VMAP

November 6, 2017
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Glossary

What is VMAP?

The Video Multiple Ad Playlist, or VMAP, is part of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Video Suite, a collection of protocols that standardize key aspects of the video ad delivery process. VMAP allows advertisers to structure ad delivery on video players and content distribution platforms that they don’t directly control.

VMAP uses an XML template to lay out the timing of ad breaks for video content. With VMAP, publishers and advertisers holding the appropriate rights can define the particulars of video ad insertion. That includes setting details like:

  • The presence of ad breaks in video content
  • The number of ad breaks available with each content piece
  • The number of ads allowed for each ad break
  • The duration of each ad break

Compared to the other tools in the IAB Video Suite, VMAP performs more niche functions, and it isn’t an essential tool for digital video advertising. IAB designed it as a specific answer to the growing popularity of general content distribution platforms like YouTube or Vimeo, where content publishers and advertisers don’t have ultimate say on the video player’s behavior nor get many sophisticated out-of-the-box options for their ad rollouts.

How does VMAP work?

As the name suggests, VMAP is a playlist creation tool of sorts for digital video ads. It doesn’t queue up specific ad files, prompt the delivery of particular ads, or tell the video player to do anything. Instead, it simply gives the video player the information it needs to know where you want ads to appear during content playback.

Consider VMAP a scaffolding tool for your video content. It designates where ads can be placed (by specifying location and number of ad breaks), how many ads can be placed, and what types of ads can be displayed for each spot. All of this information is relayed to the video player in an XML template, which the video player then reads.

[diagram of VMAP response process]

Bear in mind that VMAP doesn’t specify what ads to play during each ad break. It’s up to the ad server to request and display ads that fit the criteria outlined for each slot in the VMAP template.

What can VMAP do for you?

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to use VMAP. As the IAB itself reminds users, VMAP is designed to solve very specific issues posed by the use of third-party content distribution platforms or similar arrangements. If you have direct say over how the video player for your content displays ads, then you probably don’t need VMAP.

However, if you’re inserting ads into content that’s published on platforms like YouTube, you and the content publisher probably don’t get much control over the timing and placement of ads by default. While you can guarantee the release of content or the inclusion of ads, for example, you can’t say the same for how the video player delivers both content and ads to your target audience — normally, YouTube or your chosen platform determines that.

VMAP changes that configuration, allowing for more deliberate and precise ad placement and distribution. You get more strategic calibration of ad density, ad type usage, and so on. Any insights you might have on the impact of ad display frequency, etc. on audience reception can be put into direct practice. Conversely, you have more power to implement changes that can boost the effectiveness of your ad campaigns’ delivery.

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