Video content producers and ad campaign managers all around the globe are looking for novel ways to generate revenue while overcoming the various video ad monetization challenges.
The benefits of ad stitching, also known as server-side ad insertion are manifold and have found popularity with the users as the problems including ad blocking, user experience fails and device fragmentation can be negated.
How elegant a solution is ad insertion?
The question of the hour however is a serious one. Is it really a hard cold fact that ad stitching through server-side ad insertion works as a silver bullet?
Can it be relied on by publishers and advertisers to meet all of their ad delivery needs? It is not that simple a solution of one-size-fits-all with respect to ad monetization and user experience challenges. The debate between the client-side vs.
server-side ad insertion has been raging on for a few years. The answers are multifaceted and warrant careful scrutiny.
A general rule of thumb is for the marketers to take into account the type of content being delivered and the requirement for ad engagement along with the ability to measure audience retention through algorithms to better understand which delivery method suits them the best.
How ad stitching started?
The ad insertion technology, be it CSAI (Client-side ad insertion) or SSAI (Server-side ad insertion) was a direct result of device fragmentation.
In their nascent stage, devices like TV, set-top boxes, gaming consoles and first generation smart phones lacked client-side capabilities and developers relied solely on server-side ad stitching to circumvent the issue of delivering content and campaign programs to the user.
In some cases like that of the Apple TV server side ad insertion was the only option available to the content provider.
However, as the technology advanced, some of these issues were resolved. The industry has since evolved into one where client support is available. In other words, the client side is built at the outset of development itself.
And yet, as a content provider, one must be thorough and perform enough background research to sift through the commonly held myths about ad stitching from the facts.
It is easy to fall prey to the commonly held misconception that ad stitching is an all purpose solution and it will magically simplify all the major problems of device fragmentation without the need for ad integration and server maintenance.
Shortcomings of the traditional ad insertion systems
The traditional ad insertion systems do address some of the issues related to the challenges faced by the video content providers but certainly does not solve all of them.
One major problem is the fact that with most of the current ad technologies that include programmatic trading; the measurements of view-ability, click-ability and service provider-audience interaction are generally built on the client side.
There is no support for server-side ad insertion.
Another problem is the level of complexity associated with server-side ad insertion. When an advertisement is stitched on the server side, developers need to implement a client-side code in order to add the current ad technology programs.
This increases the implementation and maintenance cost. Even with the release of the most advanced VAST 4 standard system, not all the challenges have been addressed.
Ad stitching through the traditional ad insertion systems also doesn’t allow for the service providers to serve all the popular ad formats. VPAID, the most popular video format in Europe and U.S. which accounts for over 50% of all the pre-video rolls served in the regions, is a format that can’t be integrated with the traditional ad insertion technologies. This inability to serve VPAID, results in a significant loss of revenue for service providers associated with interactive and opinion poll ads.
Though some vendors can be bullish about server-side ad insertion and their benefits in serving popular ad content, VPAID is a very complex beast and usual integration algorithms associated with both client-side and server-side ad insertion doesn’t simplify let alone improve the situation.
It has also been observed that marketers back away from implementing SSAI (server-side ad insertion) once they are better able to comprehend the technical and customer-related implications. The use of SSAI has thus been fairly limited over the years.
Conversely the client-side ad insertion (CSAI) does not address all the problems either. Client-side ad insertion is not at all suited to the unforgiving nature of live streaming in case of events, sports and breaking news content. Live-cast and simulcast are extremely challenging to integrate with CSAI technology because it works by dynamically fetching an ad in milliseconds after the user hits the play button. There is a brief moment between the call and the fetching of the response. This latency is usually the primary contributing factor towards continuity errors in frame accuracy, buffering and an overall downward spiral in audience retention.
Ad blockers are another major thorn in the side for the client-side ad insertion. As previously stated the delay between the call and response time for a video content is where the ad blocker software will work to block the ad content while allowing the content to be played. This results in a loss of revenue for the ad content provider and a loss in popularity of the campaign.
What does it mean for ad insertion technologies?
To conclude, the various ad insertion technologies, be it client-side or server-side ad insertion it is imperative to understand that both has their benefits as well as drawbacks. Ad stitching works best for immature platforms for example live streaming, simulcast and linear programming. If the advertiser insists on clickable ads and audience retention those parameters should be added on the client-side. Both the technologies are evolving simultaneously as publishers are searching for effective avenues of monetizing and delivering their content for an improved user experience on the server as well as the client side. It is evident that both will continue to be used in the near future till a common platform is developed which will have the ability to fuse the best of client-side as well as server-side ad insertion.