IAB Tech Lab replaces VPAID with publisher-friendly, cross-platform spec

Unlike VPAID, the new SIMID standard should be fully functional on mobile

Ten years ago, IAB Tech Lab released the Video Player Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) to support building interactive online video ads.

Today it's used to verify and measure such ads, two unintended use cases that have overburdened the spec.

VPAID is essentially code that tells a video player when to run an ad, which ad to run, what length the ad is, and where to place actions like play or pause.

"A lot of VPAID code was...poorly written and bloated, resulting in further user experience issues," said Dennis Buchheim, senior vice-president and general manager of IAB Tech Lab. "As a result, publishers had only two options: accept a VPAID unit or reject the ad opportunity completely."

To address these issues, the Tech Lab is sunsetting VPAID and replacing it with the Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition (SIMID), which should provide publishers more agency by creating a "player-centric" model that gives video playback control to the player itself.

Jarred Wilichinsky, vice-president of video monetization and operations at CBS Interactive, explained publishers' frustration with VPAID.

"A programmer says they're going to load up this VPAID, and we're reliant on the VPAID asset to tell us being played. Basically our hands are tied until we hear back. It happens every day, a certain percentage of the time that communication process fails.

"This new standard de-couples playback and control for the end user and the programmer to make sure you get from point A to point B while maintaining the transparency advertisers and agencies need," said Wilichinsky.

Buchheim said SIMID is meant to increase transparency, security and "creative freedom".

"With the separation of verification use cases from interactive use cases, both pieces can now be much more light-weight, allowing each side to focus on their core competencies," said Buchheim.

SIMID is meant to be used in tandem with OMID (Open Measurement Interface Definition) and VAST (Video Ad Serving Template). IAB Tech Lab has also released an updated VAST 4.2 template to support SIMID.

VAST 4.2 and OMID work together to separate code for verification from code for interactivity, which SIMID isolates. The latest iteration of VAST ties everything together, which can be used to deliver any type of video ad.

On desktop, VPAID could cause viewers to get stuck in an ad, thus freezing a stream. VPAID couldn't be used at all on mobile, which created a "transparency hole" for publisher partners, Wilichinsky‌.

SIMID will apply to all platforms, including mobile devices and connected televisions. It will also support server-side ad insertion. Buchheim said the same API is expected to work across all three areas.

A decade ago, the industry spent $305m on digital video advertising. Today, according to IAB Tech Lab, that number is around $12bn, forcing publishers to provide a near-perfect user experience no matter where the consumer is.

"Digital execution [today], the expectation is that it's TV-like – you don't know the difference if you're watching it on Roku or Comcast. This new standard I think is going to have a lot of great benefits for the user and advertiser experience," said Wilichinsky‌.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.