leads to viewers clicking off the video content entirely. However, this problem should be reduced as operating systems, broadband speeds, and the design of VPAID itself improves over time (VPAID is currently on release 2.0).

VPAID tends to work best on mobile devices, and is not as well optimized for desktop displays. VPAID is implemented via JavaScript for mobile devices and Flash on desktops, so when users’ systems are not up to date with their plug-ins, it could cause difficulties.

How do I Use VPAID Tagging?

VPAID uses HTML5, so use a specialist HTML ad builder to add the tags which draw in the ad content from your advertisers and display it as it intended.

There are other integrations including MRAID, that help combat compatibility issues and make the most of interactive advertising, making VPAID a very flexible way of delivering ad content.

Working with an ad platform like Sortable will allow you to implement VPAID advertising smoothly and effectively.

What’s Next?

To keep up with the most recent version of VPAID, visit the IAB’s site, where you can download the latest PDF guide.
Questions about video monetization? Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we help publishers like you with maximizing ad revenue through video.