VAST Tags: An Introduction

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The world of video advertising has created a lot of benefits for publishers, especially when it comes to ad monetization. Video ad spending currently sits at $26 US billion per year and is projected to reach $35 US billion annually within the next few years. So, it goes without saying that video advertising is a MUST for publishers who want to generate a lot more revenue.

However, while video advertising may seem simple enough on the publisher[6]’s end, it wouldn’t be possible, technically speaking, without VAST[1] tags.

In short, VAST tags allow publishers to serve video ads[7] effortlessly and seamlessly. In this article, we’re going to dive into VAST tags and all the essential information you need to learn about them.

What Is a VAST Tag?

VAST stands for video ad serving templates. VAST is defined by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB[2]) as a template for structuring ad tags. These tags serve both video and audio ads to media players using an XML schema. VAST tags also transfer the critical metadata about said ads from the ad server to the media player. 

Simply, a VAST tag is a third-party ad script generated by an ad server specifically for displaying video ads. Essentially, VAST enables video players and ad servers[4] to sync up so that advertisers can serve their ads onto multiple ad inventories within various video ad players.

This enables your video ads to appear in the proper format across different publishers’ sites and ad networks. 

Generally speaking, ads can be served on either the client-side or server-side. 

Here’s the basic difference between the two:

  • Client-side VAST tags for ad insertion involve the client’s media player requesting ads from an ad server. It then displays it to the end-user at the opportune moment.
  • Server-side VAST tags for ad insertion involve the server generating ads and stitching them into the media directly. From there, the ads are served to the chosen media player.

All you have to do is choose a reliable third-party video ad server that can support VAST tags. Additionally, a good video ad server will provide you with detailed reporting and auditing as well as split-testing tools.

The working process involved with VAST tags is as follows:

  1. VAST request: The video player sends a request to the ad server for video ad retrieval.
  2. VAST inline response: The ad server is notified of the request and responds with an “inline response” involving the media files and critical tracking URLs.
  3. Pinged tracking URLs: Once the desired response has been generated, the video player will start up the pixel and URL tracking to let other parties record and measure the viable impressions.  

What Are the Benefits of VAST Tags?

In general, VAST tags have helped a large number of publishers capitalize on their monetization strategies. It does this by:

  • Creating a means of unified communication between ad servers and video players
  • Creating standardized vocabulary within the video ad serving community that’s easily understood by both publishers and advertisers. This allows them to understand their tracking ad performance[5] better.
  • Creating unified instructions to reduce playback errors for displayed video ads
  • Saving publishers time and money in executing video ads via VAST standards

Moreover, without VAST tags, the monetization of video ads wouldn’t be as prominent or worthwhile today.

How to Create a VAST Tag

There are three ways to create a VAST tag — manually, via Google Ad Server, or using third-party tools.

If you’re going the manual route, you’ll be relieved to know that no coding experience is necessary. All you need is a little bit of knowledge on XML and the pre-defined parameters regarding VAST tags through Google Ad Manager[3].

Once you’ve opened the list of parameters, you can select the ones you need to create your specific VAST tag. 

Using Google Ad Manager to create VAST tags is the most popular route, and just as simple as the manual way. All you have to do is sign into your Google Ad Manager Account, click Ad Units under the inventory[8] tab, and choose an existing ad.

From there, click Tags, complete the four-step process (selecting tag type, tag options, additional tag parameters, and tag results), and then click Copy Tag.

When it comes to using third-party tools, how you create your VAST tags will depend entirely on the specific services you’re working with. The ability to create VAST tags comes as an additional feature along with the video players that are used for displaying video ads.

You can find several reliable video partners that work with Google Ad Manager, should you decide to use third-party tools to create your VAST tags.

How to Validate a VAST Tag

Keeping in mind that all VAST tags are XML-based, you’ll need to validate your creations before you can launch them. The VAST tag validation process ensures that there are no bugs in your tags and that they are completely functional.

To check for any bugs or errors in a tag, you’ll need to use a validation tool. These tools were designed to automatically run down a specific list of possible errors in the tags’ code to let you know where the issue is occurring and how to fix it. 

Online videos, including video ads, are taking over the digital world. In 2021, the average person spends roughly two hours watching videos online each day. If you’re a publisher, this creates quite the opportunity for you when it comes to generating greater revenue via ad monetization. Using VAST tags is your ticket to maximizing your revenue stream. 

1. Video Ad Serving Template [VAST] ( VAST ) Video Ad Serving Template is an industry-standard script that helps provide video players with information on which ads to display, how to display it, when and functions it should offer.
2. Interactive Advertising Bureau [IAB] ( IAB ) The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership is comprised of more than 650 leading media companies, brands, and the technology firms responsible for selling, delivering and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, IAB develops technical standards and solutions. IAB is committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through the work of its public policy office in Washington, D.C., the trade association advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers. Founded in 1996, IAB is headquartered in New York City.
3. Google Ad Exchange ( Google Ad Manager ) Ad Exchange is often referred to as the premium version of AdSense, and also a Google-owned ad network of sorts. To join Ad Exchange, publishers need to meet specific requirements such as 500 000 minimum monthly traffic, be invited or join through a Google certified partner. Recently Google has rebranded this product, and it is now called Google Ad Manager.
4. ad servers. The computer or group of computers responsible for the actual serving of creatives to websites, or for making decisions about what ads will serve. An ad server may also track clicks on ads and other data. Major publishers, networks and advertisers sometimes have their own ad servers. Well known ad servers include Google Ad Manager, Xandr, and OpenX.
5. performance. A form of advertising in which the purchaser pays only when there are measurable results.

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