As you may have heard, JW Player’s JW8 brings some big improvements to our player and launches tomorrow, Wednesday, October 18!
With our focus on pushing new standards and consistent deployment of new product features, JW Player is committed to maintaining its ability to offer publishers the most flexible monetization options possible. With VAST 4, we see many opportunities for moving the industry forward by adopting the new features (and deprecating the old).
For us VAST 4 presents an amazing opportunity to embrace new standards and leverage the new metadata and functionality the IAB spec provides. In this post we’ll address some of that new functionality and the issues that prompted the industry to come together to address them.
We love interactive ads! They’re a great way to get users to “Engage” (shameless plug..) with the video experience. Unfortunately, the VPAID spec has been used and abused for other reasons that most certainly do NOT benefit the user. Most of what you’ll see below is designed to get VPAIDs back to what they were meant for.
Long buffering times
If you’re just running a linear ad, why not use VAST ads and not leverage VPAID? The fact is, VPAIDs typically aren’t full-fledged interactive video ads. In many scenarios, a VPAID ad is a simple linear video ad with no interactive component whatsoever (and no buttons for that matter). Instead, the code inside a VPAID contains all sorts of things:
Verification/viewability logic – unfortunately there was no standard in place to achieve this any other way (until now)
Programmatic/header bidding logic – increasing revenue is important! But at what cost? 15 seconds of ad buffering to display an ad for a user who will never come back due to the poor user experience?
VAST 4 introduces this new item to VAST XML set to true or false. Essentially, conditionalAd=true means that the ad supplied to your player is not an ad, but is designed to return another ad. In our first phase, we’ll be reporting on how many ads meet this criteria. In a later phase, we’ll allow publishers to opt-out of these ads for the benefit of user experience by jumping right to content. If you’re having problems getting viewers to return to your site, this would be great to A/B test. We want your users to come back to your site!
As mentioned above, VPAIDs were not designed to be a monolithic bundle of code that does everything all at once. Modularization helps speed things up.
The idea with these new nodes is to move the code out of the VPAID and into these standardized sections so that they can be loaded separately. This should speed things up, and ensure that if part of the chain fails, the rest continues. We’re working with the IAB on this part of the new spec to prove it out and are hoping to release some initial tests before the end of the year.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could establish that it was one terrible ad creative that was causing 20% of your ad errors? Or if you could take an ad creative with a 90%+ complete rate and roll that out to a wider audience? We think so too. UniversalAdID is a new piece of metadata that is designed to truly make each creative unique.
The Ad-ID organization worked with the IAB and is the US authority. By registering your creatives, you can much more easily investigate poor or great performing creatives.
If you didn’t know it already, we LOVE data and analytics!
Ad Categories are just that, a way to classify which categories an ad falls under. While there are many authorities, the IAB category list is extensive, and it is the one we’ll be supporting in our first phase. The implications of collecting category metadata about ads and how those categories perform in general, when paired with content categories, etc, are amazing. You’ll be able to do things like validate what types of ads generate the most completes (or skips) across the content you generate, allowing for some better targeting. With JW8 we’ll start collecting this data and exploring the implications. Look for some cool Analytics Labs using this data down the road!
If you’re only supplying one mediafile in your ad that, you’ve got a problem. Running a low quality ad with 1080p content, or a high-quality ad with cellular data are definitely bad ideas. With VAST4 the IAB has provided guidance on best practices, namely 3 quality levels per MIME type or one ABR mediafile. We’ll be supporting ABR medafiles to start, but are excited to start reporting on compliance with this guidance. We feel that finding the balance between bandwidth usage and matching ad quality to the content before and after are important, and will be consistently improving or algorithms for selection of mediafiles, along with educating publishers on how to improve user experience based on this data.
ServerSide Ad Insertion (SSAI)
While VAST 4 is largely designed to address issues around lack of standards with SSAI integrations, we’re not going to spend much time on it here given that you’ll be seeing some news about it from us in the near future anyway. That said, the short explanation is that SSAI with VAST 4 accomplishes many of the same goals as client-side ad insertion with VAST 4 (improved user experience via faster load times, better control for the publisher around the experience, and new and better metadata to facilitate reporting and analytics). If you’re interested in SSAI, reach out to your account manager or our Support Team to start a conversation.
Where do we go from here? Ask for VAST 4 support!
We strongly feel that VAST 4 is a game changer in a lot of ways. There is an amazing blend of emphasis on improving user experience (getting users to return to your site) and improving your monetization ability with new data.
We’re shouting this from the mountaintops, and we want you to as well! Industry adoption is a big part of this, so if you’re using DFP you can opt in. Regardless you should reach out to your ad providers and push for VAST 4 support. And when you do, know that JW Player not only supports it, but is ready to provide you with data to help you take your monetization ability to the next level.