The amount of video delivered online is expanding exponentially, and the ability to monetise all of this content is critical for publishers, as well as media agencies looking to expand their clients’ presence. Mobile now accounts for 54% of video views globally, signaling the need for a new way of delivering ads across devices with maximum efficiency. At the same time, the spread of ad-blocking software has created challenges for advertisers and publishers alike.
Fortunately, Server Side Ad Stitching (SSAI) has emerged as a technology solution that simultaneously mitigates ad blocking while helping companies streamline and monetise ad-supported content across all platforms, including mobile, tablet, desktop, and over-the-top (OTT) devices. SSAI has emerged as the most effective pathway for broadcasters and publishers to get content across screens while delivering advertising in a non-intrusive way. For video to truly scale, advertisers and agencies need to familiarise themselves with this innovative technology.
SSAI, also known as Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) or sometimes referred to simply as “ad stitching,” is a more efficient method for video publishers to mitigate ad blocking and increase video playback across devices. The difference between SSAI and current client-side ad serving methods is that SSAI involves inserting ads into the video within the cloud, rather than on the device.
This means that video and ad content are stitched together as one deliverable asset – one stream on the server-side – thus bypassing the browser or device-level integrations. Rather than running an ad call prior to a video, the SSAI ad experience is more TV-like, wherein an addressable request is made to the ad server during a scheduled ad break. The ad server then delivers a decision, and the ads become “stitched” into the video stream within the cloud prior to being sent to the video player. This simplifies delivery via a single stream, which means that the ad blockers can’t decipher where the call to server is being made, and therefore can’t differentiate between an ad and the content itself.
SSAI supports targeting and personalisation for video, albeit with some small differences. Certain types of non-cookie-based target, such as geo, work in this environment, but retargeting will not be as readily available. However, the degree of cross-device scale that SSAI makes available should appeal to advertisers and agencies. A single stream removes much of the work when integrating with native players on multiple devices, opening up the flexibility to target different viewers with different streams in an efficient manner – something media buyers have been clamouring for. SSAI also eliminates buffering, which occurs in traditional client-side serving scenarios. This is particularly important when a broadcaster is livestreaming content. As more live sports and news content is consumed across mobile and OTT devices, stitching provides a viable solution for advertisers looking to reach audiences as part of a high-quality user experience.
While mobile accounts for the majority of video views, other platforms will continue to emerge and grow. Over-the-top (OTT) streaming devices and services such as Roku, Apple TV and the Amazon Fire went from a 9% combined share of video consumption in Q4 2014 to 41% of the market at the end of 2016, according to FreeWheel. SSAI is the only way advertisers can deliver a TV-like ad experience and deliver targeted addressable media at a hyper-local level.
Of course, any new technological development comes with limitations. SSAI does support creative rotations, but at the moment it does not allow interactivity, which is being addressed as part of the IAB’s VPAID 3.0 standard. SSAI also essentially rewrites the way many third-party video ad servers, measurement and delivery systems communicate, leading to some heavy lifting from a publisher’s internal ad ops team, potentially requiring external vendor support. Fortunately, industry groups are looking to make the implementation easy, and the latest IAB VAST video standard, VAST 4.0, is already meeting the requirements of server-side ad requests along with making viewability tracking much easier.
The future of online video and the future of TV are becoming increasingly comparable. No longer is content just delivered to a TV set or a desktop computer; it is now delivered across connected devices and through OTT mechanisms. For marketers, agencies, content developers and publishers to properly align these channels and deliver targeted ads with maximum efficiency, they’ll need to embrace SSAI.