How to use VAST, VPAID, VMAP and VAST Waterfall

Leroy Medeiros

Leroy Medeiros

Ad Tech

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How to use VAST, VPAID, VMAP and VAST Waterfall

Table of contents:

What are video ad standards?

Video ad standards are important for the advertising industry, as a way to standardize communication between different ad delivery systems. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) defines different standards for video ads to ensure that the ads are displayed correctly and that all stakeholders can interpret the data accurately. In this article we will present the different video ad standards based on VAST, a standard that defines the delivery of Linear and Non Linear ads to a video player. We will be looking at VPAID, used for rich-media ads, at VMAP,  as a way of adding timing data to ads, and also at VAST waterfall, which defines the ways a video player may handle fallback ads. Let's dive in! 

What is Video Ad Serving Template (VAST)?  

VAST, is an XML schema used by publishers and advertisers to standardize communication of ad information between ad servers and video players. VAST is a response to the growing need for a unified format for video ad delivery and provides a way to serve ads that are compatible with a variety of ad networks and platforms. It has been widely adopted by the digital video industry and is now supported by all major ad servers and video players. It has also proved to be flexible and capable of evolving with the growing needs of the advertising industry. 

The VAST schema is a collection of XML files that define the structure of a video ad. It includes information about the video ad itself, as well as the companion ads that may be displayed alongside it. The schema also defines how video ads are tracked and reported on by ad servers. 

How does VAST work? 

When a video is played, the video player makes a request to a URL containing a VAST XML. This XML has information about the ad creatives, tracking events, and any other metadata needed for the video ad to run. The video player then parses this information and displays the ad, sending tracking information to the ad server. 

How does VAST work

VPAID vs VAST

VPAID (Video Player-Ad Interface Definition) is a standard based on VAST and created by IAB. It was created as a response to the lack of interactivity provided by the VAST standard. The main advantage of VPAID is the customization of the ad creative, namely by being able to use rich-media with HTML5 and JavaScript. 

For example, a VPAID creative can showcase more than one video, interact with the main video player video, switch the creative from Linear to Non Linear, have custom tracking events and custom sizes. The web native nature of the VPAID creative also allows the ad to be a video game or an interactive part of a website.

Below is a comparison between a VAST file sample and a VPAID file sample. Note that the VPAID creative is described inside the VAST tag, but its MediaFile tag is loading a JavaScript file, and has “VPAID” set as its “apiFramework” attribute.

VAST VPAID

<VAST xmlns:xs="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema" xmlns="http://www.iab.com/VAST" version="4.2">

    <Ad id="1">

        <InLine>

            <AdSystem>Example</AdSystem>

            <AdTitle>VAST Example</AdTitle>

            ...

            <Creatives>

                <Creative sequence="1">

                    <Linear>

                        ...

                        <MediaFiles>

                            <MediaFile id="1" delivery="progressive" type="video/mp4" bitrate="500" width="400" height="300" minBitrate="360" maxBitrate="1080" scalable="1" maintainAspectRatio="1" codec="0">

                                <![CDATA[ https://cdn.fluidplayer.com/sample_video.mp4 ]]>

                            </MediaFile>

                        </MediaFiles>

                        ...

                    </Linear>

                </Creative>

            </Creatives>

        </InLine>

    </Ad>

</VAST>

<VAST xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:noNamespaceSchemaLocation="vast.xsd" version="3.0">

    <Ad id="1">

        <InLine>

            <AdSystem>Example</AdSystem>

            <AdTitle>VPAID Example</AdTitle>

            ...

            <Creatives>

                <Creative sequence="1">

                    <Linear>

                        ...

                        <MediaFiles>

                            <MediaFile delivery="progressive" apiFramework="VPAID" type="application/javascript" width="640" height="480">

                                <![CDATA[ https://cdn.fluidplayer.com/sample_vpaid.js ]]>

                            </MediaFile>

                        </MediaFiles>

                        ...

                    </Linear>

                </Creative>

            </Creatives>

        </InLine>

    </Ad>

</VAST>

Ad Buffets and Ad Pods

Usually, VAST will respond with a stand-alone ad, but there are cases where a VAST response can have multiple ads. VAST describes two types of multiple-ad responses, each one having a different behavior: 

  • Ad Buffets: when a VAST response contains an Ad Buffet, the player will pick a single ad and play it. If there is any problem with this ad, another ad can be played.
  • Ad Pods: the ads inside an Ad Pod will be numbered and played in the numbered sequence.

A VAST response can have both an Ad Buffet and an Ad Pod. In this case, the Ad Pod will be played, and the Ad Buffet will be used as a backup in case there are problems with the Ad Pod.

What is VAST Waterfall?

VAST fallback, also known as a "VAST Waterfall", is a way to supply an alternate source for your video ad. A VAST response may have a VAST Wrapper, a tag that contains tracking information, and can link to other VAST Wrappers, creating a chain that eventually loads the ad creative. In the case that the ad creative is missing from the end of the chain, with VAST Waterfall the player will play any stand-alone ad from the Ad Buffet that may be available.

Benefits of VAST Waterfall

The benefit of using VAST Waterfall is to ensure that you can always fill an ad impression, having reliable ad delivery even if the ad network runs out of inventory or another error happens along a VAST Wrapper call. 

What is VMAP? 

Video Multiple Ad Playlist (VMAP) is an XML-based standard by IAB, based on VAST. It allows more control over the ad experience by including the timing and quantity data for ads, but not the ad content itself, integrating with VAST for that function. 

Benefits of VMAP 

The main benefit of VMAP is that it gives publishers control over the advertising experience that their digital property provides to its audience. To illustrate the use of VMAP, let’s look at one example:

  • The video player, instead of defining a VAST ad to run at the start of the video, and another one mid roll, will make just a single VMAP request to display both ads.
  • The returned VMAP XML would then have a VAST ad with the time offset set as “start” and another one set as “50%”.
  • The difference is that with VMAP the publisher can freely add or remove new ads with different timing data without needing to interact with the video player itself.

What about a performant video player? 

The evolution of the different VAST standards means that publishers need a video player that can support the current standards and has the flexibility to support future developments. Fluid Player is a free and open-source player that supports VAST 4.0. It is also actively developed and maintained by the EXADS team of tech experts, thus guaranteeing that it will always be updated to match the latest industry advancements and standards. Fluid Player also supports other IAB standards, such as VPAID, VAST Waterfall and a planned release of VMAP. 

Conclusion 

IAB provides different standards, each of them useful in its specific use case: VAST, a standard that allows In-Stream ads and is very customizable, VPAID for interactive ads, VAST Waterfall for a reliable delivery of ads, and VMAP, to enhance the advertising experience by defining the timing and quantity data of ads.

However, these standards only define the outline of how a video player should handle ads, so a capable implementation is also necessary. This is why EXADS offers Fluid Player, a well maintained free video player.

EXADS ensures that all of its clients can deliver a seamless and effective advertising experience to the end user, by being able to use any of these standards whenever required. If you want to know more about the ad serving solutions provided by EXADS, contact us now! 

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Leroy Medeiros

Leroy Medeiros

Front-end Developer

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