The Modern Video Ad Server

Posted by Daniel Rowlands On June 01, 2016

The supply-side technology stack for video publishers has long been a complicated space.

It’s populated by a number of players — including ad servers, supply-side platforms, online video players and sometimes ad networks — which need to interact cohesively in order to optimise the sale of inventory.

So it’s no surprise that finding and implementing the best tools to create a streamlined and effective monetisation process can be a challenge. The market has witnessed these once independent technologies and services begin to merge together to provide holistic inventory management platforms for publishers and broadcasters.

With the move toward greater automation, and a growing mandate for granular targeting from advertisers, the ad server is becoming an increasingly vital piece of this technology puzzle. Modern iterations of video ad servers have a number of distinct benefits for publishers.

Connecting video formats, screens and transaction types

The benefits of having full visibility over all sales techniques, screens, delivery points and video inventory types are enormous, and still largely unrealised by the industry. In video, a lot of inventory is sold upfront via traditional, direct transactions, and exempt from programmatic executions. Unifying traditional direct and programmatic transaction styles allows media owners to compete all inventory in a real-time environment to allow the highest paying ad to be served on every occasion, whether that ad be trafficked through uploading a creative asset, VAST tag, Deal ID, or sourced through an open marketplace, by the publisher.

Take, for example, the scenario of a broadcaster that is selling inventory across linear TV, and streaming live and on-demand content across multiple desktop, mobile and connected TV devices. It’s not uncommon for the number of distribution options to exceed 30 different delivery points for a big publisher. Modern ad serving tools are needed in order to forecast and deploy the most effective sales technique across each screen, ad format (from interstitials to instream to outstream) and each delivery point.

Intertwining all sales styles in a single, unbiased platform enables media owners to leverage the strengths of each sales style, whether that be automated direct, the open marketplace, private marketplaces or curated marketplaces.

With transparency comes control

To meet today’s advertising needs effectively, publishers need advanced controls over inventory, placement, targeting criteria, pacing and every aspect of how and where ads are delivering. The technology, however, needs the support of the full sell-side technology stack and people to help turn data into insights. To deliver and manage campaigns, optimise against yield, set up pricing rules and understand bid data, people are needed to help make the insights actionable. These people are becoming know as ‘demand facilitation’ specialists.

With the right mix of transparency and actionable insight, the publisher can forecast which buyer will be the most profitable, and adjust where demand partners fall in prioritisation tiers, or even block advertisers or unsuitable creative.

Cutting down on latency

Latency, or the increase in ad load times, arises from a combination of factors. In a real-time environment, finding the highest paying advertiser for each ad call requires a system that connects the supply and demand sources with the least room for error.

Technology errors in the automated ad space come in a number of forms, both from the advertiser and publisher side. Common demand-side errors stem from technology failures, like a buyer sending a flash ad to an iOS device, or VPAID opt outs, which is where a buyer accepts an ad call but opts out before the ad is played (advertisers may do this a number of reasons, like cookie bombing for example). It’s the job of the ad server to monitor these sources of lost inventory and adjust where the responsible parties fall within prioritisation tiers to decrease latency rates.

Publisher-side errors, or pre-auction errors, can stem from VAST time outs (where the ad call didn’t get answered) or VAST opt outs (ad calls that were answered but rejected). Publishers should look for technology that offers a lightweight AdOS to eliminate inefficiencies and reduce latency caused by slow page load times.

The modern ad server also enables an important ad decisioning methodology — parallel ad calling. By calling all individual demand partners, or campaigns, simultaneously, rather than one after another, the system eliminates the lengthened response times of ‘waterfalling’. This means fewer unmonetised impressions if the correct ad is not identified fast enough, and swift identification of the highest paying campaigns, which can be missed if they’re stuck at the bottom of the waterfall. It also makes the inefficient process of header bidding unnecessary.

Publishers that set themselves up for the future by leveraging modern automation, not just the early “programmatic” sales flow, will benefit from better monetisation, fewer overlooked opportunities, and a more cohesive inventory management process. The right ad server, and people to action the insights and technology, are integral in maximising video ad yield. 

Daniel Rowlands is Senior Director of Supply, JAPAC at SpotX.


Daniel Rowlands