Fix Your VPaid Wrapper Immediately

Written by CEO Ted Dhanik and featured in Adexchanger on 6/2/16

Read full piece at Adexchanger


Publishers, here’s why fill rate is low. Advertisers, this is why viewability is dismal and campaigns aren’t serving effectively.

As browsers drop support for Flash, ad servers aren’t keeping pace.The majority of ad servers have not developed JavaScript VPAID wrappers – they’re still Flash-based – and until they do, I believe all players in the digital ecosystem will lose out.

Picture this: A brand or agency creates two versions of its creative, Flash and an HTML5-supported video file. They upload the creative and think they’ve done their job. We’ve talked Flashpocalypse to death, right?

But the problem lies in the middle, with intermediary ad servers that haven’t created a JavaScript VPAID wrapper, which facilitates ad unit and ad player communication. It is this wrapper that allows us to learn all sorts of useful things about the environment in which the ad will serve, such as player size and page-level domain. Without it, an impression is not viewable in HTML5.

VPAID Wrappers Impact Publishers And Advertisers

In my experience, VPAID wrapper issues are the No. 1 reason why publisher fill rates aren’t where they should be. In the video ad ecosystem, video demand is classified as either JavaScript/HTML5 or Flash. Advertisers label creative file types accordingly, but even if they do so correctly, their ad will not serve if it is executed with a Flash-based VPAID wrapper. Basically, we have rendered our classification system irrelevant.

The damage does not stop there. A publisher wants to monetize as much of its inventory as possible, so it may stop serving the demand source’s impressions entirely when it realizes that it is bidding on traffic but not actually filling it when it wins.

Let’s say I am a publisher with a video impression to fill. The user is in Chrome, where Flash is blocked. I call on a demand partner and that partner, an ad network, responds with its tag. Its VPAID wrapper is Flash-based. The ad cannot be executed, regardless of whether or not the advertiser used the correct file type. That impression dies.

Why am I, the publisher, going to keep working with someone who doesn’t fill the impressions they buy? I am going to automatically optimize that partner out, and then the advertiser ends up confused and frustrated when the campaign is not fulfilled.

Publishers are upset because their fill rates aren’t strong, and demand partners are irate because their campaigns aren’t serving and viewability is dismal. Video players are also contributing to this issue. Not all are updated to support JavaScript VPAID, and many publishers have yet to update their player versions. Furthermore, a lot of technology still uses Flash to measure viewability. That was the easiest way to do so because the Flash plug-in provides this information. Now, organizations need to write their viewability measurement technology in JavaScript, too. Until they do, their viewability metrics will be skewed. I have seen this issue firsthand, too.

Why Aren’t We Talking About VPAID Wrappers?

I don’t think most people realize the magnitude of this problem, or even its existence. In our fragmented industry, few players have a bird’s-eye view.

It is a lot of work to update a VPAID wrapper. Flash-based wrappers are easier because the browser has a Flash plug-in, so you don’t have to provide that code. With a JavaScript VPAID wrapper, you have to do all the work – there is no pre-existing JavaScript plug-in on the page. But it can and must be done.

In The Meantime

Assuming they have updated their video player versions, there’s not much that publishers or advertisers can do while they wait for the industry to catch up. I suggest they audit their partners and start asking questions. If we can raise awareness about the issue, companies will be forced to make the necessary changes.

In my experience, the VPAID wrapper issue is responsible for at least half of publishers’ unmonetized inventory. Unfortunately, publishers often don’t have a voice in ad tech. Some publishers may circumvent this issue if they only sell media directly to advertisers, but to best serve the vast majority of publishers who rely on external solutions, the guys in the middle need to make some changes.

Again, it doesn’t matter if the brand or agency did everything right. If they buy from a trading desk that then buys from an ad network that ultimately purchases the publisher’s inventory, and there is a Flash VPAID wrapper somewhere in that chain, both the publisher and the advertiser suffer.

We read about advertisers’ viewability struggles every day, and understandably so. It’s a real and poignant problem. But here is one tangible step we can take to help correct the issue, while also addressing the needs of publishers. The absence of JavaScript VPAID wrappers is leading to poor user experiences and a loss in value for advertisers.

Ad servers, I implore you: Update your VPAID wrappers immediately.