Video Player-Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) – What Is It? And How Does It Work?

Earlier this year Google announced that Flash videos would no longer run through its DoubleClick suite of products.

This has meant more and more attention is being paid to the VPAID spec, as advertisers and publishers seek alternatives that can offer both interactivity and increased transparency.

So this week we’re looking at exactly what VPAID (aka Video Player-Ad Interface Definition) is, how it works, and weighing up some of the pros and cons.

Let’s get started!

What is a Video Player-Ad Interface Definition (VPAID)?

Simply put, VPAID is a video ad specification that allows for extra information and tracking to be communicated to those in the supply chain.

While VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) is used to standardise ad-serving, the VPAID spec provides a mechanism for adding additional pieces of functionality beyond standard video playback and tracking – things like measuring viewability and adding interactivity to the ad.

How does it work?

Last time we discussed how a VAST file can either contain the ad itself (with tracking pixels) or a link to another VAST file. But this is a bit of an over-simplification, since the ad contained could either be a simple video file or a more complex VPAID creative.

When a file is “VPAID wrapped” like this, it means the vendor who generated the VPAID ad will be required to unwrap the VAST chain that it’s replacing, and play the intended video and fire the tracking pixels itself.

However, there are many different ways VPAID wrappers can be incorporated in the chain.

It might be that the original creative uses VPAID in order to allow interactivity like sharing buttons, then further down the chain the DSP adds its own wrapper to the mix to collect viewability data directly. Finally, an SSP like UnrulyX might add its own VPAID technology so it can also collect viewability data or provide other brand safety protection to buyers.

What are the key pros and cons?

The primary benefit of VPAID is that it allows everyone in the supply chain to have visibility on the metrics and measurement that matters to them. By adding in pixel tracking and other tools at different stages, vendors are able to do their own reporting, especially for things like viewability, and don’t have to rely on a single source.

The other major benefit to advertisers is the ability to add a range of interactive elements to their ads, like making them shoppable or enabling social sharing buttons.

Unfortunately, all these extra attributes mean extra complexity, which can lead to increased error rates on publisher pages. 

Ultimately, VPAID’s fate seems uncertain as its extra layers of complexity have pros and cons. While the benefits of VPAID wrapping are apparent – it provides all parties with opportunities to add value – it’s not without challenges that can result in unexpected behaviour when the ad is loaded onto publishers’ pages and users’ browsers.