What is VAST?
The Video Ad Serving Template, or VAST, is one of the essential tools in the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Video Suite. It gives advertisers a standard protocol for relaying ads from video ad servers to the multitude of video players that their target audiences may be using.
By using XML, VAST eliminates the need to tailor video ad delivery to the specifications of each possible receiving video player. Aside from allowing for seamless, multi-player playback, VAST also relays important information for playing each video ad. That includes details like:
- The video ad’s running time
- The destination URL for any audience clicks
- The video ad’s location in the content stream
- Which video ad to display for each viewer
VAST simplifies the ad delivery process, reduces the risk of ad-serving errors and compatibility issues, and creates opportunities for scaled-up distribution. Since its introduction in 2008, it has helped facilitate the boom in digital video advertising, and its iterations over the years — from 1.0 to the current 4.0 protocol — have brought vital standardization and stability to the rapidly evolving technologies and processes of digital video advertising.
How does VAST work?
The basic video ad serving process involves a call and response mechanism, which VAST in turn improves. Whenever a video player must display an ad, it requests or calls up the necessary ad data from ad servers.
The number of ad servers involved can vary. A video player may pull data directly from one of the ad publisher’s servers. Alternatively, it may call up an agency or network ad server that then redirects the video player to secondary ad servers which supply the needed information.
Improving Video Ad Responses
Before VAST, the protocols for such video player calls and ad server responses weren’t standardized. Due to differences in the technology used for various video players and devices, you’d have had to create multiple responses in different formats if they wanted to reach, say, iPhone users and streaming TV subscribers with the same ad.
To give a better idea of how cumbersome, resource-intensive, and time-consuming that process could be, here’s a sampling of the different video players that advertisers had to account for:
- Webpage-embedded video players
- Mobile webpage-embedded video players
- Mobile app-based video players
- Internet-connected TV video players
With VAST, ad server responses can be written and read through a standard XML-based format. It gives you a uniform vocabulary of tags and schema that you can use to communicate crucial ad information to a broad range of video players in one go. Once transmitted, the receiving video player unpacks the data and uses it to display the ads as you intended them to be seen.
What that means is that VAST isn’t a process or operation — it’s a language. Consider VAST the lingua franca of digital video advertising: it gives advertisers, content providers, and video players a shared standard so they can all work together with minimal adjustments.
How does VAST help you?
The many advantages of VAST can be boiled down to two main points: efficiency and scale.
As mentioned earlier, VAST’s comprehensive, XML-based tag system allows you to send the same package of video ad content and playback information to multiple video players. By transmitting crucial playback directives through VAST tags, you exert more control over how users view and experience your ads, ensuring that they play as intended and hopefully make the expected impact.
As long as the receiving video player is VAST-compliant (i.e., able to parse XML data), it will play your ads. This easy compatibility means you save on the time, effort, and resources that you would have otherwise spent to ensure proper playback on multiple devices. It also means you can scale up your ad delivery with little cost or effort, broadening your potential audience reach.