Leaders from the video advertising industry have banded together to develop new industry standards called the IAB Video Suite, a set of technical specifications and protocols for in-stream video ad formats that allow compliant ads to seamlessly play across multiple compliant publisher sites. These standards contain new features and capabilities, address past technical limitations and increase interoperability, all of which enable increased reach and market scale in digital video advertising. SpotXchange was one of the 42 IAB member companies that helped conceive and author the IAB Video Suite specifications.
As you might have read recently, SpotXchange introduced the ability for consumers to skip video ads with a new service called SkipIt. With this new service in mind, the IAB’s April finalization of this Suite marks official industry-wide confirmation of the promising future for skippable online video ads by explicitly supporting user-initiated ad skipping: VAST 3.0 supports a skip beacon for reporting skip events, while also identifying Skippable Linear Ads as one of the five ad formats supported by the specification; the AdSkipped event is now supported in the VPAID 2.0 specification. Combined, these additions allow all parties in the video ad ecosystem to control and track skip events.
Skippable Ads for Advertiser and Publisher
With increased market adoption of the IAB Video Suite, advertisers will find it easier than ever to provide video ads that are engaging and relevant. But some consumers just want to skip certain video ads. The new VAST 3.0 standard supports advertisers’ ability to track these “skip events” in real-time through their own ad server, just as they track impression, viewthrough and click events.
Skippable ads help advertisers collect more data about their audience’s preference for certain kinds of ads and experiences – specifically who their audience is and what kind of ad experience they prefer. Advertisers and ad servers that provide skip reporting beacons in their VAST 3.0 feeds will be able to seamlessly track skips when working with publishers that support ad skipping.
For publishers, skip support enables new business models based on ads viewed through to completion. While we happen to think SkipIt is the best publisher solution and fairest for consumers and advertisers, publishers and advertisers may want to experiment with other approaches as they implement the ability to track skipped ads.
My ad server is not yet VAST 3.0 compliant. What can I do until then to support skippable ads?
While skippable events are not explicitly supported in VAST 2.0, advertisers and publishers who wish to work together and support ad skipping and tracking of those skips should find it easy to collaborate prior to migrating to 3.0. The advertiser or its ad server can add a skip event beacon to one of two locations in their ad server’s VAST 2.0 response. The first option is to add it in a custom Extension, such as:
Alternately, an advertiser or its ad server may add a skip beacon to the TrackingEvents node of their current 2.0 feed—just as they currently populate that node with beacons for ad midpoint and completion or user events such as pause or mute. Adding the beacon to TrackingEvents will technically break the VAST 2.0 XSD, since “skip” is not a supported TrackingEvents value, so placement in an Extension may be preferred.
If an advertiser cannot configure their VAST feed to output this tracking event, they might supply the tracking URL directly to the publisher, much as third party tracking was handled prior to adoption of VAST 2.0 trafficked and served ads.
In any event, publishers working with advertisers who wish to track skips of their ads need to either parse this URL from the advertiser’s VAST and fire it when the skip event occurs, or otherwise associate the advertiser’s unique skip tracking URL with user initiated skips and fire it as appropriate. Best practice dictates that the publisher likewise track skip events themselves, so publishers should configure their own ad servers to track unique skips.
Working together in such a manner supplies a suitable bridge until VAST 3.0 gains wide adoption, at which time VAST 3.0-compliant ad servers will formally support tracking of skip events, while compliant publishers will formally support firing of that event in environments where ad skipping is enabled.
How can I work with SkipIt today?
Advertisers that want to embrace skippable ads should request their third party serving and tracking providers start supporting real-time tracking and reporting of skip events. For those advertisers that work with SkipIt enabled publishers, this will allow real-time notification that a user has skipped your ad. Likewise, publishers that want to partner with SkipIt should add skip tracking and reporting to their own ad serving infrastructure, to make it easier to reconcile skipped ads with credits to their respective advertisers. Furthermore, SkipIt publishers should add support for passing both their own tracking URLs and advertiser-supplied tracking URLs to the SkipIt API at ad attestation time. This allows SkipIt to fire both the advertiser and the publisher skip tracking URLs for easy reconciliation, much as advertisers and publishers mutually record other ad impression events.
The industry shift is on to allow consumers more choice and control of their online video experience. SpotXchange had a role in ensuring that skippable events were included in the new VAST 3.0 standard. And given the brisk consumer adoption of SkipIt so far, the market is ripe for us to skip ads online like we skip ads on TV using DVRs. Online, however, we’ll have more information about which ads were skipped and why, helping advertisers create more engaging, relevant creative for their target audiences.