Introduction

The IAB’s Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) and Video Player-Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) specifications are universal XML schemas for serving ads to digital video players. They provide support for linear pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll MP4 or FLV video ads, interactive Flash and HTML5 VPAID ads and non-linear GIF/JPG/PNG, Flash (SWF), text, HTML, <IFRAME> and <SCRIPT> overlay banners. In addition to this they also specifies video tracking events, which enables measurement of video advertising metrics.

When creating a VAST or VPAID media you have a choice between four different types, which requires some explanation.

VAST Video (Linear)

  • Pre/Mid/Post-Roll Video
    This is used for video ads that you want to play before, during or after your videos. You do not need to designate when your video ad plays to the ad server. This is actually defined when you embed the VAST tag into the video player, which is covered below in the player configuration section. Along with your video ads you are optionally able to include companion banners, which may be any size graphic, Flash or HTML banner media that’s associated with the same advertiser. Companion banners typically appear in positions located adjacent to the video player and help enforce the message of the video ad. In fact, the player is usually configured to keep displaying companion banners after the video ad plays for additional impact.
  • Third-party VAST Tag Wrapper
    Third-party ad networks, advertising agencies and independent advertisers may provide you with their own VAST or VPAID tag that will feed their pre/mid/post-roll video ads to you. This so-called VAST tag is simply a HTTP or HTTPS URL that points to their VAST XML feed. By wrapping their VAST tag you’re able to listen in on all of the VAST tracking events, so you’ll gain all of the reporting insight that they have for optimization and verification purposes.
  • VPAID HTML5 Wrapper
    The VPAID specification enables the creation of interactive HTML5 creatives, which are loaded and controlled with a JavaScript wrapper that implements the VPAID 2.0 API. Creating a VPAID wrapper from scratch is quite difficult. For this reason, the ad server provides its own JavaScript wrapper which is designed to load an HTML5 creative. This means you can simply develop an HTML5 creative, which can then be run by any video player that supports VPAID 2.0 with JavaScript. Please see the chapter on HTML5 for more information.

VAST Overlay (Non-Linear)

  • VAST Overlay
    Overlays are banners that typically float on top of the video player. Most commonly they appear along the bottom of the video. However, this varies by publisher and sometimes the overlay ads may even appear adjacent to the video player rather than floating on top of it. Although VAST specifies that overlay creatives can be GIF/JPG/PNG images, Flash (SWF), plain text ads, HTML, <IFRAME> tags or <SCRIPT> tags not all video players support every creative type. For this reason, the ad server allows you to provide overlay creatives in multiple formats so that video players can pick their preferred creative format. This is extremely useful when you will be delivering overlay ads to many publishers with varying player capabilities.

To actually integrate your VAST ads with your video player you need a VAST tag. This is simply a HTTP or HTTPS URL that points to your VAST XML feed. As with other media types the code wizard can generate this for you. Simply click on the Generate Code shortcut when editing any VAST campaign, media or zone and it will provide you with a VAST tag that you can easily copy and paste into your video player configuration. Alternatively, you can go directly to the Code Wizard and click on VAST Tag > VAST 2.0 or VAST Tag > VAST 3.0 to generate a VAST tag for a campaign, media or zone.

VAST Versions

Currently the ad server supports both VAST 2.0 and 3.0 (as well as VPAID 2.0), but it is helpful to understand that certain functionality is only supported when using a VAST 3.0 tag with an equally VAST 3.0 compliant player:

  • Pods: Serving a sequence of linear video ads is new in VAST 3.0 and is not supported by VAST 2.0 players
  • Skip Offset: This option is also only recognized by supporting VAST 3.0 players

As a general rule of thumb you should generate a VAST tag for the most recent version of VAST supported by your video player. If your player is VAST 3.0 compliant use a VAST 3.0 tag. However, if you are not in control of the video player it may be better to use a VAST 2.0 tag as video players that support VAST 3.0 must also be backwards compatible and support VAST 2.0.

Recommended Players

Currently only video players that support VAST 2.0 or 3.0 and VPAID 2.0 are supported. Here we provide a list of recommended players. This is by no means a comprehensive list of compatible players. We recommend these players because they are among the most popular, have complete VAST and VPAID implementations and are well-supported by their developers.

If the player that you use on your web site is not listed please check with the developer of the player to inquire about their support of VAST and VPAID.

Player Configuration

Click on the link below for the video player that you’re trying to integrate with your VAST or VPAID tag.

Every video player is different, but what you’ll need from the ad server is a VAST tag. This is simply a HTTP or HTTPS URL that points to your VAST XML feed. As with other media types the code wizard can generate this for you.

Simply click on the Generate Code shortcut when editing any VAST or VPAID campaign, media or zone and it will provide you with a VAST tag that you can easily copy and paste into your video player configuration. Alternatively, you can go directly to the Code Wizard and click on VAST Tag > VAST 2.0 or VAST Tag > VAST 3.0 to generate a VAST tag for a campaign, media or zone.

Video Reporting

VAST provides support for tracking impressions and clicks as you would expect. However, it goes beyond this with video ads. You’re able to track how many visitors start watching your video ads, watch through the first quarter, midpoint and third quarter of the video and finally how many visitors watch the video ads through to completion. This enables you to effectively measure how engaged your audience is with your video ads.

VAST Video Report Graph

Additional events are provided for measuring mute, unmute, pause, resume, replay, stop and fullscreen events but these are not as useful. Despite this, however, they are still provided in the reports. They are not depicted in the graphs as shown above so that you can focus on visualizing the more important events.