• VAST & RTB: Peas in an Ad Pod

    While the CTV market will continue to garner billions of dollars in incremental spend each year for the foreseeable future, the tone is beginning to change ever so slightly; from unbridled excitement to a heightened focus on the technology and manner by which CTV ads are bought and sold.

    Amid this step change, an old friend has re-emerged at the forefront of industry conversation: Ad Pods.

    As a refresher, ad pods are a sequenced group of ads that play one after another within an ad break. Scheduled in pre-, mid-, and post-roll environments, an ad pod equates to a commercial break that runs during an episode of a TV program in linear environments.

    Ad pods are not new to programmatic ad delivery or IP-based programming by any means. The concept of ad pods in CTV and over-the-top (OTT) environments have been around for some time, but adoption over the years has been slow and piecemeal. The lack of implementation has led to inefficiencies in the way premium video and TV media is bought and sold. These inefficiencies have only become exacerbated as streaming has taken off, resulting in unpleasant ad experiences for viewers.

    A vast leap back in time.
    Nearly a decade ago, in 2012, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Tech Lab released VAST 3.0, and the concept of an ad pod was brought to the forefront. VAST 3.0 provided specifications that allowed for the delivery of sequenced ads during a commercial break in long-form digital video content. At the onset, ad pods and their related sequence signals offered a lot of promise, but they didn’t get much play because the concept of digital (i.e. connected) TV was somewhat nascent at the time.

    Because ad pods were not used as widely as they perhaps should have been, the industry missed out on opportunities to reap their full benefit and build a future-proof foundation.

    The accelerated rise of streaming over the past two years has brought the viewer experience in CTV and OTT back under the microscope. Long-form, lean-back episodic media commands prestige, but the advertising experience has often left much to be desired; from blank slates and timeouts to duplicate creative and a lack of competitive separation.

    Enter OpenRTB 2.6
    In April of this year, the IAB Tech Lab introduced OpenRTB 2.6, a transaction protocol that includes specifications to support the buying and selling of CTV media. And notably, as you might guess, the release included new attributes and guides specific to ad pod opportunities and podded bidding.

    On a technical level, the spec includes detailed guides for constructing bid requests and configuring responses in programmatic CTV, spanning structured, dynamic, and hybrid (i.e. a mix of both) ad pods. We’ll spare the particulars for now, but the formalization of these standards marks a major step forward for buyers and sellers of programmatic CTV media — building on the important VAST 3.0 spec released nearly a decade ago.

    This milestone is particularly meaningful at a time when subscription fatigue is setting in and ad-supported viewing is on the rise, offering lucrative opportunities to score ad dollars and win audiences. Delivering a pristine viewer ad experience is key to capitalizing on these opportunities, and OpenRTB 2.6 and VAST 3.0 will inevitably play a critical role in helping media owners accomplish just that.

    The industry, however, must rally around these standards to drive uniform adoption.

    The time to adopt is now.
    Back in 2012 when ad pods were brought to the forefront, they were heralded as a fix for issues like creative redundancy in ad breaks. Unlike linear TV, OTT was (and, to some degree, still is) a work in progress, lacking the proper rules and controls to solve issues like duplication, competitive separation, latency, and frequency.

    The technology and complementary standards (OpenRTB 2.6 and VAST 3.0) are now in place to address these problems; the industry just needs to come around to using them.

    Yes, the viewer experience is certainly improving in CTV as the market enters its next phase of growth, but there is still room for enhancement. It’s on all of us — buyers, sellers, and tech partners alike — to push adoption of these standards, and to demonstrate how ad podding and successful pod management results in greater revenue for publishers, and a better experience for brands. 

    Check out the 10 minute video interview below with Daniel to learn more.