Programmatic Video: Where We Are and Where We Can Innovate in 2018

Post on December 7, 2017 by Marcos Malé

Marcos Malé Senior Product Manager

Within the programmatic video space, historically there has been hype and focus on the new “shiny object,” from vertical video, to CTV/OTT, Video Header Bidding, and many more acronyms than we can mention. At PubMatic, we believe that improving video fundamentals that already exist should be the first step in getting programmatic video right. As video continues to grow in importance and prevalence, we are taking a look at what causes video ad errors and what best practices you should be employing to fix them.

Programmatic video ad errors today

As the ad tech industry stands today, even with great strides in innovative systems to buy and sell video ads, there is room to improve. The industry has been dealing with fraud, arbitragers, errors, latency, and a swath of misconfigurations along the way. As it pertains to errors, they can be caused by a number of things including, faulty creatives, incorrect publisher set-ups, and exchanges’ VPAID Ad Managers. A significant portion of video ad creatives time out, are incompatible with video players, lead to an empty VAST, and have wrapper overload. This leads to potential revenue loss for the publisher and also degrades the consumer experience.

And although publishers have the option to fall back to the next partner when a video ad error occurs, this waterfall effect will only add on to latency. Additionally, there’s no guarantee the following exchange’s ad will succeed either.

Where to find the cause of errors?

The first step to discovering where the error lies is to look at the error codes for the pertinent creative. While helpful, the current IAB VAST error codes discover the root cause of many of these issues. This is more pronounced in the case of the “general VPAID error.”

The creative is not the only cause of video errors though. Sometimes an error is due to parameters (e.g., mime types, bitrates, etc.) not being passed correctly in the ad request by the publisher. Or, it could be due to video players not selecting the most optimal media file provided in the VAST response. This can lead to incompatibility between the video player and the creative.

Additionally, as ad exchanges include their own wrappers and VPAID Ad Managers, the video ad creative can end up being wrapped inside the incorrect VPAID file. For example, a Flash file inside of an exchange’s JavaScript VPAID Ad Manager. There are also cases where ad requests contain mime types that are incompatible with the VPAID version. One example is when VPAID 1.0 is sent with the JavaScript mime type or when a VPAID mime type is sent without a VPAID version associated with it. This can lead to DSPs making the wrong assumptions and in turn, responding with a file that is not supported.

Fraud and arbitrage concerns

Even when video ads appear to play and monetize well, they can still be plagued with fraud. After all, it is to fraudsters’ benefit that the video ad renders successfully, so they can profit from the impression.

Another plague in the digital marketing industry is arbitragers, which bid on open-market inventory through DSPs and respond with a VPAID ad that attempts to resell the inventory at a higher CPM. They bombard other exchanges with ad requests from the page, which negatively impacts the consumer viewing experience. When the requests cannot be filled, they error out and the arbitragers can avoid any charges or penalties.

Typically, arbitragers have a pattern of bidding aggressively, yet erroring out a majority of the time. This leads to a potential loss for everyone: marketers being outbid by arbitragers, consumers experiencing slow or frozen pages, publishers losing the impression, and SSPs/exchanges not monetizing on an impression.

Potential solutions

In an ideal word, one solution would fix or prevent all of the aforementioned pain points; thus, maximizing a publisher’s revenue, improving the overall ad experience for consumers, as well as bolstering trust in programmatic video.

At PubMatic, we are continually investing in strengthening our core video capabilities. This year exemplifies this more than ever before, as we:

  • Tackled video fraud on two fronts: First, by proactively preventing fraud before it reaches demand sources (using White Ops’ pre-bid solution). Secondly, by cutting down fraud by leveraging White Ops’ granular post-bid solution. Providing the cleanest and highest quality pipes requires constant monitoring and inventory grooming, which we are committed to do.
  • Built on IAB error codes and introduced more granular error reporting: Publisher trouble shooting is now easier with the updates to our platform to help navigate through the plethora of potential causes.
  • Combated high error rates and arbitragers: We did this through careful monitoring of creative-level error rates for our publishers, and then blocking arbitragers accordingly. With this approach for a particular top-tier publisher, we were able to reduce error rates by as much as 50% in a short period of time.
  • Audited video parameters: We also collaborated with publishers to help reduce potential gaps or misconfigurations.
  • Invested in developing additional creative scanning solutions: These innovations will allow us to further reduce incompatibility issues in the upcoming months.

Looking ahead

Fixing all of these issues is not something one company can solve alone. It takes a concerted effort from the entire industry. And whenever there is money to be made, fraudsters and middlemen will seek an advantage. As we head into 2018, PubMatic will continue improving its core video capabilities while we innovate on new video products. To learn more about our solutions or our fight against inventory and ad fraud, contact us today.