Understanding the New Video Placement Guidelines Featuring IAB Tech Lab

Tyler Taylor, Senior director, central operations and exchange growth
Hillary Slattery, Director, programmatic, product management, IAB Tech Lab
The IAB Tech Lab recently updated its Video Ad Format guidelines to provide a consolidated breakdown of video ad placements, which will make it easier for media owners and buyers to accurately identify inventory and optimise monetisation as the video advertising landscape continues to evolve. In this video, IAB Tech Lab’s Hillary Slattery and Index Exchange’s Tyler Taylor review the new video placement guidelines and the steps required to adopt the new standard.

For additional guidance, review the new video placement guidelines and implementation guide. See how you can get involved in developing industry guidelines and standards by joining the Programmatic Supply Chain Working Group.

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Video transcript

This video was originally published on August 17, 2023. It was updated on April 23, 2024 to clarify that it is both the recommended best practice and most common execution for accompanying content, no content or standalone, and interstitial video ads to play with sound off by default at the start. 

Tyler Taylor: As you may have heard, the IAB Tech Lab recently updated the Video Ad Format guidelines to more specifically define different video ad placements. Hi, I’m Tyler Taylor, senior director of central operations and exchange growth at Index Exchange. Today I’m here with Hillary Slattery, director of programmatic product management at the IAB Tech Lab, to discuss what’s changed in the new guidelines and how they help improve the transparency and accuracy of video inventory across the web. 

Hillary, can you tell us a bit more about why the IAB Tech Lab felt it was time to re-define the video placement categories? 

Hillary Slattery: Thanks, Tyler. I’m‌ glad to be here. So, the video ad market has evolved considerably over the past few years, especially with the surging growth in streaming TV. As consumers, we’ve all become accustomed to video ad experiences, and marketers know video to be the most engaging and effective medium. Now, as video converges across screens, we’re seeing the need to target video advertising more efficiently and with more granularity. 

If a small video player only plays ads without content, previously, it was universally understood to be outstream video. Marketers then typically concluded that the remaining category, in-stream, was reserved for large-format, full-attention, OTT-style video content. However, the legacy OpenRTB definition of in-stream left a lot of room for interpretation. That meant how a video opportunity was represented could differ from one media owner to another, meaning buyers lacked clarity into what exactly they were bidding on and how their brand would show up to viewers.  

By re-defining video placement categories to reflect the current state of the video marketplace, we’re aiming to improve standardisation, bring more clarity to both media owners and buyers, preserve the value of premium, full-focus web video content, and clearly describe other web video advertising. 

TT: This is refreshing. If there’s any constant in ad tech and programmatic, it’s change. And needless to say, the video landscape has changed dramatically since the initial video.placement signals were established some years ago.  

Let’s take a look at the new definitions.  

First up is in-stream video, arguably the most coveted designation for video. In-stream will now exclusively refer to an ad displayed within a video player that has sound on by default or has explicitly clear consumer intent to watch a video, such as a large play icon or a “click here to watch” link. This is the most immersive video placement a marketer can expect to bid on programmatically, due to both the sound being on by default and an engaged audience due to user intent.  

In-stream videos serve in pure video- or gaming-focused experiences, where the video is the sole focus of the screen. In short, the consumer is there with the intention of watching video content and nothing else. 

Moving on from in-stream, there are three other types of video ad placements where a video is not the focal point of the screen, and plays with sound off by default. After much debate among both media owners and buyers, IAB Tech Lab members landed on three distinct categories:   

  • The accompanying content category accounts for pre-, mid-, or post-roll video ads that play within video content. These ads may appear within article pages and, autoplay when the video player is in view. It is the recommended best practice per the Coalition for Better Ads and IAB Gold Standard that these video ads play with the sound off by default. For this category of video ad, the consumer may be on a page to watch a video, or they may be there just to read an article. This is in stark contrast to the in-stream video definition, which explicitly requires that the consumer’s sole purpose is to watch the video. 
  • The second is the standalone or no content category, which includes in-article, in-banner, in-feed, or floating placements that have no other video content associated with the ad, and typically play with the sound off by default, which the Coalition for Better Ads and IAB Gold Standard recommends as best practice. These videos were largely lumped into the outstream category before this update. 
  • And finally, we have interstitial, which are full-screen or takeover video ads that are played without supporting video content. These videos must be the primary focus of a page and cannot be scrolled out of view. Examples include in-app video or slideshow placements.   

These new video definitions are reflected through a new video.plcmt field in the OpenRTB spec, and replaces the old and now deprecated video.placement field.  

HS: That’s exactly right. By accounting for whether a video plays with the sound on or off, if it loads in view or not, and the ad format all in one signal, these new definitions create more consistency and standardisation for how publishers implement video on their sites and more accurately reflect the value of different video ad formats to buyers.  

Once the industry adopts these new definitions, we predict that less than 10% of web video will be categorised as in-stream, which will recalibrate the understood value of video placements in the market.  

TT: Certainly. That will give publishers an opportunity to properly lean into a video-first experience, and devise a very clear video strategy. The increased scarcity of premium, in-stream video content will naturally lead to increased CPMs and revenue for that particular placement type. Meanwhile, the added clarification around the remaining 90% or so of web video content presents a continued opportunity to merchandise scalable inventory options to media buyers. And with more transparency, media buyers can balance between scale and cost efficiencies, while tapping into a highly engaging medium.  

And speaking of adoption Hillary, what actions should everyone be taking? 

HS: Already, DSPs and SSPs are beginning to adopt the new guidelines, so publishers can work with their video player and renderer partners to start making the necessary updates. We at the IAB Tech Lab highly encourage everyone across the industry to speak with their partners and begin implementation. And as with any industry standard, there’s always an opportunity to further develop the spec to meet market needs—we encourage you to join the conversation or attend Tech Lab meetings and voice your perspective.  

TT: Transparency in the supply chain is critical to ensuring a thriving programmatic video advertising ecosystem. But transparency is only as good as the signals behind it. Adopting these new guidelines is a significant step toward ensuring we have signals that accurately reflect the state of video today. 

Thank you for joining us for this episode, Hillary. 

For additional support with the new video placement guidelines, visit our Knowledge Base or contact our team 

Thank you to Sarah Botherway, who also contributed to this video.  

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