Video ads, those captivating story-driven marvels in the digital marketing universe, have become the heartthrobs of our online experiences, popping up everywhere from our favorite social hangouts to the binge-worthy streaming platforms we love. But behind the curtain, making sure these ads hit the right notes seamlessly is a backstage hero named Video Ad Serving Template, or simply VAST. Picture VAST as the ultimate translator, the brainchild of the smart folks at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). It's the behind-the-scenes wizardry ensuring that these ads perform their magic, smoothly transitioning between ad servers and video players, wherever your online adventures take you. VAST is the invisible thread stitching together those video ad experiences, making sure they shine brightly no matter where you encounter them online.

What are Vast Tags?

What are Vast Tags?
What are Vast Tags? | Source

Think of VAST Tags as the behind-the-scenes magicians of online video ads. They're like instructions or blueprints written in a computer language (XML) that tell video players exactly which ads to play, where to find them, and how to show them to viewers.

Importance and Relevance of VAST tags in Video Advertising

  1. Smooth Viewing Experience: VAST Tags ensure that when you're watching videos online, the ads seamlessly pop up and play without any glitches or hiccups. They're the reason ads flow smoothly within your favorite videos.
  2. Understanding Ad Performance: Advertisers use these tags to track how many people see their ads, who clicks on them, and even how much of the ad viewers watch. It's like getting feedback to see if the ad is hitting the right notes.
  3. Making Ads Personal: These tags help in tailoring ads for specific audiences. They make sure that the right ad reaches the right person based on their interests or demographics, making the ad-watching experience more relevant and enjoyable.
  4. Supporting Your Favorite Content: VAST Tags also help content creators make money by showing ads. That revenue helps them keep creating the videos, articles, or music you love without charging you directly.
  5. Working Everywhere: They're like the universal language for ads. Whether you're watching on your phone, laptop, or smart TV, VAST Tags make sure the ads show up correctly everywhere, making life easier for advertisers and viewers alike.

Components of VAST

Components of VAST
Components of VAST | Source

1. XML Structure:

VAST uses XML (eXtensible Markup Language) as its structure. XML is like a language that both the ad server and the video player understand. It organizes information about the ad—like what it looks like, how long it is, and where it should be placed within the video content.

2. Ad Pods and Ad Sequencing:

Ad Pods: These are groups of ads that play together during a video break. VAST allows the grouping of multiple ads, giving advertisers a chance to show a series of ads in a row—like a mini commercial break.

Ad Sequencing: VAST also lets advertisers set the sequence of these ads. For instance, they can decide if a longer ad should play first, followed by a shorter one, giving more flexibility in how ads are presented.

3. Media Files:

VAST supports various media file formats to ensure compatibility across different platforms and devices. Some of the commonly supported formats include MP4, WebM, and FLV for video, and AAC or MP3 for audio. This flexibility ensures that the ad can be played on different devices without any compatibility issues.

4. Tracking Events:

VAST allows detailed tracking of various events during ad playback:

  • Impressions: Tracking when the ad starts playing.
  • Clicks: Monitoring if viewers interact with the ad by clicking on it.
  • Quartile Tracking: Dividing the ad into quarters and tracking if the viewer reaches each quarter (25%, 50%, 75%, 100%) of the ad. This helps advertisers know how much of the ad you watched.

Additionally, VAST enables tracking for other events like mute, pause, full-screen views, and more. These tracking events help advertisers measure the effectiveness of their ads and understand how viewers engage with them.

Benefits Of VAST

Benefits Of VAST
Benefits Of VAST | Source

1. Standardization:

Imagine VAST as a universal language for ads. It ensures that ads look and behave similarly, whether you're watching them on your phone, computer, or TV. This means advertisers don't have to create a bunch of different versions of the same ad for different places—it's like making sure everyone speaks the same ad "language."

2. Improved Measurement:

VAST helps advertisers know what happens with their ads. They can see things like when you start watching an ad, if you click on it, or how much of the ad you actually see. This helps them understand what ads work better and what people like, so they can make ads that are more interesting to you.

3. Enhanced User Experience:

Ever had an ad interrupt a video you're watching? VAST helps prevent that. It's like making sure ads get ready before the video starts, so they smoothly slide in without pausing or buffering. Also, because VAST tracks what you might like or not like in ads, it tries to show you ones that you might find more interesting or useful.

Step-by-Step Guide to Generating VAST Tags

Step-by-Step Guide to Generating VAST Tags
Step-by-Step Guide to Generating VAST Tags | Source
  1. Get the Ad Details: Start by gathering all the specifics about your ad campaign, like how long the ad should be and what audience you're targeting.
  2. Set the Scene: Choose the version of VAST that fits your needs. It's like picking the right stage for your ad to shine.
  3. Start Building: Think of creating a blueprint for your ad in a language computers understand (XML). Begin by outlining the basics using tags like <VAST>, <Ad>, and <InLine>.
  4. Add the Flavors: Fill in details about your ad—what system you're using, the title, who's behind it, and a little description to entice your audience.
  5. Insert the Show: This is where you bring in the star of the show—the video file itself! Put it in the tag, making sure to specify its size and type.
  6. Track the Buzz: Include codes to track how many people see the ad, who clicks it, and if they watch the whole thing. It's like putting a tracker on your ad to see how well it's doing.
  7. Quality Check: Before serving your ad, make sure it's up to standard. Use online tools to check if everything's in place and there are no errors.
  8. Test Run: Serve your ad in a test environment to see how it plays. If anything seems off, tweak it until it runs smoothly.
  9. Launch and Keep an Eye: Once it's all good, launch it into the ad world! Keep an eye on how it's performing and adjust if needed.

Tools and platforms for VAST Tag creation

  1. Ad Platforms: Platforms like Google Ad Manager or AdButler are like creative studios where you can build your ad with easy-to-use tools.
  2. Online Helpers: There are websites—like VAST Ad Tag Validator or Tremor Video VAST Tag Generator—that guide you through creating and checking your VAST Tags.
  3. Ad Tech Tools: Some companies offer special software made just for creating and managing these tags, tailored to suit different campaign styles.
  4. Built-in Solutions: If you're using a video ad server like JW Player or SpotX, they often have features that help you create VAST Tags right within their systems.
  5. Simplified Editors: You can also use simple online XML editors or validators that ensure your tags are error-free.
  6. Developer Magic: For the tech-savvy, using programming languages and libraries gives you the power to generate VAST Tags programmatically.

VAST and Industry Standards

VAST and Industry Standards
VAST and Industry Standards | Source

1. IAB Standards and VAST:

IAB's Role: The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) plays a crucial role in digital advertising standards. It developed VAST as a standardized format to streamline and unify how video ads are served and tracked across the internet.

Standardization Efforts: IAB's involvement ensures that VAST adheres to widely accepted guidelines and practices. This helps in fostering a common ground for advertisers, publishers, and technology providers, ensuring smoother ad delivery and better measurement across the digital landscape.

2. VAST and VPAID:

VAST: Focuses primarily on delivering video ads. It dictates how video ads are structured, delivered, and tracked. VAST primarily deals with the display and playback of the ad content.

VPAID: Stands for Video Player-Ad Interface Definition. It's more about interactive elements within ads. VPAID allows for more interactive experiences within video ads, like games or clickable features. It complements VAST by adding interactive capabilities on top of what VAST delivers.

Relationship: Think of VPAID as an extension to VAST. VPAID-enabled ads can work within a VAST framework, adding interactive features on top of the video ad served through VAST. VPAID allows for things like interactive overlays or additional actions within the ad.

Future of VAST

Future of VAST
Future of VAST | Source

Evolving landscape and innovations in VAST technology

  1. Advanced Targeting: Expect VAST Tags to become more precise in targeting specific audiences, using data-driven insights to deliver ads to the right viewers at the right time.
  2. Interactive Ads: VAST Tags might evolve to support more interactive ad experiences within video content, enabling viewers to engage directly with the ad without disrupting their experience.
  3. Improved Analytics: Anticipate advancements in analytics within VAST Tags, providing deeper insights into viewer behavior, allowing advertisers to refine their strategies.
  4. Integration with Emerging Formats: As new video formats emerge, like virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR), VAST Tags could adapt to integrate and serve ads seamlessly within these formats.
  5. Enhanced Personalization: With AI and machine learning, VAST Tags may offer more personalized ad experiences, tailoring content based on individual preferences and behaviors.

Predictions for the future of VAST Tags

  1. Enhanced Compatibility: VAST Tags will likely evolve to ensure compatibility across a wider range of devices and platforms, keeping pace with technological advancements.
  2. Greater Automation: Automation will play a significant role, simplifying the process of creating and managing VAST Tags, making ad delivery more efficient.
  3. Heightened Security Measures: With the increasing focus on data privacy and security, VAST Tags might incorporate stronger security measures to protect user data and prevent ad fraud.
  4. Expanded Support for Emerging Ad Formats: As new formats gain traction, such as live streaming or shoppable ads, VAST Tags could adapt to support these formats more seamlessly.
  5. Integration with Contextual Advertising: Expect VAST Tags to integrate better with contextual advertising, serving ads that align more closely with the content being consumed, creating a more cohesive viewer experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is VAST and VPAID?

A: VAST stands for Video Ad Serving Template, which is a standard protocol that enables communication between ad servers and video players to display video ads. VPAID stands for Video Player-Ad Interface Definition, providing a standardized way for video players to interact with ad units, allowing more interactive and engaging video ad experiences.

Q: What is VAST in HTML?

A: VAST in HTML refers to embedding VAST-compliant video ads directly into HTML-based web pages. It involves using HTML5 video tags and VAST XML to ensure the proper display and playback of video ads within web content.

Q: What are the benefits of VAST tags?

A: VAST tags offer several advantages, including seamless ad delivery across various platforms, precise tracking and measurement of ad performance, customization for targeted advertising, standardization for compatibility across ad networks, and facilitating monetization for publishers.

Q: Does YouTube accept VAST tags?

A: YouTube primarily uses its own ad-serving infrastructure and doesn't directly support VAST tags. Advertisers generally use Google's Display & Video 360 platform to run ads on YouTube, which works with YouTube's specific ad formats rather than VAST tags.

Q: What is the full form of VAST tag?

A: VAST stands for Video Ad Serving Template, and the term "VAST tag" refers to the XML-based code that serves as a communication link between ad servers and video players for displaying video ads.

Q: How does VAST work?

A: VAST works by providing a structured XML file (the VAST tag) that specifies the details of an ad, such as its duration, type, tracking URLs, and the video file location. Video players use this information to request, load, and display the ad content accurately to viewers.

Q: What is a VAST tag tester?

A: A VAST tag tester is an online tool or software used to validate and check the correctness of VAST tags. It helps ensure that the VAST tags comply with industry standards and are error-free before deploying them in ad campaigns.

Q: How are VAST tags generated?

A: VAST tags can be generated manually by writing XML code that adheres to VAST specifications. Alternatively, there are online tools, ad management platforms, or ad servers that can generate VAST tags based on specific campaign details and requirements.

Q: What is VAST tag vs VAST XML?

A: "VAST tag" and "VAST XML" essentially refer to the same thing. Both terms describe the XML-based code used in the VAST protocol to communicate information about video ads between ad servers and video players.

Q: What is VAST protocol?

A: The VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) protocol is a set of specifications that standardize communication between ad servers and video players, ensuring the consistent and effective delivery of video ads across various digital platforms.

Q: How do I create a VAST tag in Google Ads?

A: In Google Ads, you can create video ads that are compatible with the platform's formats without directly using VAST tags. Google Ads provides options to create video ads within its interface using uploaded video assets, ad descriptions, targeting settings, and call-to-action elements. For more advanced ad-serving needs, Google's Display & Video 360 platform offers features for managing and serving video ads using VAST-like functionalities.