Video Ad Technology: What You Need to Know

Takeaways from IAB’s “Guide to Digital Video Advertising”

For many publishers, the world of video advertising can sometimes be an intimidating place. Before content producers can even think of monetizing, they must first understand the many moving parts involved in serving a digital video ad.

In order to help publishers get their bearings, we frequently recommend the bible of video advertising, IAB’s  “Guide to Digital Video Advertising.” Here are a few of the most pertinent insights for those of you who are finding your footing in digital video.


The ad server is responsible for communicating with the user’s browser to deliver and record the results of digital ads.

Every single online ad you see is the result of a lightning-fast, multi-step process. It involves three kinds of servers: The publisher web server delivers the editorial content to the page. The publisher ad server chooses which ad to show the user, and the marketer ad server delivers that ad unit to the page. Here’s what happens:

  1. The process begins when the user directs the web browser to navigate to a given web page. 
  2. After receiving a signal from the browser, the publisher’s web server tells the browser where its content is located and how that content ought to be formatted for the user.
  3. The code that the publisher web server sends to the browser contains the “ad tag,” a snippet of code that helps the publisher’s web server communicate with its ad server.
  4. After receiving the ad tag, the publisher ad server uses its internal decisioning logic to select one of thousands of pieces of potential creative.
  5. Next, the publisher ad server puts out a call telling the marketer ad server which ad unit it wants to show the user.
  6. The marketer ad server then calls for the creative unit from a group of servers called the content delivery network, and voila, the ad is served. 
  7. Along the way, the impression is reported as served by both the publisher and marketer ad servers.


The video player delivers the user’s video content, inserts the video ad unit, and records data on how the user experiences the ad.

In addition to playing the video content the user came to see, the video player receives a message from the video ad server containing the ad creative in multiple formats. It’s then up to the player to determine the best size and format for rendering the ad. After the video player delivers the ad, it passes user data to publishers and marketers, allowing them to understand how people experienced and engaged with their content.


VAST is a standard template that allows video players to communicate with ad servers across the industry.

In the early days of video advertising, each publisher would create their own custom solutions for video playing and ad serving, forcing advertisers to make their technology compatible with scores of publisher-side tools. As a result, IAB developed standard video player templates that worked with marketers around the world.

Today, the most popular standard is the Video Ad Serving Template (VAST). When publishers use VAST, advertisers have a common language for instructing the video player as to how the ad should be rendered. In addition, VAST allows advertisers and publishers to measure impressions, clicks, and completed views.


Want to learn more about the nitty gritty of video advertising? Schedule a call with one of our video experts.

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What’s Next for Video in 2018?

JW Player Leaders Predict What’s in Store for Video Next Year

As 2017 winds down, we look ahead to the most important trends and opportunities in the future of video. From shorter mobile video ads to the rise of native apps and machine learning, the evolution of the industry is only just beginning.

Get a head start on navigating the landscape with 2018 predictions from our video experts.


Brian Rifkin, Cofounder, SVP Strategic Partnerships:

  •   2018 will be the year of less is more.

The most successful publishers will implement faster sites with fewer but more impactful ads.

  •   2018 will be the year of the shorter mobile video ad.

As the 30-second video ad continues its steady decline, the 6- to 15-second ads will dominate mobile.

  •   2018 will be the year of intent to watch.

By creating an “intent to watch” experience, publishers will be rewarded with more loyal viewership and greater monetization.


Jeroen Wijering, Cofounder, Chief Product Officer:

  •      2018 will be the year of actual machine learning products.

In 2017, all the big clouds launched audio, video, and language processing systems based on machine learning. However, those systems gave us very inaccurate metadata. That data can’t be scaled to grow audiences and automate workflows. It’s a problem we’ll crack in 2018.

  •      2018 will be the year mobile users will start deleting apps.

In 2017, the majority of mobile users (51%) installed exactly zero apps a month.  Moving forward, we may even see a decline in apps as more users “return to the web” with progressive web apps (PWAs) and HTML5 technologies.

Major indications of this trend came this week from Apple and Microsoft. Apple is enabling Service Workers (an essential API used in PWAs) by default in the next version of Safari, and Microsoft announced it would enable Service Workers and support full-featured PWA experiences in Microsoft Edge and the Microsoft Store.


Rob Gill, VP of Product:

  •      2018 will be the year when OTT platform winners emerge.

OTT revenues are climbing (and will reach $120 billion by 2020). Leading the way will be giants like Roku and Android TV.

  •      2018 will be the year when artificial intelligence (AI) improves editorial workflows.

We’ll see more AI automation of the production, editing, and management of video content.


John Luther, SVP Product Strategy:

  •      2018 will be the year of WebAssembly.

Everyone will be talking about (and implementing) WebAssembly. The ability to run low-level binary code alongside JavaScript will move the Web further toward a universal “native” app platform. Together with PWAs, WebAssembly will allow users to do more “app-like” things within a browser or embedded web view, while gaining better performance and battery conservation.

  •      2018 will be the year when AVOD (still) reigns.

Despite current anxieties about quality, brand safety, and ad blocking, AVOD (ad-based video on-demand) will continue to grow as the preferred business model over SVOD (subscription-based video on-demand).

The barriers against SVOD include:

  1. Consumer SVOD budgets that are already saturated
  2. Improved ad targeting and SSAI (server side ad insertion) technologies that support AVOD
  3. Clumsy signup and login flows in SVOD
  4. Exorbitant back-end vendor fees in SVOD
  5. High subscriber turnover

To succeed in SVOD, you must have enough cash to make premium long-form content (think giants like Netflix and Hulu) or a very strong niche (Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Shudder).


Ready to take advantage of the latest video innovations? Schedule time to talk with one of our video experts.


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The Future of Automated Video Advertising

5 Takeaways from JW London Insights

On November 29, 2017, some of the brightest minds in media and technology converged on London for the city’s first ever JW Insights event.

In a particularly enlightening discussion led by Digiday senior reporter Lucinda Southern, leaders from JW Player, Facebook, Index Exchange and Minute Media shed light on what we can expect to see in the world of automated, or “programmatic,” video advertising in the times to come.

Here are five things we learned about the future of automated video advertising.


  1. Advertisers are following viewers to short-form content.

Recent shifts in video consumption patterns are forcing advertisers to reconsider their historical bias against short-form video.

“Let’s start with how users want to consume content. It’s short-form, largely,” said JW Player COO Bill Day. “If you’re an advertiser, you need to learn how to buy into that format, and if you’re selling, you need to learn how to perfect it.”

In fact, Sherzod Rizaev, global head of commercial ops at Minute Media, noted that he’s already seeing brands migrate from traditional, 30-second pre-roll ads to shorter, 6- to 15-second messages.


  1. The optimal video market will see a mix of direct and automated ad sales.

When asked to name the biggest myth in automated video advertising, Facebook Product Marketing Manager Joe Devoy said that many advertisers wrongly believe that programmatic impressions are always inferior to direct-sold inventory.

JW Player’s Day affirmed that many buyers have this misconception, but predicted that programmatic advertising isn’t about to swallow the entire video ad space. Instead, he suggested that “there’s going to be a large chunk of inventory that’s sold on a direct basis” and that a mature digital video marketplace will have a healthy mix of both.  


  1. Anti-fraud efforts like ads.txt will increase video CPMs.

According to Index Exchange VP of Publisher Development Luke Fenney, video advertising is currently undervalued due to the fraudulent inventory in the marketplace.

But as anti-fraud initiatives like ads.txt begin to stamp out bad actors, Fenney says he expects to see ad prices increase substantially throughout 2018.

“I think buyers need to realize that a lot of what they’ve been buying today is crap,” Fenney said, not mincing words. “That is ultimately going to change.”


  1. When it comes to inventory, transparency will be just as important as quality.

Even if the inventory is legitimate, it may be difficult for advertisers to see exactly what they’re buying.

For instance, a DSP might not have the technology to properly read all the information about an impression that’s being passed to it. As a result, an outstream ad might be misrepresented to the advertiser as a higher quality pre-roll.

In order to increase transparency in the marketplace, Index Exchange’s Fenney said that technology partners should update to the latest version of OpenRTB.


  1. Successful publishers will place a greater focus on user experience.

JW Player’s Day was dismayed to learn that outstream video has overtaken pre-roll ads as the dominant format in U.K. video advertising.

Rather than relying on outstream revenues, Day says publishers can generate higher revenues from pre-roll ads by keeping people on-site longer with a better user experience. To this end, he recommends less intrusive ad units, simpler pages, and intelligent content recommendations: “Migrating to an environment where the pages are faster, cleaner, and sold better is the way to go.”


To watch the full video:


For more on JW London Insights, read our recap of The Drum session and visit our video page.


Online video is complex. Our JW Demand team is here to help publishers implement best practices that drive ad revenue. Benefit from expertise you won’t find anywhere else.

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