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Video ad breakage: Unearthing real solutions

This is part two of a two-part series on improving video ad delivery as told by Pieter Mees, VP of Video and Publisher Products at DoubleVerify. Find the first part of his investigation here.

Conversations with campaign managers, product managers and engineering staff at top publishers have shown us that video breakage is a substantial ad tech industry problem. In fact, most stakeholders feel like they sunk too much time into investigating and coordinating with partners to solve these problems.

So why do delivery issues persist, with some publishers facing up to 50% failure rates? Why is it so hard to pinpoint the exact cause of something like a broken creative or latency issue? And why is it so hard to get it resolved afterwards?

In part one of this discussion, I identified three industry traits that lie at the core of the problem. Today, we’ll take a more technical look at the breakage problem and start to talk about the real solutions. For this, we must first look at an overarching issue: interoperability. Or to be more precise, the breakage caused by poor standardization and inconsistent VAST/VPAID integrations.

How VAST and VPAID makes optimization difficult

Unpredictable tech layers complicate troubleshooting. Every intermediary between the publisher’s inventory and the final video creative, sometimes called a wrapper or layer, consists of the same two interfaces: VAST and VPAID). Despite the commonalities, these layers can act vastly different based on which ad server and partners you’re working with. Each intermediary can do arbitrary things to the passing traffic or to other layers directly, meaning that they are in constant flux. This makes it incredibly difficult to know what each layer is doing, especially when their interaction creates errors that impact delivery.

VAST and VPAID complexity introduce unwanted latency issues. Each video ad request can take up to five network round trips, meaning that every intermediary is adding to latency that has a proven impact on video delivery. The more complex the chain is, the slower the ad loads, which can negatively affect user experience and ad performance.

VPAID is an invasive technology. The functionality of VPAID has made it a powerful enabler for services beyond its original scope, like fraud detection and brand suitability. We all know what comes with great power, but many of the VPAID integrations out there are not quite of superhero quality. Due to its capabilities, VPAID has the power to impact ad execution, which also means it can stop delivery if not working properly. With the added complexity of dealing with multiple VPAID wrappers in a single request, the interaction can easily create problems.

While not an ideal solution, the combined VAST/VPAID integration is now seen as a necessary evil for an industry that’s still working on better technology, standards and stability. Industry alternatives are still maturing and measures to limit VPAID harm often introduce interoperability issues of their own.

Is there an easy fix?

We recently analyzed a large portion of the industry’s VPAID traffic to look at how latency leads to various delivery errors. The graph shows the drop-offs between consecutive VPAID events (these are the gaps between the horizontal lines, from top to bottom). The graph also shows how latency affects these drop-offs.

First, we see that there is a similar drop-off between every stage in ad playback. This already doesn’t point to a single type of issue to fix. Second, we see that although latency has an important impact on breakage, there is a significant portion of bids which are simply broken from the start.

What it takes for publishers to repair ad deliverability

Despite the challenges for publishers in identifying video ad delivery problems, that is often just the beginning. In order for a publisher to actually resolve a breakage issue, it typically needs to meet all these criteria:

  • Costly enough for a publisher or SSP to investigate root cause
  • Reproducible in a reasonable time frame to illustrate the issue
  • Transparent enough to trace the issue back to the originating party
  • Provable to convince the originating party to take responsibility
  • Embarrassing enough to the offending party to invest time and resources to fix

Now we’re starting to see why publishers take what they can get from their video inventory instead of truly making the most of its revenue potential.

How DV Publisher Suite gives publishers the power to optimize video inventory

When we launched the video delivery solution as part of DV Publisher Suite, we knew that publishers needed better tools to detect, diagnose and automatically repair these delivery issues that cut into their revenue. Through unified data and a holistic toolset, publishers are able to:

  • Aggregate their video delivery data to view inventory performance based on creatives, partners, geography and more
  • Offer new insights into the intermediaries involved with their inventor beyond their immediate demand sources which are commonly seen in programmatic marketplaces
  • Reduce impression waste by diagnosing deliverability issues caused by latency, broken creatives, tech stack errors and more in real-time
  • Automatically optimize through server-side acceleration that improves delivery rates without added operational complexity

By equipping publishers with the tools to observe, diagnose and repair issues at scale, we’ve begun to see that there are tangible opportunities for them to improve delivery and recapture revenue that was being lost due to tech inefficiencies.

Case Study: Delivery Optimization Results by Device

The above graph outlines results from a publisher based in the APAC region during an extended beta testing period with DV Publisher Suite. In this study, the publisher was seeing an extremely low base of successfully billed inventory and subsequently experienced a 40% increase in billable video impressions across multiple devices. This publisher suffered from timeout issues and low fill rates, which meant a low conversion from inventory to billable impressions. By having the tools to detect and diagnose that issue, this publisher was able to make the changes necessary optimizations to improve their bottom line.

By removing the barriers that keep publishers from understanding and optimizing video inventory themselves, we can improve transparency and increase revenue opportunities. It’s the first step toward bringing attention to a longstanding problem and collecting the data we need to build a healthier video ad tech ecosystem.

Want to learn more about how DV Publisher Suite can help improve your team’s video ad delivery? Request a demo today.