VAST & VPAID: Standardizing Online Video Ads

Blog 4 min read | Jun 20, 2012 | JW Player



JW Player 7 has been released! We have the fastest, full-feature HTML5 video player that integrates with every industry ad standard across all devices and platforms. Check out all JW advertising features here.

For customers searching for more information about implementing these features, please reference our support site and developer site.

Also, check out our Ads Tester on our developer site that allows you to test JW Player’s video ad capabilities using our VAST MP4, VPAID 1, VPAID 2, and Google IMA sample tags or with your own ad tag.

Defining Key Terms

Before we get started, there are some important terms to define:

IAB: The Interactive Advertising Bureau, responsible for setting standards and best practices for uniformity around online advertising.

VAST: The Video Ad Serving Template, a universal specification developed by the IAB for serving video ads.

VPAID: The Video Player-Ad Interface Definition, a universal specification developed by the IAB for interaction between ad units and video players focused on “enabling a rich interactive in-stream ad experience”.

VMAP: The Digital Video Multiple Ad Playlist, a universal specification that helps video content owners / creators control the ad inventory displayed throughout their footage. This is particularly useful when they do not control the video player that their content is played back in.

Selecting the Right Tools for Your Online Video Advertising

As a publisher of online video hoping to monetize your content, there are several decisions you must make. Among them are the video player that will playback your content and the ad network (or ad server) that will deliver your video ads. When selecting the right tools for your goals, it is important to look for VAST/VPAID compatibility. Read on and we will tell you why…

Why These Standards Are Important

It is all about scalability. In order for publishers to serve ads across multiple platforms / devices with the video player of their choice, a common ground to build against is required. This was realized early on in the video ad space, and the first version of these standards were developed back in 2008, when the IAB introduced the first version of VAST. As the online video market has experienced growth, so has the adoption of the IAB’s VAST / VPAID standards. IAB has just released the VAST 3.0 (still in its preliminary state), VPAID 2.0, and VMAP 1.0 specifications.

VAST/VPAID are the rules of the game when it comes to online video advertising. Their appearance has made life easier for publishers who want to run a variety of third-party video ads. Ideally, if the third-party ad networks support the VAST/VPAID formats, publishers shouldn’t have to alter their implementation for the ad to play.


You can think of VAST as a script for the video ad. All VAST is really doing is giving consistent instructions to your video player on how to handle an ad. It tells your video player what the ad should do — how it should show up in the player, how long it should display, whether or not it is skippable, where to find the ad (i.e. the ad server), and what the click-thru url should be.

Below is an example of a VAST linear stream pre-roll with a companion ad:

VAST 3.0 is still in its draft state, soon to be released in its final form. It will introduce advanced specifications for both ad serving and video playback in a video player, considering important items such as cross-platform scenarios (mobile, connected TVs, and now-popular HTML5 environments). As discussed by Ted Grenager & Payam Shodjai at the IAB Ad Ops Summit in 2011, VAST 3.0 will take a closer look at media file attributes & the containers required for media playback, introduce skippable ads, and improve FLASH / HTML5 support.


VPAID adds a new level – interactivity. As stated on the IAB’s website, VAST alone supports only in-stream video ad formats. The introduction of VPAID standards, allows compliant video players to display rich interactive media ads, also known as an “executable ad unit”. VPAID builds upon VAST to enable rich ad experiences, and enhanced viewer analytics.

Click here to watch A Linear VPAID Ad.

As Teg Grenager from nicely put it, VPAID is “the common language for the video player to talk to the ad unit”.

Standards Support At JW Player

As adoption of these standards has increased, our products have evolved to support them. Already, we offer JW Ads, the leading framework for IAB VAST/VPAID Video Ad Delivery, pre-built into our video player, the JW Player.

The current state of the JW Ads plugin supports VAST 1.0 and VAST 2.0, with VAST 3.0 support on the way, pending the IAB’s final specification. JW Ads currently supports VPAID 1.1, and will soon be adding VPAID 2.0 support pending several ad providers who have plans to start delivering VPAID 2.0 Video Ads in the near future.

As seen with our own product development trajectory here at LongTail, the online video industry is migrating towards standards-based tools & integrations. Ultimately, this will provide a seamless integration across the entire web of the online advertising industry and optimize user reach & engagement.