Digital video advertising continues to grow, both in terms of marketers’ budgets and the number of placements clients are able to buy online. But while television comes in only a handful of formats, digital video advertising offers a much wider range of options. That’s where VAST and VPAID come in. In order to achieve the scale required by advertisers and publishers alike, the online video industry has had to coalesce around some standards. And while these strange-sounding terms may initially look like the names of the world’s newest pop stars, they’re actually critical technical specifications used by those in the industry to deliver video ads. How do VAST and VPAID work? And why do they exist in the first place? Read on for answers.

 The story of these two acronyms dates back to 2008, a period when online video advertising first started hitting its stride. New types of video advertising were increasingly accepted by publishers. But because of differing video ad formats, advertisers didn’t always know if their video ad creative was compatible with a publisher’s site. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), developed the VAST protocol (it stands for “Video Ad Serving Template”) to provide standardized instructions for video players to recognize and display video advertising. Information about how and what creative should be displayed, how long it should play, if it’s skippable, and standard tracking events are all communicated by this standard. The IAB’s Digital Video Ad Format Guidelines and Best Practices is an excellent resource. 

As publishers continued to develop new types of video advertising, the IAB has also developed newer standards. In addition to VAST, there is VPAID, which stands for “Video Player-Ad Interface Definition.” VPAID enables new tools for video players to recognize interactive formats (like rich media ad experiences) and provide more robust viewer analytics. If VAST is the “cupcake” of video standards, VPAID (which includes all of the capabilities of VAST) is both the cupcake and the icing.

In a nutshell, the main differences between the two standards are as follows:

  • VAST enables standard metrics – impressions, clicks, quartiles, completes.
  • VAST is on mobile platforms (VPAID is not supported on mobile at this time).
  • VPAID supports interactive formats, such as overlays and surveys, and enables deeper analytics, such as viewability.

Despite all the advances we’ve seen so far in the digital video space, innovation continues to roll ahead at a relentless pace. And with these new advances, expect to see the continued evolution of new video technical standards to help advertisers and publishers stay on the same page.

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