How To Explain VAST To An 8-Year-Old

Posted by Alexandra Nicholson on Jan 27, 2016 2:41:53 PM

Topics: Video Monetization


What is VAST? The acronym represents the broadening of video innovation, but also stands as an advancement in the modern world of advertising.

The Video Ad Serving Template (VAST), created by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), is intended to be the global video advertising standard. Its purpose is to provide better communication between video-watchers and ad-servers by making improvements to delivery and measurement processes. Before a video ad is played on any player, there is a request sent to the ad server. Based on VAST, the ad server is able to specify what ad content should be played, what should be tracked, and how that content is delivered to the viewer.

As an analogy, advertising is to speech, as VAST is to grammatical structure. The structure facilitates an infinite possibility of complex, organized and understandable sentences, i.e. video ads.

What are the origins of VAST?

Viewability has notoriously been a pain point of video advertising, leaving brands and agencies unhappy and publishers frustrated. VAST is meant to combat this issue by setting clear guidelines for both delivery and measurement. The goal of creating a standard was to help the video ad industry grow and develop, and VAST was first used by advertisers in 2008 as a tool to measure video performance. VAST offers accessible extensive markup language (XML) script, so it’s easy for most video players to interact with. VAST’s XML-based standard is lightweight, making it faster at both process and delivery. These factors encouraged the industry to further develop its structure, and last November the IAB publicly released its newest update, VAST 4.0.

What does VAST do for advertisers?

VAST 4.0 equips advertisers with new tools, including anti-fraud tracking devices, viewability shortcuts, and briefer video ad load times. While these improvements are invaluable for advertisers, the newest version continues to rely on VAST’s limited viewability information. Advertisers still feel the need to develop their own custom elements to measure video ad delivery, so the goal moving foward will be to expand VAST to fully address this issue.

What does VAST do for publishers?

VAST provides much value to publishers. Compared to other video ad standards, VAST 4.0 simplifies the viewability process by improving inventory quality, lowering latency, and contributing to a better overall user experience with accessibility and speed. VAST 4.0 does not bring publishers automatic inventory-tracking viewability, or provide publishers with the option of inserting video ads on the server side, so these are areas to develop in the future. Publishers serving ads on both Facebook and YouTube control most of the ad delivery chain for their inventory, so they are currently not tied to VAST specifications.

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So, what is VAST, really?

VAST signifies progress towards a global standard for video advertisers and publishers. The IAB has improved viewability and measurement through VAST, but there are still more improvements to be made in the future. In order to be fully effective, VAST must cover all the bases when it comes to viewability and be adopted by the entire industry, including huge players like Facebook and YouTube. At the core, VAST impacts how a viewer receives video content, and it will continue to have a widespread impact on how we view digital video. 

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