The Interactive Advertising Bureau is addressing a problem that's plagued tech-centric industries since the first Mac-vs.-DOS argument: standardization. The problem has become acute for Web video, an industry enjoying meteoric growth, and the growing pains that come with that growth. So the IAB is trying to make delivering video ads a whole lot simpler.
Indeed, as more video is consumed in more places on the Web, it's that much harder to buy—since every publisher seems to use different technology and employ various tactics for delivering Web video ads. For a while now, the IAB has had a handful of tools aimed at helping content creators slot in ads to any video player they need to use, but Tuesday (April 10) marks the debut of a newer and better set of specs that addresses a much broader spectrum of advertiser needs. Here they are, in case you're just reading this for the link.
"A few years back, we faced an interesting problem where video ads really required different formats for each site that could host video content," said IAB's vp of advertising technology, Steve Sullivan. "All the sites had their own players—some were common, but any that had inventory that they could fill with video were custom and unique." In encouraging the industry to standardize around these three formats, the IAB has the advantage of being a trade organization, rather than a single advertiser or publisher with a vested interest.
The protocols are three detailed technical documents that explain how to create a video ad that any content publisher can easily embed to suit the advertiser. This eliminates the need to create one file for Flash, one for Silverlight, one for Quicktime, one for YouTube, etc. They come in three delicious flavors of jargon, and it is the third that really bodes well for the consumer.
1) VAST. The Video Ad-Serving Template is a straightforward XML schema that serves individual in-stream ads—pre-roll, mid-stream interruptions, whatever. One of the major updates in the 3.0 version is support for "podding," or what the TV community would think of as a traditional ad load‚—a few advertisements run in a predetermined sequence, or pod. This works for standard-issue videos—all the creative can be contained in a standard digital video, like an MPEG or an AVI file.
2) VPAID. The Video Player Ad-Serving Interface Definition is a bit more complicated. It's a PDF file with a how-to for creating nonlinear and interactive video ads that can be loaded into most browser-based video players with no tweaking. For this, think of the dog-ear ads you see when you stream TV shows—those little flappy corners that peel away into a larger ad when you roll over them. There are other permutations here, too, but that's why this is an instruction manual rather than a template.
3) VMAP. This is the service that should excite the consumer the most. Again, it's an XML template for managing a lot of inventory remotely. The example Sullivan gives is that if you're ABC and you're running Wipeout on a site other than your own, with VMAP you can tell the third-party player when and where to play your advertisements. This might mean the end of seeing six of the same Chase Slate ad with the adorable couple who find out they're having triplets every single time there's an ad break on Hulu.