What is VPAID (Video Player-Ad Interface Definition)

VPAID (Video Player-Ad Interface Definition) provides the tools to advertisers to serve rich media and interactive ads to users. It differs from VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) in being able to provide interactivity to the users which are very important in improving the ad-experience. Both VAST and VPAID are important tools in AVOD and Ad Insertion in Live Streams.

It should be noted that the IAB has deprecated the VPAID standard and that VPAID is being replaced by Open Measurement Interface Definition (OMID) and Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition (SIMID). We will talk about OMID and SIMID in future deep-dives on OTTVerse.com.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at how VPAID works, what VPAID is used for, and how VPAID differs from VAST.

Note: If you are new to ad-serving technologies, do check out our deep-dive on VAST tags to learn more.

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

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) defines VPAID as follows –

The IAB’s Video Player Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) establishes a common interface between video players and ad units, enabling a rich interactive in-stream ad experience.

Let’s decode this sentence and understand what VPAID provides.

If you understand how VAST works, then you know that all the information required to download, display, and report on an ad is present in a VAST tag. However, there is no provision for interactivity or rich-media ads. VAST 4.x does have a lot of improvements and provides the ability for an user to ClickThrough to a URI, allows publishers and servers to track Viewability, etc. but not of the kind that VPAID offers.

VPAID is a protocol between video players and ad units that allows a single “executable ad” to be displayed in-stream with the video content.

The requirement being placed here implicitly is that the video player should be capable of loading and executing external Javascript or Flash code in order to execute VPAID ads.

The interactive experience provided by VPAID can include surveys within the ad, expanding the size of the ad, playing games within the ad, overlays, companion ads, etc.

The other important part of VPAID is that it has the tools to collect information about the interaction of the user with the ad so that the ad-ops teams can gather intel and decide if the ROI into the interactive ad has paid off or not.

How does VPAID Work?

Below is an architectural diagram of VPAID that makes it easy to understand how VPAID works and how it differs from VAST. As shown in the diagram, the advantage of VPAID is the ability to provide and report on rich-interactions.

VPAID Architecture
VPAID Architecture from IAB

Let’s understand more by going into the flow-diagram of VPAID. Here is how it works (image taken from IAB).

VPAID Architecture and Workflow
Call workflow for VPAID

As the workflow shows, here are the major calls that are part of the VPAID lifecycle.

  1. Call to the ad server: when the video player reaches ad markers, it makes a call to the ad server.
  2. Response containing VAST and VPAID: the ad server then responses with a VPAID XML with a VPAID-compliant executable ad unit.
  3. Ongoing Communication: The video player and the VPAID ad unit continue communicating while the ad plays back.
  4. Tracking Impressions and Activities: The VPAID ad unit sends tracking data to ad servers or 3rd party analytics. The player also does this if directed to.

What usually surprises most people is that the VAST tag also appears in any architecture of VPAID. This is done for a reason and it is to separate the ad details (contained in VAST) from the interactivity (defined by VPAID).

This separation of the ad media details and the interactivity is important to ensure that players that cannot load or execute interactive ads can still playback the ad (defined by the VAST tag).

In contrast to VAST, the development of VPAID can be pretty complex and involves a lot of back-and-forth between the VPAID ad unit and the video player. This is very nicely captured in the following figure from IAB’s VPAID 2.0 specification.

VPAID Workflow and APIs
VPAID Workflow from IAB’s VPAID 2.0 specification

Let’s take a simple example of a user pausing an ad. As shown in the diagram above,

  • the video player tells the ad unit that the user has pressed the Pause button.
  • the ad unit pauses the ad and sends back an event AdPaused indicating that the ad has been paused.
  • however, if the ad unit takes too long to respond, the video player should implement timeout instructions that describe how to respond in the absence of an expected ad unit response

Similarly, a player must implement all the VPAID features to fully support VPAID interactive ads.

In the next section, let’s take a look at some of the most common VPAID events.

Events from VPAID

As mentioned in the introduction, the advantage of using VPAID instead of only VAST is the inclusion of rich-interactive media and the ability to report the user’s interactions. In this section, let’s take a look at some of the events provided by the VPAID ad unit to the video player. These events can be captured and used to trigger public-facing URIs from ad-servers or 3rd party ad-reporting providers.

The following events are provided by a VPAID ad unit.

Problems with VPAID?

The biggest problem with VPAID stems from the fact that an external piece of code has to be downloaded and executed on the user’s platform which might be a desktop, TV, or mobile.

But, some platforms probably won’t allow you to do this for the lack of space, power, or security. Also, the act of downloading and executing code outside the player adds to the latency of the ad and users don’t like waiting for an ad to begin! Any issues with advertising usually lead to frustrated users who would rather jump to another video, or just leave the platform instead of waiting for the ad to load.

Apart from this, before a VPAID ad can be displayed, the player and the ad unit must communicate to ensure that they support the right (or required) VPAID version numbers for the ad to be properly displayed. Any problems here could lead to reduced interactivity, reporting, or simply the inability to playback VPAID ads.

Any errors coming out of VPAID is generally reported by the VAST 4.0’s 901 error code (General VPAID error). Unfortunately, all the errors are reported via this single error code, which is quite odd and not very helpful!

What’s next for VPAID?

Well, VPAID has been deprecated in favor of Open Measurement Interface Definition (OMID) and Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition (SIMID) which promise to offer better in-mobile performance, interactivity, and reporting.

In the next few articles on OTTVerse, let’s take a look at OMID, SIMID and how they’re designed to take the place of VPAID.

Thank you and see you next time! If you are interested in Video Advertising, please take a look at our ad-related articles.

krishna rao vijayanagar
Krishna Rao Vijayanagar

Krishna Rao Vijayanagar, Ph.D., is the Editor-in-Chief of OTTVerse, a news portal covering tech and business news in the OTT industry.

With extensive experience in video encoding, streaming, analytics, monetization, end-to-end streaming, and more, Krishna has held multiple leadership roles in R&D, Engineering, and Product at companies such as Harmonic Inc., MediaMelon, and Airtel Digital. Krishna has published numerous articles and research papers and speaks at industry events to share his insights and perspectives on the fundamentals and the future of OTT streaming.

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